Tufting has seen a big increase in popularity since the pandemic, and with good reason—it is a fun artistic hobby that you can do right at home. For some, tufting even opens the path to new careers; many tufting enthusiasts sell their rugs in their local communities.
Let’s make a rug! We’ve written this guide to help you with your first steps, explaining what essential items are needed. After the essentials, we summed up a list of nice-to-haves. Let’s start!
The seven essential items to create your first rug
1. A Tufting Machine
The most essential tool for tufting is the tufting gun itself, a portable sewing machine that shoots and cuts yarn into a canvas.
The AK-1N Pink and Loop Pile is the most popular tufting gun in the world. It has all the features you need to make professional quality carpets and rugs. We recommend the AK-1N for both first time users and experienced tufters.
It’s lightweight, has all the features needed, and it’s considered by many to be the best tufting gun in the world. The AK-1N is easy to set up and hard to break, both of which are extremely common problems with tufting. It weighs just 1.4kg, making it’s great for longer tufting sessions.
Proper maintenance will keep your tufting gun going for years, read more on maintenance here. The only item that needs replacement after extended use is the scissors, as these will become less sharp over time.
2. Yarn that matches your needs
There are three populair types of yarn: Cotton, Wool and Acrylic. The type to use depends on what kind When making a rug, it’s important to use the right type of yarn. Three types are popular: cotton, wool, and acrylic. Cotton yarn is often used in floor rugs because it can handle wear and tear. Wool is stronger than cotton, but it also costs more. Acrylic yarn is cheap and easy to find, but it doesn’t hold its shape as well as cotton or wool does when stepped on.
The thickness of the yarn does not matter as long as you can fit it in your tufting gun. We recommend a 3 or 4 ply, and to use two strands of yarn in your tufting gun at the same time. This gives the best results, and delivers a thick line in your backing cloth. Using just one thin string can give issues like cloth tearing.
3. A wooden frame with frame grips
While you wait for your tufting gun to arrive, you can start building your own frame. There are not a lot of rules, but it is good to keep a few factors in mind:
- How much space you have
- The kind of size rugs do you want to create
- What size primary cloth (canvas) is available to you
We recommend a maximum frame size of around 190cm by 190cm. This gives you a save margin when using our smallest 200x200cm rug backing. You can always go smaller if space is an issue, a 100x100cm frame that you can set up on a table also works great. You can simply cut your primary cloth to fit your frame size.
If you are not good with wood, get help from a handy friend. When constructing, make sure that the frame cannot tip over backwards, as you will be giving it a bit of pressure when tufting. This can be achieved by giving the frame some back support like longer legs and support. See the picture above.
For trouble-free tufting, the yarn should flow freely into your tufting gun. You can place your yarn feeding system at the top of your frame by making an eyelet screw yarn feeding system. See examples below.
Next to the frame, you will want to apply frame grippers. Also known as carpet tack strips, these ensure that your backing cloth is kept in place on your frame. Frame grippers should be mounted on the edges of your frame with the needles pointing out.
4. Rug Backing and Final Backing cloths
Primary tufting cloth is your blank canvas, the cloth where you will shoot your yarn into. Because of the high speeds and aggressive nature of tufting machines, you need a very specific kind of rug backing. We offer cloths especially made for tufting guns, it stretches easily and comes with the right size of holes. It also comes with yellow lines every 5 centimeters to help you guide. If you want to practice and not waste any rug backing, you can try some burlap.
When placing the rug backing on your frame, make sure it is very tight. It should be so tight that a coin will bounce off. You need to keep a constant pressure on the rug backing when tufting. A side effect is that the rug backing will lose its tightness. It is best to re-stretch the rug backing on your frame after a long session. Make sure the yellow lines are still straight and not curvy after re-stretching, so your rug design is not altered.
Final (secondary) backing is the cloth that you place on the backside and acts as a clean and protective finish. If you do not use a final backing, you would have your latex touching the floor and it just doesn’t look good, especially if you plan on selling rugs.
You need scissors for two situations. First to cut out your rug from the backing cloth, this can be done with regular scissors. Don’t cut to close to your design and keep a margin of around 1 to 2 cm.
Second is when you’re cleaning up the rug. We recommend to use Duckbill Napping Shears instead of regular scissors. Duckbill Shears feature a curved handle that keeps your fingers at a distance while the blade sits close on the surface, for accurate and level trimming. Cutting away any loose yarn, or yarn with different heights.
6. Loop Threader
Many new tufters overlook the importance of this small and simple tool. A Loop Threader is definitely on the essentials list and will make tufting easier. When tufting, you need to feed the yarn through a small hole in front of your tufting gun. When using a Loop Threader, you simply pull the yarn through it in seconds. Without it…. it becomes quite a hassle.
7. Carpet Glue (Latex)
After you are completely done tufting, you need to glue the back of the rug backing. Typically any carpet adhesive or carpet glue will work. Glue your rug before you cut the rug out, as the yarn is still loose in the cloth. Letting the glue dry while the rug is still hanging in the frame will also keep your rug from curling up as it dries.
The general rule is anything that has an adhesive will work. This can include latex paint, matte medium, Elmer’s glue, PVA glue, carpet adhesive, or mask latex. If you’re looking for a more flexible version you need to find a glue with mostly latex.
Keep in mind that carpet glue stinks, and sometimes the fumes are toxic. Let your rug dry in a place well ventilated.
Round-up of gear to start right now
Nice to have
Next to the essentials, there are numerous tools that make the tufting life easier. We have summed up a short list of items that are nice to have.
Yarn Feeding System
Carpet Shearing Machine
Tufting Gun Maintenance:
Sewing Machine Oil