Welcome to our WIKI, where you can find answers to most of your questions regarding tufting. This resource is constantly evolving and changing to address your questions, queries, and concerns. Please read through the below content before sending your questions, in case an answer already exists. This guide is set up using the help of Reddit, which offers a great community for sharing knowledge about this topic.
For complete beginners:
What is tufting?
Tufting is essentially a type of textile weaving, not unlike loop and hook weaving or traditional carpet making. More modern forms of tufting involve the use of a machine known as a tufting gun. This is a hand-operated gun which, when used on an upright, stretched piece of fabric, allows you to create patterns with yarn, resulting in rugs or other fluffy surfaces.
What do I need to start tufting?
- Tufting gun
Where can I find tufting guns?
We have a selection of different tufting guns, please refer to our comparison table.
What yarn can I use in my tufting gun?
Basically, any yarn that fits through the hole! The AK-II loop pile tends to handle the thickest yarns. The other can also handle quite some. Very soft yarns are harder to cut for the scissors of a cut pile machine, so try to avoid those. Wool yarn is best for rugs as it is the most resilient. The wool has natural advantages, such as dirt repellence. Acrylic is a good yarn to practice, it is very cheap. A more comprehensive guide of different yarns and their respective properties is included below.
What fabric can I use to make tufted rugs/ other things?
The gold standard fabric for tufting is called ‘Monks Cloth'. It is a strong and durable fabric with holes large enough to allow the gun to easily thread through without ripping holes or damaging the fabric. Monks cloth is originally a 100% cotton cloth. There are variations, however, that make it specifically good for tufting, such as an added guideline weave (the stripes) and a mesh with polyester material. You can find our premium fabrics that are all very suitable for tufting right here. Your fabric must have some flexibility which allows the needle of your gun to easily work through, without being too elastic. One of the most important elements of tufting is having a firm and consistent amount of pressure on your fabric as you work. If your fabric is too elastic, this will not be possible and may warp your designs.
How do I get my design onto my fabric to tuft?
Approaching Tufting: Direct Drawing or Projection?
Most people approach their tufting projects in two different ways:
- Direct drawing: Taking a marker or pen and drawing the design onto the back of the fabric. Keep in mind that you'll be working from the back, so your final product will be reversed. This is especially important to remember if you're including written words in your work!
- Projection: Projecting the image/design onto the fabric to have a clean guide to work from. You can use a projector, an overhead projector, or print out your design, stick it behind the cloth, and shine light through the back.
If you're looking to sell your rugs, check out this blog post to help you decide on the price.
How Much Does Tufting Cost?
Generally speaking, tufting, like any form of creative art or hobby, has costs involved. However, over time, as you accumulate the basic elements (gun, frame), the cost becomes lower. People often ask how much the average piece costs to complete, but this is like asking "what is the length of a piece of yarn?" The answer to this question will depend on:
- How much you value your time at
- The quality of yarn you're using (this is where the biggest price differences are)
- The size of your piece
Important Things to Consider Before Starting Tufting
Tufting is a relatively new medium of art. Unlike painting, embroidery, sculpting, and other forms of artistic expression, using an industrial-looking machine to punch carpets into an upright frame has not yet reached the masses (despite what TikTok might have us believe). This means that we're still learning as a community, and creativity has been amazing to see with this medium. We rely a lot on the community and encourage you to do so as well.
Tufting Gun Basics
Loop Pile vs. Cut Pile Tufting Gun
As a basic overview, loop pile is where the yarn is not cut as the gun moves across the fabric, resulting in small bumps (loops) where the yarn weaves through your fabric. Cut pile involves the gun cutting each length of yarn as it weaves through the fabric.
Adjusting the Pile Height
This will vary depending on which tufting machine you have. Loop piles are generally the easiest to change. Please consult the machine manual for more information.
Using a Tufting Gun
Push the needle and foot of your gun into your fabric and apply significant pressure. I push my frame against a wall when I work as sometimes the pressure can cause my frame to shift backwards. If your pressure is not consistent or too light, then the yarn will not effectively pass through the fabric as you work, and may even push out towards the back of the fabric. This may cause all sorts of issues ranging from tears and yarn fallout to inconsistent pile on your piece.
Rotate your machine with you, in the direction that you want to go. Using the handle of the machine to help prop up the machine and take some of the load weight off your wrist. The foot of your machine must always be in front, guiding your work. Don't ever "backtrack" or drag the tufting gun.
Threading a Tufting Gun
There are threading tools you can use to thread your machine, or you can use a piece of wire or a paper clip. Generally, every machine has a yarn guide at the top and a needle hole at the front. The machine needs to be threaded through the yarn guide and then through the needle hole.
Maintenance for a Tufting Gun
For general care, always keep your tufting gun lubricated before use (see the manual of your machine). Lubricating grease or oil can be found at all hardware stores or bike repair stores, and butter can also be used as a substitute. Make sure your yarn feed is smooth and without any disturbance, as knotted or fuzzy yarn can cause jam to the gun.
Always unplug the socket before checking and debugging, and maintain a clean and organized workspace to prevent any injury. Take breaks in between tufting sessions and check on the joints often. Don't overwork the machine. If you hear any sudden noise or unpleasant cracks that disturb the consistent motor sound, stop and unplug immediately. Check and tighten all parts manually. If the issue persists or the machine is damaged, contact us via email.
Oiling a Tufting Gun
The short and safest answer is to oil your machine every time you use it. If you're using your machine a lot or for very long periods of time, it's crucial that you oil your machine to ensure optimal performance. A drop of oil is sufficient for this process. We recommend sewing machine oil, as it is colorless and odorless.
The parts of your machine that should be oiled will depend on the type of machine you have. Generally, you should oil the moving parts that could suffer from frictional resistance. Please consult the manual of your machine.
Features and Characteristics of Tufting Gun Models
Generally speaking, there are three different kinds of tufting guns: loop pile, cut pile, and loop & cut pile (alternating/adjustable). As you research tufting guns, you'll find that machines are usually labeled with a numerical and alphabetical value that indicates the kind of pile and the model. For example, AK-I, AK-II, and AK-III.
The Tuft the World website includes a chart that compares the AK-I, AK-II, and AK-III models they sell. This chart gives the best overview of the differences, including cost and ease of use. The AK-I and AK-II are widely regarded as the best tufting guns for beginners. They are relatively light compared to other machines, are simple to use, and are significantly easier to fix and repair than ZQ model machines.
On their website, Tuft the World explains that they have recently stopped stocking ZQ model machines. Many of their customers were having issues with their machines, and ultimately, it's harder for beginners to use than the AK models.
If you're looking for a visual guide, check out this comparison video created by Tuft the World that shows the differences between all five of the machines mentioned above. The ZQ-II is considered a bad option for beginners because it's very heavy and difficult to use. Furthermore, switching from cut to loop pile (or vice versa) is a difficult process, with even the smallest error potentially breaking the machine.
Where Can I Find a Product Manual for My Tufting Machine?
The machines purchased from our shop come with a digital manual. Please navigate to the manual page and find the model you have to see specific information about your machine.
How Do I Return My Tufting Gun to Its Factory Setting?
Some of the problems you may encounter with your gun while tufting can come as a result of over-adjusting your machine. Tuft the World has posted a helpful guide on how to return your machine to its factory setting.
Tufting Gun Alternatives
Non-Mechanical Tufting Devices
There are a number of alternatives to tufting guns that can be used to get a similar result with a little more physical effort. One such device is a punch needle tool. This tool can be used to pierce fabric on one side and create loops on the other. The effect of using this tool is an embroidery type pattern on one side of the fabric you work on and a loop hooked rug on the other. This is a relatively simple and cheap alternative to a mechanical tufting gun and can be a good way of incorporating loop pile sections into your work if you only own a cut pile machine.
Below are some helpful links to YouTube videos to get you started:
Another alternative is the Phentex Machine Punch Needle. This form of punch needle more closely resembles the structure of a tufting gun; however, it requires the user to manually punch the fabric with yarn. The incredible tufter u/SarahVitak has uploaded a great video explaining how to use this type of tool.
Tufting is a wonderful form of art that allows you to create unique and beautiful pieces for your home or to sell. It may have some initial costs, but over time as you accumulate the basic elements, the cost becomes lower. Remember to take care of your tufting gun and maintain it properly for optimal performance. If you're looking for an alternative to a tufting gun, a punch needle tool can be a great option.
As a relatively new medium of art, tufting is still a learning process for many people. However, the community has been amazing in sharing knowledge and creativity, so don't be afraid to ask for help or advice. And above all, have fun with your tufting journey!