Handmade: Needle artist has mark of success on business

Jocelynn Brown
The Detroit News

Needleart enthusiast Marilyn Southern has been crocheting almost her entire life, having learned as a young child at the hands of a neighbor.

“I would crochet potholders and sell them for a quarter,” remembers the Detroit resident, whose knitting skills came much later in life; in fact, it was roughly 13 years ago that she found a YouTube video on learning to knit. “I kept hitting rewind until I was able to knit and purl.” She was then inspired to take knitting and crocheting classes at local yarn shops, including Crafty Lady Trio and Neighborhood Knits.

And somewhere along the way, amid all her stitchwork, Southern ventured into the art of jewelry-making. “I started out beading jewelry, and I later discovered the world of metalsmithing,” she says. “I took classes in Franklin at Fritz Willis, and they offered beginner classes, so you learned how to handle torches, how to saw, and all the safety measures.”

Her interest in metalsmithing led to classes across the country, and becoming a member of the Michigan Silversmiths Guild. Then, about 13 years ago, she started a jewelry-making business, Southern Jewelry Collection, which has turned into quite a successful endeavor. “Thanks to, I get orders from all over the U.S. and abroad,” remarks Southern, who says her contemporary jewelry appeals to men and women of all ages.

Then, four years ago, as luck would have it, she found a way to combine her love of metalsmithing with her passion for knitting by making customized silver-plated stitch markers.

“The way that started is I was knitting a garment, and I had bought the orange and green plastic stitch markers that people are familiar with, and they kept flipping off on the floor,” she says, because they’re so lightweight. “I said, ‘There has got to be a better way,’ so I started making them with beads, and then, one day, I decided to try making personalized stitch markers with photos.

“Knitting is very relaxing and being able to look at someone you love while you’re knitting just adds to the enjoyment. One lady did a family tree. She has ordered about 30 or 40 stitch markers. It can be a photo of a pet, a knitting project that you’re proud of, favorite words, a spouse, children — it’s limitless.”

In terms of metals, Southern now offers customers a choice between silver-plated or .925 sterling silver. And, there’s one thing that sets her stitch markers apart from similar ones. “I sodder the (ends of the) jump ring together,” she says, “so it will not snag on the knitting project, and customers love that!”

She typically makes her markers to fit a size 13 knitting needle, but will make them in whatever size the customer request. “One lady said everything she makes is with a size six knitting needle, so that’s what I make for her,” she says.

Southern receives orders for her fancy markers from all over the country and beyond, including Sweden and Germany. Once the customer has provided a photo(s), she says, “I do a lot of photo cropping and photo editing to get the size I need.” And for anyone who isn’t online, the photo can be sent by U.S. mail, and she’ll return it along with their order.

Southern’s stitchmarkers were once sold at local yarn shops, a business opportunity she plans to pursue again in the near future, but for now, she sells them, along with her jewelry, by word of mouth on her website (, and through Etsy (

The stitch markers are available in single units, at $4 and $5.50 each, depending on the metal, and her jewelry pieces range from $10 to $250.

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

Contact Southern Jewelry Collection at (248) 469-0710, or visit