Primary and Secondary Tufting Cloth & Monks Cloth FAQs
What is Monk's cloth?
If you have searched for "what fabric do I use for tufting," then you have probably come across the term "Monk's cloth." Generally speaking, Monk's cloth is a good option for tufting, but as the non-commercial tufting community grows, there is some debate regarding its efficacy. Monk's cloth is typically made of 100% cotton, polyester, or a cotton/polyester blend. While relatively similar in appearance, many users of r/tufting have identified polyester Monk's cloth or a cotton/polyester blend as being ideal for tufting. This is because cotton is more likely to rip and tear and can be less malleable to work with on the frame when stretching. Furthermore, 100% cotton monks cloth is more easily "overworked," which is important to keep in mind if you intend to make a piece that is threaded with dense yarn or with a lot of closely tufted sections. As with most of the answers in this wiki, there is no 100% final answer as to what is "best." Some people still prefer to work with 100% cotton as it may suit their ideal finished product or in order to have their pieces be environmentally conscious with 100% natural fibers. The choice is yours and will take some practice and testing to see what works best for you. At this stage, the "gold standard" for ideal primary tufting cloth is either 100% polyester or a polyester blend that is 26 wefts per inch. If you look at the point end of your tufting gun, it becomes clear why there is a need for flexible fabric with "holes" large enough to allow the needle to puncture and move.
What is the difference between primary and secondary cloth?
Primary tufting cloth is the fabric that you will be working on while you create your piece. This is the fabric that you will stretch onto your frame and use your tufting gun on to bring your designs to life. Secondary tufting/backing cloth refers to the fabric you will attach to your piece once it has been finished and sealed with an adhesive agent. Depending on whether your piece is ornamental or destined to be walked on should inform what secondary backing cloth you use.
How much should I stretch my cloth?
This requires a bit of trust and intuition, but the basic aim is to have your cloth tight enough so that you can flick it with your fingers and get a nice, firm, almost drum-like resistance. Begin by lining up the top of your fabric with the frame and once secure, pull down the bottom edge of your fabric to catch on the bottom of your frame. This technique will allow you to have a nice base with which you can work your way around and tighten the stretch.
How can I use my scraps?
Tufter u/failedartstudent posted a fantastic picture that provides a way in which you can use fabric off-cuts on your frame.