Rob Appell – One of the Hottest Tickets Around

Rob Appell, Boy Wonder of the Quilting World

One of the hottest tickets in the sewing and quilting world is Rob Appell of A YouTube sensation, he travels all over the country, speaking at the biggest events in the industry. His classes are always sold out, and his students look and act like fans attending a rock concert. In only two years, he has built to almost 100,000 subscribers.

Rob Appell with his wife Jenny, his daughter Ruby, and his son Brayden.

Rob with Jenny, Ruby, and Brayden.

Rob is a handsome, outdoorsy guy who loves hiking with his family, surfing and snowboarding. He looks like he would be more comfortable playing his guitar in a rock band, instead of presenting a seminar on landscape quilting. Rob has been married to his wife, Jenny for 20 years. Jenny is a reading intervention teacher in elementary school. They have a 14 year old son, Brayden, and a 12-year old daughter, Ruby.

With his rugged good looks, long hair and tattoos — Rob is a most unlikely “sewing star.” So where did this unicorn come from?

Rob Appell grew up surrounded by textiles, fabrics and quilts. An only child, his father was a banker and his mother, Judi Appell, owned the popular fabric shop, The Cotton Ball in Morro Bay, California. In his early twenties, Rob worked in his mother’s store, but he didn’t think it was his life’s calling. When he finished school, he was eager to see the world — so he traveled around the western United States, playing his guitar, and living out of a VW bus. He picked up odd jobs but mostly, the point was surfing and/or snowboarding (depending on the location).

When he decided he needed a real job, Rob trained as an assistant chef (he is quick to say that calling himself a chef would be an insult to the profession). He was also a certified sewing machine technician.

The Wedding Quilt that inspired Man Sewing.

The Wedding Quilt that inspired Man Sewing.

In 1997, when Rob married Jenny, she was a teacher and he was working nights at a restaurant and days at his Mom’s store. As a wedding present, the women who worked for The Cotton Ball gave Rob and Jenny a quilt they had designed and created specifically for them. That quilt was a work of art — with blocks representing both Rob and Jenny and their life together. Each block was custom quilted. One day, Rob took a close look at the quilt and as he followed the stitching, he thought, “Wait, the stitches change with every block. I wonder how they did that . . . .”

Rob loved to draw, and he wanted to see if he could draw with a sewing machine. He had a printer and an old computer, so he made a quilt pattern and started to experiment with free-motion quilting. Although he barely knew it at the time, Rob was creating landscape quilts. He became obsessed with designing and creating “Seascapes.”

In the beginning, Rob got interested in machine quilting because he wanted to understand exactly what The Cotton Ball customers were doing with their sewing machines. He believed it would make him a better sewing machine repairman. But things took an unexpected turn when the customers saw his finished landscape quilts. They were so curious about his free-motion quilting and the techniques he was using — Rob started to teach classes.

Rob Appell, Endangered Species, Bengal Tiger. Rawedge appliqué and freemotion machine quilting.

Endangered Species, Bengal Tiger.
Rawedge appliqué and freemotion machine quilting.

Rob was an enthusiastic teacher and as his reputation grew, he was invited to teach at local guilds and other stores. He created to provide a gallery of his work to promote his classes, workshops and retreats.

In 2010, Rob Appell and Michael Miller Fabrics teamed up to build awareness about our planet and her Endangered Species. Rob created twelve “up-close and personal” quilts featuring these special creatures . . . focusing on the eyes of the creature.

But Rob’s success in the sewing world was not a straight meteoric shot. In 2013, Island Batiks sponsored an event to raise awareness for Operation Homefront — to provide support for returning veterans. They put together 40 different red, white and blue fabrics. Rob was asked to create a pattern for the collection. Here’s a link to Rob’s video about that pattern, “Coming Home.”

Rob Appell, Coming Home. Quilted in Honor by Island Batik Benefitting Operation Homefront.

Coming Home.
Quilted in Honor by Island Batik
Benefitting Operation Homefront.

Working on that patriotic project, Rob had a vision of the iconic Iwo Jima Memorial, with the six Marines raising the flag. A recovering alcoholic, at that time he was five years sober and struggling to be creative. He wanted his finished quilt to be 5’ x 8’ . . . and he pictured an enormous appliqué. But his vision wasn’t coming to life. He was frustrated. Nothing was working, and he almost gave up. One day, he went into his studio and a voice in his head said “you’ve got to finish that quilt so it can be auctioned off.” So, he went back in. When he finished the quilt, “And The Flag Was Still There,” it hung at the 2013 Sisters Quilt Show in Portland, Oregon. Alex Anderson urged Rob to value the quilt at $25,000 for insurance purposes.

Rob Appell, And The Flag Was Still There. Quilted in Honor.

And The Flag Was Still There.
Quilted in Honor.

The quilt traveled to the American Quilter’s Society shows the following year, but it eventually ended up on a shelf in Portland at the Operation Homefront office. Rob wasn’t sure why the quilt was never auctioned — but he made that quilt to benefit Operation Homefront, and he was determined to make that happen. When he asked if he could buy it back, he was told the price was $25,000. Rob was determined to find a way to use the quilt to raise money for Operation Homefront. He signed a contract to raise the $25K to buy the quilt back from OH, and started a GoFundMe campaign.

Once the goal has been met, the quilt will be back in Rob’s possession permanently, so he can continue to tell its story and raise awareness about the mission of Operation Homefront. He’s raised over $15,000 so far. Recently, he had the opportunity to make a $14,000 donation from the money he’d raised on a day that was a match donation from a big sponsor.

Meanwhile, in another part of the country — Hamilton, Missouri — Jenny Doan was turning the quilt world upside down. Her weekly YouTube videos for Missouri Star Quilt Company were attracting a very large audience, and she was also traveling all over the country, doing quilt guilds, retreats and seminars. Jenny says, “at every trunk show, I’d have two or three men in the room. They’d come up to me afterwards and ask, ‘Are there others like me?’ They told me they were learning to quilt from watching videos on the internet. They were not comfortable walking into a traditional quilt store, intimidated by the fact that they’d be surrounded by accomplished women quilters who knew more than they did. But, with the internet, they were free to learn, experiment — and FAIL in the comfort and privacy of their own home. It was a light bulb moment for me. I went back to the office and said, ‘We need to do some videos that appeal to these guys!’ That’s how ‘Man Sewing’ was born.”

Jenny Doan and Rob Appell. Missouri Star Quilt Company

Jenny Doan and Rob.
Missouri Star Quilt Company

When Nancy Rosenberger (a mutual friend) heard MSQC was looking for a guy who could do sewing videos — she called Rob and said, “This is going to blow up — it will change your life.” Nancy introduced Rob to the Doan family and they met at International Quilt Market. It was 10:30 at night . . . in the lobby of the hotel . . . and they started talking (everybody at once, the way Jenny remembers it). After two hours of non-stop conversation, they offered him the job. Jenny said, “I knew he would be a good fit. He is high energy, just like me, and the minute we were in the same room, we were both bubbling over, sharing ideas, and telling each other what the videos should look like — we were both talking so fast, we were fighting for air. His mind goes a mile a minute . . . and it was like this job was made for him.”

Rob flew to Missouri and they built a set for “Man Sewing.” He goes there every eight weeks, stays for a week and tapes ten tutorials. He sews all the step-outs at his studio in California. And it isn’t just men who love his YouTube videos. Man Sewing has gained nearly 100,000 subscribers in only two years. The viewers are primarily non-sewing men and women who were not comfortable walking into a traditional quilt shop, but once they’ve built up their confidence — they’re eager to go! Nowadays, when Rob and Jenny attend Quilt Market, they hear from stores all over the country that they have customers coming in every week who have learned their basic quilting skills on the internet . . . and they’re ready to take it to the next level.

Jenny Doan says, “Rob’s mind NEVER STOPS . . . and he has more ideas than we could film in a lifetime. From the first day he came to Hamilton, he impressed us with his ability to take a project from start to finish, and break it down in clear, understandable steps. His step-outs were spot-on, and he made it look easy. Believe me — IT IS NOT EASY. None of the ManSewing videos are scripted — but they look so natural because of Rob’s conversational style. Rob is the real deal — he knows what he’s talking about and he genuinely wants the audience to ‘get it’.”

Rob Appell and The Shark Applicutter.

Rob and The Shark Applicutter.

Working with MSQC gave Rob the opportunity to develop and bring to market his sewing-tool invention, The Shark Applicutter, a mini-rotary cutter, designed for free cutting. With a precise 14mm blade that slices with incredible accuracy, this tool has a soft grip for comfort, a safety fin for your finger, and it’s adaptable for the left or right hand.

Jenny Doan says, “It was a lucky day for us when we met Rob. He brings a huge personality to ManSewing, of course, and rock-solid sewing skills. But I’d like to say he is one of the best men I know. He is simply a good, genuine, person who is honest and hard-working. I think that comes across on camera — and he has a wonderful appeal to all those people out there who were too afraid to try. He makes them believe they CAN DO IT!”

Learn with Rob Appell on YouTube.

Learn with Rob on YouTube.

By his own estimate, Rob has made over 120 quilts in his life. His zen moment is when he actually becomes focused on the project. He puts on his headphones, listens to music, and gets into the zone; the vibration and rhythm of free-motion quilting. He compares it to riding a wave . . . being on the inside of that huge curl of water. Those are the moments he craves. His second favorite moment is when a project is finished — that feeling of accomplishment and sheer exaltation.

Rob Appell’s energy level is OFF THE CHARTS. Recently, he was trying to help a customer in a quilt shop find a certain bolt of fabric. Rob was sure he’d seen it . . . but after a frustrating search, he said, “I’m sorry. We’ve been walking in circles for almost an hour. One of the problems with being a creative person is that I’m always imagining stuff.”

Lucky for us . . . .


SCHMETZ Super Stretch Needle – HAx1SP

The Super Stretch Needle can be used in all home sewing machines which require needle system 130/705 H, as well as in some overlock machines (information can be found in your machine manual). Due to its properties, HAx1SP is an alternative to the Stretch Needle when sewing with thicker sewing threads.

The SCHMETZ Super Streth Needle has a special flat shank which allows the needle to be closer to the hook. Additionally, the special design of the scarf area produces a larger needle thread loop which can easily be picked up by the hook. These features prevent skipped stitches on highly elastic fabrics.


  • The reinforced blade causes less needle breakage and creates straighter stitches.
  • As a result of the wider and shorter eye in combination with the widened groove, the HAx1SP is able to sew with thicker threads than the Universal or the Stretch Needle. The threads are less stressed and will not break.
  • The HAx1SP has a medium ball point which is suitable for all kinds of knits. It displaces the meshes, avoiding damage to the material.
  • This needle has a chrome coating which makes it more resistant against wear.

Click HERE for information.


Needle Safety Information

SCHMETZ Stretch Needle

1. Description
Sewing machine needles are made from carbon steel containing approx. 0.7 to 1 % carbon and minor parts of other chemical elements which are usually contained in such a steel. As corrosion protection, the steel surface of the needles is plated with one of the following:  nickel, chrome, titanium, Nickel-Phosphor-PTFE, etc.

SCHMETZ Universal Needle Pack 75/11

2. Storage
The smallest packaging unit is the SCHMETZ plastic pack containing one, five or ten individual needles. The needles should be stored under dry and clean conditions. Each needle pack includes easy identification of needle type and size.

3. Handling
Individual needles should not be carried in trouser pockets or similar pockets close to the human body.

4. Identification
Needle system, type and size are printed on the needle pack. The size is also stamped on the needle shank. Household needles include a color code denoting needle type and size. Most household sewing machines use needle system 130/705 H. The sewing machine manual will confirm the needle system required. The needle size and thread should accommodate the material being sewn. Avoid placing fingers in the way of the needle.

5. Precautions while fixing and removing the needles
The needles themselves, as an individual item, do not represent a severe danger for the human body, but should be handled carefully with regard to the needle point. When fixing or removing a needle from the sewing machine, power must be shut off. The screwdriver or allen key used to lock or unlock the needle fixing screw must be in good working condition. The point of the needle fixing screw must be in good condition in order to securely hold the needle. Just the right amount of force should be applied to lock the needle fixing screw; too much force will cause the point of the screw to get damaged.

6. Safety measures
The finger and eye protectors of the sewing machine are optional. If used, they should be in place while operating the sewing machine. At no time during machine operation should the fingers of the operator touch the needle. When threading the machine, do not place foot on power control.

7. Shelf life of needles
Needles have a shelf life of at least five years when stored under dry and clean conditions in the original package.

8. Disposal
Needles can be disposed like any scrap metal and can be recycled in the same way. The needle packaging can also be recycled. Both the plastic box and the plastic module contain 100% pure polystyrole.


Why is the Topstitch Needle Identified as 130 N?

A few months ago, we discussed the numbering system of household sewing machine needles. The majority are known as 130/705 H needles:   130/705 H (Universal), 130/705 H-E (Embroidery), 130/705 H-Q (Quilting), etc. However, the SCHMETZ Topstitch Needle does not follow that numbering convention. It is known as 130 N. How come?

Here’s the reason according to Jose Reyes of SCHMETZ USA:

Years ago … many years ago …

Domestic machines were sold to customers with two common systems, 130 or 705. Mechanically, these old machines were sold with Rotary Hooks, Shuttle Hooks, or Shuttles. Due to these three differences on the hooks, the point of the old needle and the scarf of the old needle had to be manufactured with different specs. Indeed, these two systems were very similar, but not the same. Years later, sewing machine changes and design forced a unification of these two needle systems.

Today, modern sewing machine are sold with new rotary hooks or a modified shuttle hook, making these differences on the needles not necessary, or critical, to the sewing operation.

The new unified system takes in consideration both old systems (130 & 705), and takes the best specs from both needles to form a new one. This new needle is capable of working with new machines as well with some old machines. The new needle system is called “Universal” or “130/705 H.”  The “H,” in the new system,  indicates that these needles have a flat on the shank.

So, back to the “130 N.” This is an old designation from the system “130.” It has a shorter point and an oversized eye, and is capable of working well in both machines, old and new.

So . . . now you know.


Jeannette Kitlan – Getting Kids to Sew

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.