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 . . . .



MJ Kinman Fall International Quilt Market Houston TX 2018

MJ Kinman
Fall International Quilt Market
Houston TX 2018

One year ago, MJ Kinman and her unusually large gem quilts burst onto the quilting scene like a 4th of July Fireworks Finale. The first time she was a vendor at the International Quilt Market in 2017, it looked like a rock concert was happening in her booth. The quilting world had never seen anything quite like her large gemstone quilts … it was like you were looking into a gigantic glittering diamond.

Since that explosive beginning, MJ’s quilts have been exhibited in galleries, museums, national juried competitions and private collections. Maker’s Mark Distillery commissioned a “Bourbon Diamond” for their permanent art collection. Her work has been featured in Quilting Arts Magazine, McCall’s Quilting Magazine, France Patchwork, Make Modern Magazine, and Online Quilt Magazine. Quilting Arts TV is currently airing three episodes featuring her unique quilt patterns on PBS stations around the country, and The Quilt Show is preparing to broadcast three segments featuring MJ’s techniques and patterns in Spring 2019.

To the seasoned quilt store owners crowding to get into MJ’s booth at that first market, MJ’s gem quilts felt like an amazing “overnight success” story. But the truth is, MJ’s success is a culmination of 25 years of hard work — learning how to take the gemstone images in her head, develop techniques to translate her vision, then building her business to brand and market her one-of-a-kind gem quilts.

Click HERE to read the full story about MJ Kinman and her one-of-a-kind gem quilts.


Tracy Krauter – IMPWEAR

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 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 back strap 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 wild lands 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

Flower of Light


Quilt Artist:  Janet Fogg

Photographer:  Dale Leix

Custom Hand-Dye Fabrics:
Jeanette Viviano

Artist StatementThe symbol Fleur De Lis is the inspiration for this piece.  Combined with the lily, symbolic of purity and the Queen of Heaven, this quilt is machine pieced with the illusion of the subjects superimposed yet transparent over a grid of six pointed split stars.  The quilt, consisting of rocks and ferns suggests an ancient mosaic wall as the canvas for this vision.

A few years ago at International Quilt Market & Festival in Houston TX, Flower of Light captured my attention. Those beguiling eyes. The kind smile. The all-knowing confidence of this heavenly being grabbed my heart and spoke to my spirit. How could all these split pointed stars — geometric shapes create such a soft and alluring quilt? Hand-dyed fabrics, metallic painted fabrics, batiks and crystals accentuate the subtle brilliance. What can I say? I see thousands of quilts every year, but Flower of Light is still one of my all-time favorites. Janet Fogg mastered the artistry of fabric, thread and imagination. I am so pleased to share this inspirational masterpiece with you.