Rug tufting has become fairly popular in recent years, and if you’ve ever seen the process, it isn’t hard to see why.
With just a few materials, you can create large and functional art pieces in any shape or size. Rug making can be incredibly fun and rewarding, and you can use your custom rugs in your home, give them as gifts, or even sell them online
But how do you get started?
You’ll need a specialty few tufting supplies, and that’s what this guide is all about. We’ll cover everything you need to consider and purchase before you begin tufting some fun rugs of your own.
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Before you get started
Before you grab your tufting gun and yarn and start whipping up some tufted art, there are a few things you should know.
For starters, because of the current popularity of rug tufting and the fact that we are currently (still, somehow) in a pandemic, procuring the necessary tufting supplies for your new tufting habit might be a bit of a challenge.
Don’t worry on that front, though. I’ll give you plenty of recommendations on where to source your materials.
As for skill requirements, getting started tufting is a pretty beginner-friendly process, so it’s welcoming to newbies. The tufting gun, a necessary implement, can seem intimidating, but it’s much easier to use than it looks. (It’s also super fun.)
The main downside to rug tufting is that it has a somewhat high startup cost ‒ several hundred dollars. Most of that is due to the tufting gun, but there are a few other one-time rug tufting supplies that can be DIY’d.
Once you get started, however, maintaining the hobby is relatively inexpensive.
Essential rug tufting supplies
When it comes to tufting supplies, there are a few things you need. Here’s a breakdown of everything you need (plus a few nice-to-haves).
The tufting gun is the most significant investment out of all the supplies, but it’s also what makes this craft so fun and easy.
On the off chance you haven’t seen one, a tufting gun is sort of like a handheld sewing machine that allows you to push yarn into a cloth to create rugs in all kinds of shapes and sizes. When it comes to rug tufting, this item has the highest upfront cost, but you absolutely don’t want to skimp.
Also, there are a lot of fake products on the market, so this isn’t something you’ll want to purchase on Amazon.
Before selecting your tufting gun, you first need to decide if you want a loop pile or cut pile model. Some models offer both of these options in one gun, but they can be tricky to use (and more expensive). For a beginner, it’s best to stick with something easy.
I’ve written a whole guide on tufting guns (linked below) if you want to learn more, but the short version is that there are three main tufting guns to get: The AK-I (cut pile), the AK-II (loop pile), and the KRD-I (cut and loop pile).
Read also: Tufting gun buyer’s guide
If you elect to go for a cut pile gun, the AK-I is a fantastic beginner option. It’s easy to set up, user-friendly, and very light. Typically buying online means you’ll have to wait a few months for shipping, but this Etsy store delivers around the world in roughly a week. If you can wait a few months, it’s also available at specialty stores like Tuft the World.
(Note: Use the code TINY at checkout to save 15% on all purchases at Tuft the World!)
If you opt for a loop pile gun, the AK-II has the same benefits as its aforementioned counterpart but creates a different rug type. Like above, you can have it at your doorstep in a week if you order it from this Etsy store, or in a few months from Tuft the World.
And if you find that you simply must have a gun with both options, the KRD-I is a cut and loop pile tufting gun with plenty of power to suit your needs. But we will warn you: it’s not meant for beginners because of the difficulty in switching between modes. It’s also a bit pricier, but you can buy that one here on Etsy, or here on Tuft the World.
It’s important to keep in mind that aside from using a tufting gun, you can also use a manual alternative to make rugs. A punch needle is used to push the yarn through a rug backing by hand; the process takes longer than using a tufting gun, but the results can be just as stunning.
You can also use a latch hook, which is a small hook-like tool used to pull yarn through a mesh latch hook canvas. This method is also the safest, making it a nice kid-friendly craft.
Yarn is one of the tufting supplies you’ll need the most of, but it’s also inexpensive. You can get different types of yarn depending on what kind of project you’re working on and how you want your finished product to feel.
Three popular choices of tufting yarn materials are acrylic, cotton, and wool. All can be great options, and their use simply depends on your rug’s design. Acrylic tends to have a shorter and flatter pile, while wool tends to be softer and feel thicker.
While most yarn (even chunky yarn, to a degree) will work as tufting yarn, each type of yarn can deliver different results. Acrylic is the most cost effective but least soft, and wool is the softest (and nicest) but most expensive. Cotton lies somewhere right in between.
When it comes to purchasing yarn, you have plenty of options. This Etsy shop and Tuft the World sell yarn on convenient cardboard cones. Remember to use the code TINY when buying from Tuft the World to save 15%!
If you don’t need the cones (or have your own yarn winder), you can get tons of great yarn from online shops like Lovecrafts or local craft stores.
Tufting backing cloth
Another rug tufting necessity that has some variance is backing cloth. The type of backing cloth you’ll want to purchase depends once again on your project, skill level, and budget.
The most beginner-friendly cloth to purchase is primary tufting cloth, which is a cotton and polyester blend. It’s durable and made specifically for easy tufting. It also generally features guidelines to help you space things out as you work. You can purchase it on Amazon, but I prefer buying from Etsy to support small businesses.
It’s also sold on Tuft the World in two colors. Don’t forget to save 15% with the code TINY at checkout!
Another option for tufting is burlap, which has strands that are more spaced out and offer plenty of room for tufting. It’s extremely inexpensive, but it isn’t the easiest to work with and may result in some tearing. Still, it’s perfect for practice rugs and quick projects. You can buy it here or any variety of locations.
Monk’s cloth and linen are also good options, and they fall somewhere between the two. They’re a bit more expensive than burlap, but either can be purchased just about anywhere.
It could also be a good idea to use some non-slip backing material under your rug. This is one of those tufting supplies that’s entirely optional, but it could help your rug stay in place better after you position it in your space.
Often called “secondary” tufting cloth, you can sew or adhere this on after completing your rug and putting on your rug adhesive. Etsy and Tuft the World are good places to find this type of backing, or you could consider using some felt or canvas if you already have some on hand.
To properly create your tufted rug, you’ll need a tufting frame. A tufting frame allows you to stretch your tufting backing cloth vertically so you can easily work on your rug without worrying about your cloth rolling up on you or having any surface beneath your rug get caught in your yarn.
The beauty of the frame is that it can be as large or as small as you want, depending on the scope of your project. The frame should be something you can easily remove staples or nails from, as that will likely be how you adhere your backing cloth to the frame, so wood is a pretty safe option here. The frame should also allow you to pull the cloth as tight as you need it to be for an optimal tufting surface.
Another great perk about tufting frames? You can make them yourself and save quite a bit of money, as premade frames can be expensive. Just make sure to use wood or another material from which your backing cloth can easily be removed. I recommend using carpet tack strips instead of staples, as these are inexpensive and convenient.
If you think you’d rather have a premade tufting frame, you can once again turn to Etsy or an online specialty tufting shop like Tuft the World to pick one up. The later runs a bit more expensive, but you can save 15% at checkout with the code TINY.
Most come as assembly kits that you can easily put together. All of the tufting gun links in the section also have options that include a frame kit, so you can get these two essential rug tufting supplies and start right away!
To complete your rug, you’ll need a rug adhesive to keep all the strands of yarn together. Adding rug adhesive is a crucial step that keeps your rug from falling to bits, so when buying tufting supplies you’ll want to stock up.
There are plenty of different types of rug adhesive you can purchase, all with varying dry times and capabilities. The one you select will depend on your personal preference and skill level, as well as for what your rug is being used.
Some of the main types of rug adhesive are latex-based, PVC-based, and vinyl-based. If you intend to leave your rug on the floor, a latex adhesive such as ATT 1132 is probably a good choice.
As for where to pick up rug adhesive, you can buy a one-gallon tub on Etsy here (that shop sells larger tubs too), or head to your local hardware store (but be sure to know exactly what you’re looking for).
Other tufting supplies
While we covered the main tufting supplies you need to create your first rug, there are a few optional materials.
If you want to put a specific character or design on a rug, having a projector might help you make it exact. You can easily project the image onto your backing fabric and not have to worry about trying to freehand. The Crosstour model on Amazon is a popular (and inexpensive) choice.
Shears are a slightly less optional tufting supply, as you need something to cut your backing fabric and trim excess yarn. You could use regular scissors, but a good pair of sewing shears just can’t be beaten. If you want something a bit more specialized, these duckbill scissors are designed especially for rug making.
For faster and more precise trimming of your finished rug, you might also want a hair trimmer. If you have one lying around you could use a hair or pet trimmer, or grab these particular clippers and give your rug the perfect haircut.
If you find yourself purchasing a lot of yarn for this new hobby, you might want to invest in some yarn cones or feeders. Yarn cones are good for storing your yarn, while yarn feeders make it easy to keep your yarn untangled as you use your tufting gun.
You could pick either of these products up at your local craft store, and you can get cardboard yarn cones here. Don’t forget to save 15% with the code TINY at checkout!
That’s it for all of the essential tufting supplies you need to get started! Feel free to drop any questions, comments, or tips for other readers below.