The first rule about Tuft Club is that you’ll want to talk endlessly about your hand-tufted rug long after it’s finished. At least, that’s what I did for my rug. In a (still) pandemic-raging world, we find solace in baking banana bread, being plant moms, and finding immense joy in crafting. It’s all about embracing that Cottage Core aesthetic, and I’m here for it.
Before inaugurating myself at Tuft Club, I had a little taste of tufting at Hueplay Studio.
If that sounds familiar, the trio that introduced punch needling to us is also the same folks behind tufting. For Isaac, Zoey, and Carl, Tuft Club was still in its infancy at that time, but that whirl of tufting guns was enough to keep me on my toes and tabs (read: stalking) on this next exciting endeavour.
The day finally came when Tuft Club was up and running. A couple of emails later, I was there on Tuft Club’s doorstep that Thursday afternoon. Like any craft studio/workshop, it was a flurry of activity when I arrived. The sound of machines punching away, a rainbow coloured wall of wool and cotton yarn that begs the obligatory snapshot and stretched monk cloths with various works-in-progress with focussed ‘tufters’ (that’s what you’ll be) deciding on a colour palette.
Oh, it’s all very 2021. Tufting is by no means a new art form—it is just new to us. Tufting has always been around in manufacturing, but it has only recently been synonymous with arts and crafts. The invention of the tufting gun entitles anyone to make a rug (or whatever you like, really) at home and quickly. Not to mention, the freedom of expression that tufting allows is what makes this activity so much fun.
Alright, let’s get to it. A session with Tuft Club will take you approximately four and a half hours. No one said it was that snappy to make a rug. There are two sessions available, one from 10am to 2pm and another from 4pm to 8pm. Either way, eat something before you go.
You can tuft anything you like, whether you want to do something abstract, an illustration, or in my case, my dog—you can. Of course, for first-timers, you want to choose an easy design with not that much detail. Trust me; you’ll thank yourself when your arm is aching from the tufting gun, and you’re on the brink of giving up.
Once you’ve settled on what you want to tuft, the next step is easy. With the help of a projector, you’ll have to trace out your drawing and label the different sections with the specific colour you want. It’s a fairly easy enough process, and you should be done in a jiffy.
The tufting gun
While tufting is not new, the gun is. Isaac tells us that there is only one place on the internet you can buy these tufting guns from. Plus, with Ms Rona still on her global tour, shipping delays are inevitable. Moreover, there is no troubleshooting available at the moment, so when the gun malfunctions or breaks, you have to figure it out. At this point, Isaac jokes that he has become an expert in fixing these guns, adding to the renegade quality of the art form.
Before the fun begins, you have to familiarise yourself with your handy tufting gun. Isaac walks us through the basics of handling the tufting gun, as well as a few practice strokes. Basically, the tufting gun has a needle that pushes the yarn and a very sharp pair of scissors that cuts the yarn for that fuzzy effect.
Isaac runs us through the safety features: long hair has got to be tied up. We don’t want any hair getting caught in the tufting gun. Always turn off the gun when it’s not in your hand because you don’t want the gun to go rogue on you and start cutting anything other than yarn.
Let’s get down to tufting
Tufting can look a little daunting, especially if you’re a beginner and don’t have an artistic bone in your body. The good thing about Tuft Club is that it is a safe space for you to explore your ideas, and they let you try them out first.
With the tufting, you always want to tuft from the bottom up with equal pressure. When I say pressure, you want to make sure the monk’s cloth is taut as you move. Too little pressure and the individual tufts of yarn are too far apart, a little too much pressure, and the monk’s cloth would be left warped.
Still, not to worry, tufting is a very forgiving art. If there are parts that you are not happy with, you can just pull the tufts out. There is a limit to this; the more you go over the same area, the looser the monk’s cloth will be, and you might end up with a hole.
I know it sounds like a lot, but it is easy once you get the hang of it. A few practice tufts on the side of the frame, and I was ready to go.
Colouring in the lines
Depending on what you want to tuft, you always want to start with outlining the main shapes. This way, the smaller shapes on your piece are more distinct. It’s a little tedious if your piece is more intricate, but you know what they say: no pain, no gain.
Also, Tuft Club’s yarn comes in two materials; you have cotton and wool yarn. With the cotton yarn, you’ll have your pick of 25 colours that will result in a plush, fluffy rug that you’ll want to lie on. With wool yarn, you’ll get your pick of 50 colours with a S$38 upgrade. These rugs are sturdier, so they work great as welcome rugs or for ornamental purposes. I’d say, if you have a particular aesthetic and colour in mind, go for the wool yarn but otherwise, the cotton yarn will work just fine.
I had my dog’s eyes, nose, and various highlights on her face for my piece. It might look like you’re not doing much at first, but trust in the process, and you’ll eventually get there.
You can see how the processes are different if your drawing is different. For Corliss and her effortlessly cool melted smiley, she filled in the eyes and smile before filling up the surrounding areas with a mix of bright acid green.
If you’d like to go a little more freestyle with your work, then you can follow Vera’s suit and go abstract with geometric shapes and thoughtfully placed squiggles. When you’ve finally finished your work, pat yourself on the back and a shot of the finished product—you deserve it.
Putting it all together
Well, your part of the rug-making process is over, but for Isaac, Zoey, and Carl, it’s only the beginning. They start the process of glueing, cutting, and trimming your rugs long into the night. It’s a tiresome process, for sure, but it’s something the trio do with zest and enthusiasm. A particular joie de vivre that you can’t help but admire and try to emulate.
Then, all you have to do is is sit tight and wait for your rug to arrive at your doorstep. Soon enough, there will be a rather light and large package that will arrive at your door, and you’ll be able to hold the rug that you have painstakingly spent four hours making.
Well, if you haven’t guessed it by now, the TL;DR is, yes, go for the workshop. While it is S$195 for a 4.5-hour session, I’d say it’s well worth every penny. With that rush of instant gratification coupled with the addictive burst of creativity and the satisfying tangibility when you hold your rug in your hands—ahh, there is nothing like it.
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