Making Rugs with the Punch Needle
In the early 1880's rugs were traditionally made using a crochet like hook which pulled strips of wool/yarn up through various types of backing to form loops on the top side of the backing. In 1880 Ebenezer Ross of Toledo, Ohio invented a punch needle tool which he called "the novelty rug machine." (The idea for the punch needle may likely have come from tools used in punch needle embroidery, a craft whose history dates back centuries and was brought to North American by immigrants.) Ross' new punch needle formed loops similar to those made with traditional rug hooking but the punch needle pushed the wool/yarn down through the rug backing to create loops on the underside of the backing. Women became captivated by this new tool because of its speed. Rugs could now be made that had traditionally taken much more effort!
Since the late 1880's many types of punch needles have been manufactured to provide a simple tool for making rugs and other decorative items such as coasters, trivets and wall hangings. Individuals now use wool yarn and strips as well as many types of fibers to create masterpieces of art!
The two most popular types of punch needles used today are the Craftsman punch needle and The Oxford Punch Needle. The Oxford Punch Needle was designed by Amy Oxford as an ergonomic alternative to the Craftsman. (Amy had punched with the Craftsman for years!)
Punch Needle Rug Hooking is an American craft undergoing a resurgence of popularity in the world led by Amy Oxford and the Oxford Rug Hooking School.