Creative Genius: Arounna Khounnoraj of Bookhou

This maker of many things is introducing punch needle embroidery to a new generation.

By: Lish Dorset

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Maker Arounna Khounnoraj has a variety of artistic and DIY disciplines, but chances are if you search #punchneedle on Instagram today, @bookhou, her studio name she formed with husband and partner John Booth, rises right to the top of your results. And there’s a very good reason for that. Arounna has helped enthuse a brand new audience to a time-honored craft, including me. This spring, I found myself driving from Detroit to Hamilton, Ontario, to take Arounna's sold-out punch needle class at Needlework (one of two packed classes she offered that day).

Image courtesy of Arounna Khounnoraj

Image courtesy of Arounna Khounnoraj

From big-box stores to independent craft shops, punch needle supplies are being offered more than ever before. Get to know more about Arounna, a Creative Genius you’ll be sure to want to follow.

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Image courtesy of Arounna Khounnoraj

Image courtesy of Arounna Khounnoraj

Let’s talk about punch needle. What drew you to it?
I was drawn to the immediateness of the technique. I did a lot of embroidery work, and it was painstakingly slow. I felt that punch needle would allow me to color with yarn and make larger pieces. I also really like the tactile quality of the yarn.

Image courtesy of Arounna Khounnoraj

Image courtesy of Arounna Khounnoraj

What kind of punch needle projects are you personally working on right now?
I am working on making larger pieces and using an electric tufting machine. It's both exhilarating and also super scary to work that large.

Image courtesy of Arounna Khounnoraj

Image courtesy of Arounna Khounnoraj

How is punch needle different from rug hooking?
They are both very similar. With rug hooking, you create the loops from pulling from the front, whereas with punch needle, the loops are created when you push down with the tool and lift up. So essentially you are working from the back of the piece.

Besides wall art, what can makers do with finished punch needle pieces? Do you have a favorite project to feature a finished piece?
You can make pretty much anything. I have made pillows, stool tops, trivets, bags and of course, rugs.

Image courtesy of Arounna Khounnoraj

Image courtesy of Arounna Khounnoraj

For someone interested in trying punch needle, are there supplies that work better than others to get started? Are there any materials that don’t work with punch needle?
I find that getting the right base cloth is important, as well as the tension on the frame. I think the possibility to use fabric strips and other materials that fit the punch needle tool opens the door for a lot of experimentation.

Photo by: Lish Dorset

Lish Dorset

Punch needle is by no means a new crafting discipline. What do you think draws makers to it right now?
I think it being a medium that is easy to do right away and the fact that you are able to see results immediately are what draw people to it. I also think that being able to use the yarn in this way really allows people to express themselves and designs without specific frameworks like weaving and macramé.

You were featured as a maker with The Crafter’s Box earlier this year with a punch needle project. Currently, you’re showcasing mark making for textile designing. Is there an intersection between the two mediums?
I think that with all that I do there are underlying themes and ideas, and I definitely see an intersection with these two mediums. They both have a strong sense of materiality, and the designs help to emphasize the mediums used.

Your work and method emphasize natural materials and shapes. What draws you to such an approach?
I think the warm tones and the tactile qualities of these materials works with my aesthetic of minimalism. I try not to use really strong colors, and I try to keep materials in their natural state. I think these materials shape how I see things around me.

You have your hand in many crafting mediums. Is there one that you’d love to try that isn’t on your current roster?
I think I would like to try jewelry. I never had the patience for it when I was younger, but maybe I will now.

What else should we know about that is coming up for you this year and beyond?
I am trying to put more focus on designing and licensing as well as making larger rugs.

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