Handmade: Soon to be 90, Novi man enjoys needlepoint

Jocelynn Brown
The Detroit News

Arlon Quigley will be 90 soon, and says the doctor and his wife, Peg, no longer allow him to drive, which limits the number of trips he's able to make to shops where he buys his needlepoint supplies. But, thanks to his wife's willingness to drive him to places like Mary Maxim, the Novi resident is still creating needlepoint works of art with heirloom-quality. He says he's yet to find a place in Novi that carries the supplies he needs.

Quigley, who's been doing needlepoint for nearly 40 years, says he's never taken a needlepoint class. He pretty much taught himself after stopping in at a shop in Birmingham where he picked out a canvas pattern and was instructed only on how to get started. "From there, I started doing it and continued doing it," he recalls.

Arlon Quigley, 89, shows off his needlepoint versions of the famous paintings “Blue Boy,” left, and “Pinkie.” He says he doesn’t know any other men who needlepoint.

Over the years, Quigley has done seven "fairly large" projects, including replicas of "Pinkie" and "Blue Boy," two well-known paintings done around the mid-1700's, which he says took a considerable amount of time. He advises, "If you're just starting, you should never start with a large item because you'll get discouraged and say, 'Oh, I don't want to do it anymore.'"

"I've done a number of pieces that are framed that we put outside our door — some on stands and some on the wall. I have done some manger scenes, and I used to do a lot of small bags to carry things in," says Quigley, who's also done some as pillows. However, no matter the project, he's never sold any of his very impressive work.

Detail of a needlepoint landscape. Quigley has done several large projects.

"I don't think people can pay you enough for me to sell it," he says. "Things you do by hand, you're never going to make any money at. I do it because I enjoy it. I give it away to my kids or family. To sell it — then you have a job and you have to do it. I'm doing it for enjoyment, and to keep active."

Quigley uses both woven fabric and plastic canvases. He uses a frame with the fabric canvases, and says, "If you do needlepoint off a frame (with a fabric canvas), you tend to get it out of shape, but keeping it on a frame you keep the design straight."

While married to his first wife, who passed away, Quigley learned working with plastic canvas also made the project portable. "I could take it in small sections while I waited for (her) appointments, or when she was in the hospital," he says. "With the large (fabric) canvas you have to keep it on a frame to keep it straight."

He says he doesn't know of any other men who needlepoint, but those who see his finished projects have told him he does "good work."

Detroit News Staff Writer Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150 or For more news and giveaways, visit her blog at

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