“I do get a few raised eyebrows at first,” the Wisconsin quilter mused. “But once I start talking with people, they see I know what I’m talking about.”
How would describe a quilter? We’d guess: an older woman, gray hair, hunched over a sewing machine.
Meet Scott Kaeppel: an early-60s Sheboygan Falls man, who’s defying gender stereotypes.
Scott knows his passion is typically a women’s hobby, but he doesn’t care. UpNorthNews Editor Christina Lorey caught up with the talented quilter for advice on finding and pursuing a new passion.
Christina Lorey, UpNorthNews Editor: How old were you when you started quilting, and why did you begin?
Scott Kaeppel, Quilter: I was 58– very much a late bloomer. A friend got me interested in it because she’s been quilting for about 20 years. I thought it looked fun. On a whim, one day I said, “I’d like to try it myself.” At first she didn’t think I was serious. But she invited me to LaCrosse for a weekend, got me going on a project, and I was off and running.
It feels outdated to say, but quilting is still stereotypically a “women’s hobby” to many people. How do most react when they hear you quilt?
I do get a few raised eyebrows at first, some looks of surprise, but once I start talking with people, the gender thing goes away.
But I also get the astonished “You quilt?” comment now and then. The most amusing reaction was at the 2019 Quilt Expo. I was picking out fabric at a booth when two ladies approached me and asked if I could help them find a certain pattern of fabric. They could see the puzzled look on my face and one said, “Oh, I’m sorry. Is this not your booth?” I told them no, that I was buying fabric too. We got a good chuckle out of that.
What’s the best thing you ever made?
My “Courtship” quilt (pictured above). I found the pattern, picked out all my fabrics, did all the math and setting up, pieced it, quilted it, and did the binding all on my own. It turned out as well as anything I’d done before or since. It was one of my proudest moments.
What has quilting taught you about yourself?
Patience and persistence. Projects rarely go well from start to finish, and your best tool is often your seam ripper. I’ve had moments of pure frustration. But I’ve learned to just stop and walk away for a while. A day or two later I come back calmer and with a better attitude, and things don’t seem so bad any more. I fix the mistakes, and pretty soon I’ve forgotten all about them and it’s fun again.
I never look at a finished project and think about the screwups. Only the successes. It’s great for building character.
What’s your best advice for beginners?
Find someone who quilts and who has the patience to work with you to show you the craft. Youtube videos are nice, but there’s nothing like having a teacher who’s seen it all and can help you when it’s not going well.
And don’t be afraid to take on any project big or small. My friend had me make a full size quilt right from the start. The pattern was simple, but I was making a nice quilt for my mother, not a placemat or a pot holder. It turned out well, and she loved it. It was a great learning experience and a real confidence builder.
Do you feel like you were always meant to find this hobby?
Yes! 7 years ago, all I had was a simple little Kenmore sewing machine and a sewing box with some needles, pins, and sewing scissors in it. Now I have a fully stocked craft room with a big Janome sewing machine, boxes full of fabrics, gadgets, projects, and more templates than I probably need. But it’s been great fun and worth every penny I’ve spent on it. I feel like I can’t remember a time when I didn’t quilt!
Are you challenging gender norms, tackling an out-of-the-box hobby, or simply have a story to share? Email email@example.com for the possibility of being featured in a future article.
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