My friend Peggy had taken the class before, but wanted a refresher so the two of us set off to see what we could learn. It was a small class, so we got a lot of one-on-one instruction. I found out that punchneedle actually began in Egypt long, long ago. They used the hollow bones of birds as their punch (okay its much improved these days having its very own needle punch contraption). There are several sizes of needles - fine, small, medium, large which allows the use of different numbers of floss. The needle has settings from 1 - 12 with 1 being the lowest setting. I can see that a 12 could be used to make the mane of a lion (or a really wild, bad hair day)!
One of the secrets is to keep your fabric as taut a possible. Embroidery hoops are used but it was obvious from trial and error that the better (and tighter) the hoop the tighter your fabric will stay as you punch in and out. Peggy brought small plastic containers for us (thank you Peggy) which we placed underneath the hoop. This means you can punch away without drawing blood by hitting a valuable body parts!
There are all sorts of in's and out's to this new-to-me craft, but I discovered that I really liked it. It can be much like beading in that it is very meditative punching in and out of the fabric. Unlike beading, if you make a mistake it is very easy to correct. You just pull the offending loops out, smooth the fabric with your needle tip and start over. For someone new to the craft like me - this was probably the most important information that I learned!!
"He who has imagination without learning has wings but no feet". - Joseph Joubert