Tracy Krauter – IMPWEAR

(Originally published in SCHMETZ Inspired to SEW #61, January 2019. Written by Rita Farro.)

Tracy Krauter
Inventor of IMPWEAR

One of the main reasons to attend International Quilt Market, the largest sewing industry trade show, is to walk the show and see what’s happening. Of course, it is always a pleasure to see the new fabric lines, and it’s the best way to discover new teachers and designers. But to actually find a NEW PRODUCT is very exciting. Or, in the case of Tracy Krauter, a new spin on an old product. Do you remember oilcloth?

When the author, Rita Farro, was a kid, oilcloth was on big rolls in the back of the Five & Dime. Oilcloth was not suitable for sewing machines; it was simply cut into lengths to make tablecloths or smaller pieces for shelf and drawer liners. But Tracy Krauter had a vision, and she roared into 2018 Spring Quilt Market with her new, softer, gentler laminated fabric. You’ll find her story inspiring, and the message is, “If you build it, they will come,” or, in her case, “if you develop a new fabric, they will sew.”

Tracy in the IMPWEAR booth, 2018 Fall International Quilt Market.

Tracy in the IMPWEAR booth,
2018 Fall International Quilt Market.

Tracy tells her story:

I have always been a maker! I remember gluing blocks together when I was three. I grew up in Seattle, WA, the child of intellectuals. My mom was a social worker and dad was a professor of urban planning at the University of Washington. I always loved puzzles. I loved my Grammy. Grammy taught me how to embroider. When she died, all I wanted were her embroidered linens and pillows.

In the sixth grade, I learned to sew. I took a Singer sewing class and won a prize!

I sewed everything: Barbie clothes, costumes, masks, tents, anoraks, pants from vintage tablecloths, quilts, a menswear mohair tailored suit. Eventually, I went to Stanford University and majored in Chinese and design. I love problem-solving challenges and working in 3-D.

Always an outdoors person, I spent three glorious summers as a seasonal park ranger for the National Park Service in the Southwest. In my off hours, I hiked, sewed, and made a backstrap loom to play with colors. After college, I got a job as a model maker, building intricate models for architects and industrial designers before the days of CAD (Computer-Aided Design).

In 1986 I married David and started having kids. I made all their clothes. My first son wore some crazy outfits, as did all his friends and neighbors. I started selling kids clothes at local street fairs… and IMPWEAR was born! My business goal was to play with color and make products that make people happy.

IMPWEAR on parade with Tracy's children and friends.

IMPWEAR on parade with
Tracy’s children and friends.

For 15 years, I did street fairs featuring children’s reversible playwear. I knew I had “made it” when a customer bragged that she “scored” IMPWEAR at Goodwill!

My children went to Seattle Public Schools. I was a volunteer art teacher & organizer. I taught them to sew, batik, make birdhouses, and art with found materials. I wrote grants, bought a kiln, hired artist-in-residences, and did massive community-based clay tile making and installations at the middle school.

These days, I donate a portion of IMPWEAR sales to Coyote Central, a Seattle organization that works with inner-city youth, teaching them self-esteem and leadership skills through art, and to Forterra who helps preserve wildlands around urban centers.

Five years ago, I started playing with a new type of fabric — laminated cotton. I was struck by its hand, versatility, durability, and usefulness. I always enjoy the odd materials. I could make a purse for day hiking or rafting down the Colorado River. It is rain-proof and coffee-spill proof, great for Seattle. The colors were glorious! IMPWEARhome was hatched.

I started making all the things I could think of out of this amazing stuff. I was thrilled to have my “grown-up” line of goods: totes, pouches, tablecloths, aprons, and more. I sell to a growing list of stores all over the country. My favorite shops cater to makers like me: knitters, crafters, gardeners, cooks, sewists.

Meanwhile, my source for laminate fabric was discontinuing my favorite prints and colors. So three years ago, I decided to make my own laminate fabric. How hard could it be?

It has been a long, exciting journey to design my own prints. I tried to get fabric made in this country, but due to the lack of eco-friendly coatings and costs, I decided to go to Korea. I order a minimum of 3,000 yards of screen printed goods.

Laying out imagery in Christine Joly deLotbiniere's wonderful studio. The IMPWEAR look is sophisticated, but not stuffy, a little quirky and trends towards earthy & ethnic.

Laying out imagery in Christine Joly deLotbiniere’s wonderful studio.
The IMPWEAR look is sophisticated, but not stuffy, a little quirky and trends towards earthy & ethnic.

Over the years, I have found fantastic artists to grow and develop the look and feel of IMPWEAR. Our first fabric was “VINTAGE.” Christine Joly deLotbiniere gets the imagery into layers in Photoshop and I play with colors. We then send the design off to the mill for strike-offs. A piece of fabric is sent with the interpretation of my design. Back and forth we go, until the color adjustments “spark.” When the fabric is right, I feel it. I am always in search of the “spark.” The “spark” drives me, my design, and my life. Now that I have control of colors and mixes of prints, I can make color stories of my own!

I still love to sew but have passed product production on to other capable hands in Seattle. I am proud that our products are locally made and I can keep a close eye on quality. I most enjoy coming up with new ideas and products. IMPWEAR is a dream to sew. It is neither sticky nor stiff. It folds and hems nicely and sews easily. IMPWEAR is machine washable and dryable. It can be ironed too.

TRacy Krauter designed a fabric line with stripes that looks like a rug. She ended up with three colorways inspired by trips. Last year, I designed a fabric line with stripes that looks like a rug. I ended up with three colorways inspired by trips.

In spring 2018, I signed up for a booth at International Quilt Market in Portland OR. I was terrified to show up with my own fabric line. My booth was hidden on the show floor on the back of the last row. The quilting community found me. I was welcomed with open arms! People flocked to my booth to exclaim, enjoy, pet the fabric, and place orders. These are my people! We had to run home and figure out how to re-roll fabric in 10-yard pieces. That’s where my mechanical engineer husband and sons came to the rescue.

My business goal now is to design and make more fabric and continue to play with color. I want each fabric store to be successful with IMPWEAR! I have to show their customers what to make. Voila! I already make them, having reverse-engineered this business in a way. Now I am developing my own sewing pattern line. The beautiful thing is, since I started selling fabric, people share so many lovely things they have made. I love that people are using this unique fabric to make new and wonderful things! I have seen hair salon ponchos, shower curtains, window shades, seat covers, drawer liners, plant pot cover. What will you make with IMPWEAR?

Next Week: Tracy’s IMPWEAR Sewing Tips

Jeannette Kitlan – Getting Kids to Sew

(Originally published in SCHMETZ Inspired to SEW #65, May 2019. Written by Rita Farro.)

If you’re reading this, it’s probably because you LOVE TO SEW.

You love fabrics. You love sewing. Now the question is, how to pass along your passion to a new generation? Technology, communications, education, well, the whole world has changed, so kids approach sewing from a different perspective. Enter the fabulous Jeannette Kitlan with Hello Sewing World. With Jeannette’s teaching experience and savvy quilt shop entrepreneur acumen, Jeannette stepped up and created a fun and colorful program to get kids excited about sewing.

Long gone are the days of sewing a traditional apron or skirt. Jeannette’s Hello Sewing World program is the colorful roadmap with kids giddy to sew.

Kids treasure creative time, especially with you at their side. Sewing together creates cherished memories.

Sewing is a very unique hobby because it is different things for different people. Think about it. Your particular sewing jam could be fashion sewing, home dec, competitive art quilts, quick gifts, ragged edge flannel blankets, or sewing pillowcases for the children’s ward at your local hospital.

Sewing is the ultimate snowflake hobby…because no two sewing enthusiasts are the same. Each one of us is unique and individual in what we choose to sew.

There is no question that sewing brings great joy, satisfaction, and purpose to our lives. The burning question, the one that keeps Jeannette Kitlan up at night, is why haven’t we been able to pass this wonderful hobby on to the next generation?

Why aren’t more kids sewing?

Click HERE to read the full story.


Jodie Davis – From Quilts to Clocks

(Originally published in SCHMETZ Inspired to SEW #70, October 2019. Written by Rita Farro.)

Jodie Davis has one of the most impressive resumes in the quilting industry. She has written over thirty books on crafts and quilting. She has produced, hosted or co-hosted the most popular TV quilting series on the internet, Jodie was president of, referring to herself as the “Chief Quilting Enabler.”

So, how does a girl, raised in Rhode Island, head off to college to become an electrical engineer, eventually rise to the top of the quilt world? Then, after achieving great success in her chosen field, find herself unemployed, living off her savings on a secluded Georgia farm, worried about how she was going to buy hay for her horses next month?


Click HERE to read the full story at


Fotos on Fabric – Val Sjoblom

(Originally published in SCHMETZ Inspired to SEW #46, October 2017. Written by Rita Farro.)

In 1982, as a divorced single mother, Val wanted a fresh start. She left her small town in Northern Minnesota and moved her four kids and five Arabian horses to the Twin Cities. She had no idea how tough things could get in the big city. She worked all sorts of jobs (usually two or three at a time) just to make ends meet. When she was 36 years old, she went to night school and earned a law enforcement degree. Although it seemed like a good idea at a time, being a rookie police officer would mean working the night shift in downtown Minneapolis. So, she became a correction officer instead. When the Mystic Lake Casino opened in Prior Lake, Minnesota, she got hired as a blackjack dealer.

By 2002, Val’s children, Kimberlee, Jeremy, Chad, and Janalee were launched, but her mother wasn’t doing well back home in International Falls. Although she didn’t plan on staying, Val decided to move back for a while. Then — life took one of those unexpected turns. She fell in love, married Larry Sjoblom, and International Falls, MN once again became her home.

A sampling of Val’s antique stoves.

Val was an avid collector of antique stoves, and she wanted to make a quilt featuring photos of her stove collection. She was excited about the project and took some great photos of her stoves. She bought a top-of-the-line home ink-jet printer, figured out the software, and enthusiastically pushed “print.” Her first attempts were using fabric photo sheets, but the fiber content of the sheets made the “fabric” stiff. Finding a way to get these photos transferred to fabric became Val’s obsession. Over the years, she tried everything — bubble jet solutions, butcher paper to carry quality cotton fabric through the printer, special inks — she even bought a heat press. No matter what method she tried, the photos faded after a single test laundering.

During this time, Val started to quilt and she decided to learn how to use a longarm quilt machine. She purchased her “Statler” and started a longarm quilting business, On A Wing And A Prayer Quilting ( She named her machine “Elvis” because he shakes, rattles and rolls and “returns to sender” quickly.

Bronko Nagurski: The turning point in Val’s business.

Bronko Nagurski:
The turning point in Val’s business.

International Falls, Minnesota, is known as the “Icebox of the Nation,“ and they have one famous son — Chicago Bears football player “Bronko Nagurski.” His daughter, Jan, came to Val in 2010 and asked if she could put a large portrait of her Dad on fabric so she could use it to make a quilt top.

That moment was a turning point for Val. It was proof that other people wanted what she wanted — the ability to put a large photo on fabric to make a quilt. It became her mission, and she started to research digital fabric printing in earnest. She traveled to several different companies to see their equipment and study the process. She found a large digital printer that could deliver the quality she hoped for . . . but with a large sticker price — $20,000. Every single person in her life told her she was CRAZY, but she bought her first large format printer anyway.

She felt if she could print -— customers would come.

The Fotos On Fabric adventure began in 2010 with the purchase of that first large format digital printer. It could print large photos on 100% Kona cotton. Fotos On Fabric could also do photo editing, including changing photos to black and white, sepia tones, or beautiful color. They can print custom designs, including original art onto fabric. Fifty-eight (58) inches is the maximum width with no limit to length. They have the ability to print a very large photo in two pieces which can be sewn together to make a king-size project.

Fotos on Fabric finished projects.

Fotos on Fabric finished projects.

In 2012, Fotos On Fabric rented a booth at the International Quilt Market in Houston, Texas. Val displayed many photo quilts, which got everybody’s attention. Every quilt shop owner who came into the booth had a horror story about a customer who invested hundreds of dollars into a memory quilt — only to discover that the water-soluble ink photos washed away the first time they laundered the treasured memory quilt. After that show, the Fotos On Fabric business exploded.

Fotos on Fabric finished projects.

More Fotos on Fabric finished projects.

Fotos On Fabric has printed orders from all over the world. They have printed thousands of family photos for memory quilts, as well as prayer shawls for Israel, life-size pictures of people, pets, horses, and vacation photos. YOU NAME IT! A National Geographic photographer wanted her photos of elephants and reptiles from Zimbabwe, Africa printed on fabric. One of the more unusual orders was from the Brooklyn Museum in New York, a life-size photo of “Marie Antoinette.”

Val says, “our customers use their custom photo fabric just like any other yardage. They make quilts, or curtains, pillowcases, stuffed animals, tote bags, shower curtains. You name it and they sew it. People are so creative! And they are delighted that their finished projects will hold up through normal laundering. Fotos On Fabric has been a wild ride for seven years. We’ve purchased additional printers and are currently launching a new option — finished custom tea towels and placemats with your photos on them.”

Studio 53 Fabric and Gifts Quilt Shop, International Falls, MN.

Studio 53 Fabric and Gifts Quilt Shop
International Falls, MN.

Like all over-achievers, Val’s great ideas just keep coming. There was an empty veterinarian clinic on Highway 53, coming into International Falls — and every time Val drove by the building, had a vision. She wanted to open a store where people could come, visit with their neighbors, take some classes, exchange ideas, and make their creative dreams come true. Val and Larry opened Studio 53 Fabric and Gifts Quilt Shop in June of 2015. The first thing she did was to hire her mother to be the store “GREETER.” “Mom tells everybody it took her 94 years to find the job of her dreams. She has become an icon, and she is the heart of the store.”

The irony is that Val’s creative journey began because she was an avid lover and collector of antique stoves. After opening Studio 53, a man came into the store, fell in love with the stoves, and offered $50,000 for the entire collection. She sold her beloved stoves, paid bills, and ordered more fabric!!

After completion of the huge remodel of her new building, Val Sjoblom has three businesses under one roof: On a Wing and A Prayer longarm quilting, Fotos on Fabric, and Studio 53 Fabric and Gifts Quilt Shop.

She says, most days “we’re so busy, we don’t know if we found a rope or lost our horse . . . .”

Kathie Stull

(Originally published in SCHMETZ Inspired to SEW #48, December 2017. Written by Rita Farro.)

Sometimes, we don’t even know who is responsible for the things we love. For example, how many of us have learned a new sewing or quilting skill from watching favorite how-to shows on public television?

Kathie Stull, KS ProductionsSo, who, or what, exactly, is KS Productions? Like so many other remarkable things in this world — there is a woman, the unsung hero. In this case, that woman is Katherine Stull, the owner of KS Productions. How did she become KS Productions — and what was her journey or moment of inspiration?

Kathie Stull loved “making things” when she was young and started seriously sewing in high school. She took a beginner clothing class which totally changed the direction of her career path. She realized that she loved creating things. When she was a senior in high school, her first real job was working for Jo-Ann Stores in their corporate office as part of a ”Project Real” job study program. She took clothing and art electives — and by her second year of college had veered to a double major in marketing and design.

She always saw herself more on the business side and definitely behind the scenes. But she still wanted to have that creative side to her life — which, for her, became sewing. She loved fashion sewing and made her own clothes — everything from bathing suits to business suits.

After college, Kathie got a job as a buyer in the craft industry. She moved into advertising for print media and it seemed like a good fit. Public television was just starting to accept how-to as a viable category that would attract viewers. In 1987, she met David Larson, a pioneer in developing the first PBS how-to program that married TV with local underwriting. That chance meeting turned out to be the spark that lit a fire in Kathie’s professional life.

Ready, Set, Action!

Because she was involved in print advertising, she partnered with Larson on offering print and TV to manufacturers. This dovetailed with the Aleene’s Creative Living Program. Kathie believed that because crafting and sewing were such visual industries, print alone could not show a consumer how to use a product. Their customers needed education. Kathie saw an opportunity to start her own company — which was initially, strictly about marketing.

Kathie actually was a devoted DIY-person herself. She had a gift for visualizing what steps should be shown for the at-home viewer to “get it.” That led to learning segment production. It didn’t take long before her imagination and enthusiasm led to developing new show concepts.

KS Productions is the largest provider of how-to content for PBS television.

Pretty impressive, right?

In 1990, KS Productions officially began producing shows. The first two programs were: Art of Sewing / America Sews with Sue Hausmann and Sew Creative with Donna Wilder. Kathie says, “I loved the creativity of bringing sewing projects full circle … showing the viewer how they could do it — from beginning to end.”

Her perKS Productions has seven shows currently in production on PBS.sonal “baby” was added: Hands on Crafts for Kids — with the premise that all kids are creative. Her mission for Crafts for Kids was to level the playing and crafting field for kids of all abilities and disabilities. It aired in schools and on PBS and still does today.

Over the last 32 years, her company has developed over 21 different programs covering every possible category in the craft industry. They also developed in-store video programs for major retailers and have developed product videos for many of the leading manufacturers.

In Kathie’s case, starting her own business and becoming a producer was the perfect way to combine her business background with doing the creative things she loved.

After she started her family, her own personal sewing evolved into more specific projects: Lots of baby quilts, kids’ clothing, quick projects, gifts, and some home dec. She loved working with Sue Hausmann as America Sews was developed — and Donna Wilder on Sew Creative. Those shows renewed her excitement and since then, has always had a sewing or quilting show in production.

For 20 plus years, KS Productions subcontracted its space and facilities. Five years ago, they built their own studio to suit their specific needs. The cameras and equipment are totally geared towards the specialty how-to industry. For example, a typical television studio green room is a small waiting room with make-up tables and snacks, but Kathie’s green room is huge — 40’ x 30’, set up with 14 tables. “We can accommodate multiple guests. Every table is wired for sewing machines and glue guns. We have an ironing station, a dressing room and 1,000 square feet for prop storage, etc.”

2016 Industry Achievement Award Craft and Hobby Association

2016 Industry Achievement Award
Craft and Hobby Association

Kathie says, “The biggest difference between when I started and now is that you can’t just produce a show for public television. Every show is also on CREATE (the how-to channel for PBS … a whole other set of stations). Each show has its own website and airs on-line too. Every show has a YouTube channel as well. Nowadays, the internet and social media presence is a part of our package with Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest. It is constantly evolving and changing.”

In 2016, Kathie was recognized for her accomplishments. She was honored with an Industry Achievement Award from CHA (Craft & Hobby Association).

An excerpt from her acceptance speech:

We are constantly striving to bring the message of crafting and creativity and teach people how to make a scrapbook page, or sew a skirt or make anything and everything thru video. I want to thank all of the people and companies with this shared vision for teaching that are willing to invest in building the whole industry, … I’d like to thank my husband and family, I could never have built this company without their support, especially when video technology absolutely never stops changing!

Kathie’s husband is a home inspector, and after they built their studio five years ago, he took on the added job of managing the facility. Their two sons live in the Cleveland area, and their daughter lives in Chicago.

Kathie’s personal sewing nowadays is often for a charitable cause or event. Her family is involved with giving back and making a difference. She started and chairs a family foundation in honor of Kathie’s mother, who died nine years ago.

From The website:

The Amalia Foundation honors Kathie Stull's mother.

The Amalia Foundation honors Kathie’s mother.

The Amalia Foundation was founded in honor of our mother as a way to honor her legacy and help those with Parkinson’s Disease. Our goal is to support exercise programs for those with Parkinson’s. There are many excellent charities that support research and studies, but we wanted something that had the ability to positively influence people and caregivers in our own area and in their daily life. A simple exercise program has the ability to help ease the daily struggles of Parkinson’s, and delay some of the more devastating results of the disease. The Amalia Foundation sponsors the licensed Delay the Disease training program in Cleveland, for physical therapists and other health care professionals. Exercise classes are available at six locations in Northeast Ohio for those with Parkinson’s and their caregivers. The goal is to continue to add classes and locations to serve our community.

The motto of the Amalia Foundation was taken from a quote by Mother Theresa: “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.”

Kathie Stull is a big believer in the power of learning. That it’s how we connect to one another, and it’s how we pass it on. Part of her philosophy is that if we thought about the sewing and craft industries as teaching people rather than selling, we can make a difference in people’s lives and add the joy of being creative.