Handmade: Needle punch crafter likes primitive look

Jocelynn Brown
The Detroit News

Marion Schmidlin of Royal Oak won’t hesitate to tell you her sister, Carole Collins of Galien, is “the artist in the family.”

It was her sister’s needle punch (also referred to as punch needle) skills that led Schmidlin to try her hand at the heavily textured age-old form of embroidery around the same time she retired from working at a local hospital.

“She had some needle punch that she had done, and I was interested in it,” recalls Schmidlin. “She taught me, and then I continued teaching myself by going on the Internet. There are some really good blogs out by people who’ve been doing it a long time.”

Having spent the past three years developing her skills, Schmidlin now has her own blog ( where she shares photos of recent projects and some from her craft-related activities.

Schmidlin describes needle punch as “a fiber art created using floss to make a design on fabric, (and) it can be used to make mats or it can be framed to go on a wall. The technique isn’t very difficult. There’s a needle on the pen that you can set to a depth, so you don’t have to worry about the depth. You kind of lift the needle that’s threaded with floss and drag it over and push it down to secure it in place. It leaves a loop on the other side. It’s kind of similar to rug hooking.”

Schmidlin prefers the primitive look when it comes to the designs she creates, and some of her work is influenced by that of Magdalena Briner, a well-known rug hooker from a couple centuries ago.

“I just love her style – it’s a primitive style,” she remarks. “I’ve done primitive turkeys and sheep and kind of reproductions of rugs that were done in the 1800s. I have my own designs, but some are based on something I’ve seen.”

Inspired by the enjoyment and sense of creativity she gets from needle punch, Schmidlin says, “I love the fact that you’re working on something, and then when you turn it over (to the front) and it just looks good, and I like the feel of it.” She also admits to liking it for yet another reason – “It keeps my hand out of the potato chip bag, but it still allows me to hold a wine glass,” she laughs.

And although she’s still deciding which direction she’d like to take with her work, Schmidlin, in the meantime, has begun selling her needle punch under the name Yooper Trails at local craft shows, since realizing “you can only have so many things in your home.” Just last week she was among vendors at the Royal Oak High School Craft Show, where most of her needle punch items were offered for $15-$20 each, with more intricate and three-dimensional pieces priced around $70-$80.

“The show went very well, and sales were good,” she says, happily. “Anybody who came up to the table had to touch it (because) looking at it, it’s raised. It’s not like a stitch (sewn) with needle and thread that sits right on the fabric. This has a nap. They’re just intrigued. I had a piece that was in process so I could show them how to do the punching on the back.”

Detroit News Columnist Jocelynn Brown is a longtime Metro Detroit Crafter. You can reach her at (313) 222-2150, or detroitnewshandmade.

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