My First Quilt: Rob Appell

Today we welcome Rob Appell from Man Sewing as our final “My First Quilt” story for National Quilting Month. Take it away, Rob!

Rob Appell

My first quilt was made from the remnants of a sewing project that didn’t go exactly as planned. I had wanted to make a beach scene aloha shirt, but things had gone south, so I made the best of the situation and created a quilt. It was a patchwork top, mostly squares and rectangles of batik and a fabric line called Fossil Fern. It also included some richly textured Osnaburg fabrics as well. I had a desire to try free motion, so I made a basic patchwork top from all those cool tropical fabrics, tried some appliqué, and began free motion quilting. From this first attempt, not too many things have really changed in my approach to quilting, although I’ve improved a lot.

It was my second quilt that was the big deal for me. It was the quilt, The Dolphin Dance, that spurred me on to designing quilts for a living. Eventually, this pattern was featured in a refresh tutorial called Simple Strip Scramble through the Man Sewing YouTube channel. This is the quilt I always begin my trunk shows with. It’s also the quilt that gave me enough of a boost of confidence to choose quilting as a lifestyle.

Rob Strip Scramble Quilt


Strip Scramble Quilt
Back in 2001, when I began creating The Dolphin Dance, I was in a big rush to make the quilt top, I had about three hours to spare. You know how you get one of those ideas that just comes out all at once? I wanted to try to learn how to free motion quilt, but I only had one night to construct a top. I was stitching patchwork rows and I began running low on time. I was initially going to use larger panel style pieces for appliqué, but then I decided to patchwork in the 10” x 10” panels to save time. And that was the ticket. It became a teachable technique, and helped launch my career as an “edutainer.”

With this project, I taught myself to free motion quilt and today I show it as my first real work, then at the end of my shows I display more current quilts from Man Sewing tutorials, and, of course, the free motion quilting is much better on those quilts. Since 2001, I have made over 200 quilts from start to finish and I do feel that my work has greatly improved. It is not perfect, nor will it ever be, but I love to make quilt tops, and I love to finish them with free motion machine quilting in the end.

Quilts are such a fun way to express ourselves through color and movement. I think it is amazing how many different things I still want to learn and to share. I love to take work that I have created and build on the ideas and techniques that I’ve gained over the years. I use a ton of strip set building for base work in my quilting. I love to make strips, then cut them, scramble them, and rebuild. I have learned to use these methods to create interesting layers for appliqué as well as fun patchwork quilts that make you wonder, “How was that pieced?”

We all improve with the time we spend in our craft, whether it is by stretching our imaginations, or simply sewing a straighter seam. I encourage everyone to try something new every day, look for the adventure in life, and pursue happiness with every stitch.

We hope you’ve enjoyed the My First Quilt series throughout National Quilting Month, which, if we’re being honest, if every month for us! Be sure to share all of your quilts, sewing projects and stories with us using #msqcshowandtell and #makesomethingtoday. Happy quilting, friends!