Singapore has a new favourite hobby: tufting.
It’s a lot less violent than it sounds. Tufting is essentially a type of textile craft — much like embroidery or knitting — that’s traditionally used for making rugs. Hand-tufting has its roots in Persia (or modern-day Iran), where the world’s oldest carpet was found. In ancient Persia, the art of tufting varied between villages, which each developed their own weaving patterns and used different yarn colours and knots for their carpet creations.
Centuries later, the craft would arrive to the US by early settlers who wanted to make warm clothing. The world’s first mechanised tufting machine would be developed in Georgia in the 1930s, making chenille rugs and wall-to-wall carpeting very popular. Hand-tufting would see a revival in the ’50s, before falling into a decline with the prominence of latch-hooking, another way to make rugs, in the’ 70s.
Tufting seemed doomed to remain forgotten in the 21st century, but thanks to artsy (and bored) users on TikTok and Instagram, the craft has made a comeback — at least mechanically. Now everyone wants to pick up a tufting gun and punch yarn through a cloth canvas to create a rug resembling their favourite Marvel / Disney / Studio Ghibli character. It has even stirred a crafting frenzy among couples — what could be more romantic than a session at a rug-making workshop?
Whether you intend to DIY at home or attend that aforementioned workshop for your next date, read on for our guide to tufting in Singapore and discover all you need to know.
Tufting at home
Yes, you can take on tufting at home without a partner. It’ll be easier to make the rug or tapestry of your interior design dreams if you have a lot of space to work with. You’ll also have to get a bigger frame that can stretch out your cloth. If you’re a total beginner, however, we recommend starting small. Here’s what you’ll need:
A tufting gun: it takes all the work out of traditional tufting, so it’s usually very expensive.
A tufting frame: it’s made of wood, and it varies in size depending on your needs.
Yarn: if this is your first time, don’t reach for the fanciest yarns just yet. You could reuse any yarn you may have left over from your previous craft projects. Wool yarn is the standard for making rugs, but cotton yarn is an affordable and eco-friendly alternative. Get the more delicate acrylic yarn for purely aesthetic projects.
Primary backing fabric: If the tufting gun is your brush, and the yarn is your paint, this piece of fabric is your canvas. Get a sturdy cotton-polyester blend cloth that matches the dimensions of your frame.
Carpet grips: These are used to attach the backing fabric securely to the frame. Use two rows to ensure that the cloth is stretched tight across the frame.
Secondary backing fabric: This optional piece of fabric can be glued onto the back of your tufted masterpiece to improve its stability and resilience.
Glue: Usually in the form of liquid latex, this glue is applied to the back of your completed tufted works to keep them from coming undone. Roberts 3095 carpet adhesive is a highly recommended choice.
Where to shop
Tuftinggun.com, run by American textiles artist Tim Eads, is the go-to resource for devoted tufters. You can also find what you need, such as a Rug Tufting Starter Pack, on Etsy. To avoid the high shipping costs, shop for the same tools through the @tuftingsg on Carousell or With Autumn, both based in Singapore.
Besides YouTube, you can find the answers to all your questions on the Tufting reddit page, or trade tips with fellow makers on the forum, Tuft the World. TikTok and Instagram also serve as great sources of inspiration; follow hashtags like #rugmaking, #tufttinggun, #tufttheworld and #rugtiktok.
If you’re not interested in tufting as a solitary activity, you can take it on as a social activity through one of the available workshops in Singapore. We list them below.
What better place to start your journey than at the first tufting studio in Singapore? Housed in a two-storey a two-storey shophouse along Circular Road, Tuft Club is where you’ll find workshops for tufting a rug or creating your own plush mirror frame, both up to 60cm by 60cm in dimension. You’ll be guided by friendly staff members to operate a tufting gun and experiment with different techniques through a 4.5-hour long session (S$195 each). Tuft Club will also provide a projector that lets you trace your desired design onto your cloth.
You may know With Autumn for its various craft workshops (we’ve recommended its Shibori workshop before). The textiles studio also hosts two tufting workshops: Tuft Your Own Rug Workshop (S$199) or Tufting 101 (S$389). The first is a 4-hour affair where you and three other participants can create a bespoke rug (up to 70cm by 70 cm).
Tufting 101 is more intense: it runs across two days, where you’ll be taught everything from selecting the right backing fabric and yarn, to stretching your backing cloth, as well as finishing techniques for turning your tufted works into decor for your floor or walls. Supplies will be provided, but you’ll also get tips on where to shop for them in future so that you can continue your craft journey independently. Private workshops are also available.
Header photo credit: @zenocruz_