I like to say that rug tufting is like painting with yarn, and like painting, the canvas you use makes a big difference. Choosing the right rug tufting cloth will make both your tufting experience and the finished product much, much better.
When it comes to the best cloth for rug tufting, there are really only two great options: primary tufting cloth and monk’s cloth. However, there are a few others that can work in a pinch.
So which one should you pick? Here’s what you need to know, plus where to buy them at the best prices. If you haven’t already gotten the rest of your kit, also check out our tufting gun buyer’s guide and list of essential rug tufting supplies.
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What cloth do you need for tufting?
There are a few types of fabric you need to make rugs, and they have different compositions to stand up to the task. Here’s a quick breakdown of terminology:
- Primary backing cloth: This is the cloth that you stretch over your frame and tuft on. It’s the base of your entire rug and needs to be strong and open weave.
- Secondary backing cloth: Secondary cloth is a very light, open-weave fabric that’s glued on the bottom of your finished rug to help hold the yarn in place. It’s not strictly necessary.
- Final backing cloth: This goes on the bottom of your rug to protect your floors and provide a more finished look. Depending on the weave, it may need to have edging strips for a clean finish.
Some people combine the second two categories, but they’re different enough that it’s worth listing them separately.
Each of these can be made from different materials. For example, primary backing cloth can be a cotton/polyester mix (my personal favorite), pure cotton, linen, etc.
Secondary and final backing cloth is similar and can be made of anything from jute to felt. I like the clean look of closed-weave fabrics for this, and they’re easy to apply with a simple spray adhesive.
With that in mind, let’s have a look at the best tufting cloth for each use.
Primary tufting cloth: The premium pick for tufters
Primary tufting cloth is made specifically for tufting, so it’s no surprise that it’s the best rug tufting cloth you can buy.
It’s 65% polyester and 35% cotton for added strength, which is essential for use with a tufting gun. Other options tend to rip and break, especially if you need to take out stitches.
And as a beginner, you will be taking out a lot of stitches.
The other big advantage of primary tufting cloth is that it has pre-printed lines on the fabric. This makes it super easy to line up on your frame before you start. Crooked fabric will lead to crooked rugs, and no one likes crooked rugs.
Because it’s open weave, you will need to be careful not to tuft too close to the edges (unless it has sewn edges, which is rare). It’s sold both by the yard and as pre-cut squares, depending on the retailer.
Where to buy primary tufting cloth
Primary tufting cloth is now available widely online, but the best place to buy is specialty tufting shops.
My personal favorite is Tuft the World, which has high-quality products, great customer service, and a killer community of tufters.
Plus, you can save 15% at checkout with the code TINY!
They sell primary tufting cloth in both white and gray with a fixed width of 157 inches (about 4 meters). It’s sold by the yard, so you can always get as much as you need.
If you’re looking for different widths, CPointBox on Etsy is another great resource. They have all kinds of sizes, but they ship from China so it takes a few weeks to arrive.
For the less adventurous, you can also buy primary tufting cloth on Amazon. I don’t recommend buying tufting guns on Amazon due to limited warranties and support, but tufting cloth should be fine.
Monk’s cloth: Not bad on a budget
Monk’s cloth is another popular choice for rug tufting. It’s another open-weave fabric, typically made from pure cotton. For less abrasive rug-making techniques like latch hook and punch needle, it’s the traditional choice.
However, tufting guns are very hard on your primary backing cloth, and one small mistake could easily rip or tear your monk’s cloth. This is extremely hard to fix and can be really frustrating when it happens.
For that reason, I don’t like to recommend using monk’s cloth for beginners, unless it’s just for practice. It is cheaper, but tufting yarn wasted on a single ruined rug will eat right through those savings.
It’s worth mentioning that loop-pile tufting guns aren’t as hard on your backing fabric as cut-pile options are, so you may have better luck with the former when using monk’s cloth.
Where to buy monk’s cloth
Monk’s cloth is widely available at craft stores like Hobby Lobby and Michael’s. It’s also available at online shops dedicated to latch hook and punch needle supplies.
However, since it’s so simple, you can safely buy this one on Amazon. There isn’t much difference in price/quality if you shop around.
Other rug tufting cloth options
Although primary tufting cloth and monk’s cloth are the best fabrics for tufting, there are a few others that can work in a pinch. Just temper your expectations going in.
If you really want to save money, burlap is one of the cheapest materials that works with tufting guns. It’s even more open weave than monk’s cloth, and it’s slightly less prone to tearing.
However, it frequently loses shape so you’ll need to restretch it. It also doesn’t work particularly well with cut-pile tufting guns, so stick to loop-pile if you want decent results.
You won’t get a professional rug, but burlap is super easy to find and I’ve seen it for half the price of monk’s cloth.
Linen is another easy-to-find fabric for tufting, and if you stick to loop pile tufting guns you can get some decent results.
However, it’s not the best because the weave is tight and it tends to stretch easily. It can also be expensive, so unless you get a good deal you’re probably better off with monk’s cloth.
Although it isn’t suitable to tuft on, felt is my favorite backing material for floor rugs. It adds a soft finish that will protect your floors and add a finished, professional look.
Felt isn’t too hard to find (Tuft the World has a great option), but depending on the size of your rug you may need to go to a fabric store to get one big enough to cover the back in one piece. Application is super easy: I just use a simple spray adhesive.
If you’re worried about slippage, there are also felt backing materials with small rubber dots. These are great for wood floors and other highly polished materials.
That’s it for our guide to the best rug tufting cloth! Have any tips on avoiding tears and getting the best results? Let everyone know in the comments below!