Catching Up with Rob Appell

You may recognize this month’s spotlight from “Michael Miller Fabrics Making It Fun” or “Man Sewing,” we’re so excited to spotlight our JUKI Ambassador, Rob Appell, during National Sewing and Quilting month! In today’s blog, we get to speak with Rob about his journey in quilting, his passion for the craft, and how he came to be where he is today.

Robs journey in quilting began when he moved back home from college, spending his free time outside and snowboarding. His mother, the manager and eventual owner of the local quilt shop brought Rob into the business, where he started as a clerk. When his mother began bringing in machines to sell, Rob eventually shifted to machine repairs, and here is where he started falling in love with sewing!

Creating fun Hawaiian shirts as his uniform for the quilt shop, he found himself having fun making them and eventually began looking into patchwork quilting. A fun and easy way to pick up quilting, he began testing his skills in free motion quilting his projects. Again, finding himself loving the hobby. The rest, as they say, is history!

Since he began to quilt, Rob has accomplished a published quilt book, starred in and hosted multiple quilting YouTube shows, created a community for his teachings, and so much more! His videos encourage new quilters to be creative and enjoy their projects! With a focus on basic techniques, his hope when he’s creating for viewers is that they find something they can take away from his lessons and learn how to make their versions.

Recently starring in ‘Michael Miller Fabrics’ Making it Fun,’ you can follow along with his high-energy videos and view the different patterns and free motion quilting techniques Rob uses. While he offers some design patterns and templates for quilters, his work mainly focuses on organic creation. Going with the flow, his work often doesn’t follow design patterns; the finished design patterns he has sold usually come from these organic works he’s completed after the fact!

“The Free Motion Quilting, I prefer to go freestyle, no pattern, sometimes a plan, but usually pretty random and free.”

Quilting didn’t take him away from the outdoors he loved. Combing two of his favorite things, Rob is known for his landscape quilts. These beautiful pieces focus on nature and showcase views in bright colors. In fact, in 2009, Rob created 12 different quilts that featured faces of endangered species. Using the patterns from his work, he was able to fundraise and advocate for these species through sales that went toward endangered species charities.

He also authored a pattern book, “Making Waves … Adventures of a Surf Quilter,” a self-published print book featuring his landscape and seascape quilts. Early in his quilting journey, Rob was known for his scenic creations. Then, using free motion quilting and applique, he would add fun designs like fish, coral, rocks, lighthouses, ships, and more! Then, bringing in his love for surfing, he created a piece that intertwined surf terms with quilting terms, going above the average and setting himself apart.

Now, as someone who’s been quilting and creating those quilting videos we love for years, we asked Rob what keeps him going. “Videos are free and can be viewed over and over again if you’re learning from them. I love to present my passion for quilting.” Rob likes to focus on basic quilting techniques because he’s often reminded of how many new quilters have emerged in the community over the years. Thanks to video cameras and social sites like YouTube, where Rob hosts, he can teach how to construct quilts and the basic skills all quilters want to know. Keeping himself motivated with fun fabrics and the creative process has pushed him to bring that energy into each episode’s studio. Thankful for the following he’s gained on YouTube that keeps him going!

Rob at his studio with the J-350QVP & J-150QVP

He recently created a new quilt, the “Synergy Remix,” designed by Kristie J. Smith in her pattern book, “Splice Magic,” that he loved! Always excited to try out new and different quilting techniques, like he encourages his viewers, Rob locked himself in the quilt shop, Stitchin’ Heaven, his latest collaboration where he’ll be hosting new quilting episodes, and went to work! In one night, he created a quilt and video, maligning the entire project and finishing it. Yet, this project places a smile on his face when he thinks about it.

While Rob has gone on to try other ventures, like his work in textile design with Free Spirit Fabrics, he vouches for his love of quilting. Sharing his love of fabric and free motion quilting, he focuses on his desire to quilt the top to push him through the construction process. Recently, he’s begun focusing on improving his precision in his patchwork! By creating little half-square triangles and trimming them up, he’s found joy in practicing his skills.

Always learning and growing, Rob has begun a new journey in his quilting career with Stitchin’ Heaven! As their new YouTube manager and Content presenter, he’ll be able to create a team of quilt lovers like himself who can share their passion for the craft while teaching others worldwide. Stepping back from handling all processes by himself, he’ll now have quilting friends who will help him create new and exciting projects for viewers like you. We’re excited to see the different techniques and quilting styles that will emerge from this new partnership!

“The thing I love most about the quilting industry is that there is so much for everyone.”

With the quilting community constantly growing as new members find their passion for the hobby, we asked Rob what advice he has for JUKI Quilters. “Get to know your machine, spend 7me learning the nuances, understand what the different feet do and when to use them. Then, remember – this is a hobby, not a race. Please slow down to enjoy the process.” When you enjoy the steps to what you’re creating and take a moment to appreciate each technique you’ve picked up, you’ll truly enjoy the finished project. As Rob mentions, so many people need something positive in their lives. Take the time to find your passion, teach and work with others in your quilting community, and enjoy the process.

We hope you enjoyed learning more about Rob with us, and we hope this inspires you to join him on an online video one day and check out quilting! A hobby for everyone, we hope everyone enjoys National Sewing and Quilting month with a fun new project!

JUKI Spotlight: Designing with Kiana Bonollo!

In this month’s spotlight, we are introducing Kiana Bonollo! Fashion designer, YouTuber, and TikToker, Kiana has grown in popularity in the last couple of years due to her videos showcasing apparel projects and behind-the-scene how-tos for new sewists. Follow along today as we talk to Kiana about her journey in sewing and how she grew to the 400k audience she has now!

Photo Credit: Kiana Bonollo

From a young age, Kiana always had a curiosity for sewing. Her earliest memory was borrowing her mother’s sewing machine and altering her clothes while creating skirts from scratch! Later on, she would take her first sewing class, a week-long course on sewing basics, where she began with making pillowcases like so many of us do. Following her interest, she went on to take apparel classes in high school, finding she had a true talent for the hobby and diving into the journey. She began learning how to create patterns and learning complex skills she hadn’t tried before. College would be no different; continuing her studies in the fashion design industry, she has continued to grow her skills and talent, creating new patterns and projects for her audience and shop.

Using fashion as a form of expression, Kiana loved that fashion design allowed you to imagine anything you wanted and create it. Like so many of us, she struggled with inspiration in the past but finds that her favorite work to design are those pieces that she knows she will wear and show off in the real world! Focusing on projects that bring her happiness, her patterns range from loungewear to evening wear, a versatile selection that her followers love. 

When asked about how she chooses which patterns will be sold, “It’s really important to me that I take into consideration what my customers are suggesting and asking of me, so if a lot of my customers are asking for a prom dress- I’m going to make them a prom dress.”

Following her ideas and likes, she pulls from her customer’s suggestions and creates projects that align with their wants and her taste. It’s here that she’s been able to compromise on what’s highly requested and what she truly enjoys designing, creating that relationship with her customers, so many shops want to build.

Kiana describes her style as “edgy, but still tailored and chic.” However, finding it boring to stick to one aesthetic, she likes to dabble outside her comfort zone and enjoys mixing different design styles and aesthetics to create fun looks! With so many different style aesthetics and designs, she doesn’t let one style hold her in a box.

Photo Credit: Kiana Bonollo

With an audience of over 400k across platforms, it’s amazing to see what was accomplished in a couple of short years. Kiana’s page quickly gained popularity by opening her YouTube account in May 2020 due to her easy-to-follow and straightforward “how-to” videos and project compilations. When she first began her online page, she would put in 40 hours a week designing, editing, and creating, treating it as a full-time job. Feeling she needed to give herself a real chance, she dived into her work and focused on her dreams of working in social media and fashion design.

“I never imagined that my audience would grow to the size it currently is so fast, and I’m so grateful for everyone who has subscribed and liked my channel and followed me.”

For those out there who want to raise their following, Kiana advises finding your strengths and taking advantage of them! With so many talented artists and sewists in the world, it can be hard to distinguish yourself sometimes, but finding what you can offer that’s different or better from those out there will help you stand out. Kiana, for example, is known for her videos teaching sewist techniques and how to create different projects, focusing on her strengths of being a technical sewist and the joy she finds in educating others on her favorite hobby.

And a recommendation she has out there for those building their skills in sewing? Invest in a high-quality machine that you can also grow in too! Finding a sewing machine that can handle heavy-duty fabrics and stitches quickly and versatilely is perfect for those learning. They can upgrade their projects and skills without needing to upgrade their machine.

Kiana’s sewing table is always ready to work with her machines! Using the JUKI DX-2000QVP and a QVP serger, she’s prepared to create her silk gowns, cotton loungewear, and more. She loves recommending this machine to her followers who are serious about starting their journey. She states they’re great choices for intermediate and advanced sewers alike.

Photo Credit: Kiana Bonollo

Currently, her sewing table is being used for project requests and suggestions submitted by her followers. With the current pandemic closing shop for fashion shows in many cities, she’s been focusing on her customer base before planning to create another collection. Waiting for the world to feel a little safer, Kiana hopes to continue once fashion shows are back!

Besides her current wish for the runways to come back, Kiana hopes to launch a fashion design course one day and sell her fashion line. But for now, she’ll keep busy creating content for her followers and expanding her current business. We can’t wait to see what’s in store for Kiana and her fashion line!

To keep up with Kiana and her journey, click her profile below. And the next time you want to learn some fun fashion sewing tips, check out Kiana’s YouTube here!

Check out more from Kiana below!

Learn more about Kiana here!

Etsy Shop: Click here to visit!

Instagram: Click here to check out her latest projects!

Tiktok: Click here to see behind the scenes!