New Technique: Punch Needle Embroidery

Images courtesy of Jil Sander.


Wool sweaters in bulbous shapes with dropped shoulders and moulded sleeves signaled an empowered man at Raf Simons’ Jil Sander Fall/Winter 2009 show. Maybe he’s waiting for the results of the Psychological Study of Men and Masculinity? Regardless, the silhouette belied great effort, and was mixed with bold, intricate patterns. The geometric color patterns look like watercolors, and were created using a traditional embroidery technique popular in Japan and Russia—it’s also a favorite among holiday-minded schoolmarms. 


Here’s a definition, for those less enmeshed in embroidery: Say the experts at Pretty Impressive Stuff, Punch Needle Embroidery is often called thread painting because of its subtlety. Separate fabrics are placed on top of each other and punched with a hollow needle until they fuse. Loops of yarn remain on top, from which intricate, durable images can be fashioned.


For Jil Sander’s Fall/Winter 2009 collection, the seams were brushed to create a gradient effect. For one piece, Simons punched two different knits needle-punched over each other—a finer turtleneck over a coarser crewneck pullover. Not your run-of-the-mill holiday sweater.