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Ormond Beach Observer Friday, Feb. 7, 2020 5 months ago

Ormond Beach resident's quilt to tour the U.S.

Claire Sadowniczak's quilt celebrating the 100th anniversrry of the women's suffrage movement will be on display in a museum in Minnesota starting March 10.
by: Jarleene Almenas Associate Editor

Ormond Beach Claire Sadowniczak is running out of walls to decorate in her Ormond Beach home.

Her paintings, crafts and framed pieces of Japanese embroidery are displayed throughout the house, watched over dutifully by her little rescue dog Diamond, who Sadowniczak jokingly refers to as her "alarm without an off switch." The art on the walls are evidence of Sadowniczak's flitting interests.

Many of them proudly display her latest obsession: Quilting. 

From quilts depicting a landscape to those fashioned after the 1920s "crazy quilt" style, Sadowniczak, a Pennsylvania native, has embraced her latest creative outlet with a passion. And the quilts don't take her very long; her husband said she's faster than your average quilter. 

“He says I can turn any hobby into a Bataan Death March," Sadowniczak said. 

Her quilting journey started about three years ago when she joined the Racing Fingers Quilt Guild. In large part, that happened because of her best friend, Jo. They've been friends for 43 years, and Jo always introduces her to new hobbies. After decades of flying down from Pennsylvania to visit Sadowniczak, her best friend moved to Ormond Beach and told her they would be learning how to quilt.

Bob and Claire Sadowniczak, and their dog Diamond, hold up "Sheepy Time," one of Claire's landscape quilts. Photo by Jarleene Almenas

“My husband calls us ‘bad dogs,’ because when you put two dogs together, they teach each other all their bad habits, but nothing good," Sadowniczak said.

Now, one of Sadowniczak's quilts will be touring the United States, starting with the Dakota County Historical Museum in St. Paul, Minnesota. Hers was one of 40 quilts selected by the Dakota County Star Quilters 2020 annual quilt show celebrating the 100th anniversary of the women's suffrage movement. 

A lifetime of crafting

Since she was 6 years old, Sadowniczak, has been crocheting and embroidering — anything she could do while sitting due to a rare blood disorder.

Her mother was the one to teach her. By the time Sadowniczak was 11, she was sewing all of her own clothes, as well as her mother's. In high school, she made prom gowns for herself and her classmates. Her "after-prom" dress was made with yellow crepe fabric, white lace, pearls and rhinestones. 

Years later, after obtaining bachelor's degrees in mathematics and computer science from Penn State, Sadowniczak held jobs as a computer programmer and analyst at Ford Aerospace, and later worked on satellites with General Electric Aerospace. She graduated with a double master's degree from Temple University in management and computer science. 

Claire Sadowniczak's quilt, "10 Little Indians." Photo by Jarleene Almenas

On business trips, she would crochet. She used to make a lot of sweaters for her friends when TV soap operas "Falcon Crest" and "Dynasty" were airing. 

Her favorite craft?

“Whatever I’m doing at the time," Sadowniczak said. "I get bored.”

Claire Sadowniczak's women's suffrage movement quilt. Courtesy photo

One she was particularly fond of was Japanese embroidery. But she can't do much of it anymore after her mastectomy. But it's a sacrifice that was well worth it in the end. Sadowniczak has been cancer free for 19 years.

The creative process

Sadowniczak's winning quilt is purple, yellow and white — the colors of the women's suffrage movement. The phrase, "I am raising the 'future.' Allow me to vote for it!" adorn the top and bottom of the quilt. In the center, is a woman pushing a vintage baby carriage.

Usually, she designs quilts as she goes along, but this time, she had a vision in mind. 

But, she will admit that for her, the fun in quilting lies in the designing process. It's why she doesn't work with patterns. That's like being back at work as an engineer, she said. 

Her husband Bob Sadowniczak had a different take. 

“She doesn’t like patterns," he said. "It’s too easy.”

Claire Sadowniczak made a 1920's crazy quilt pillow. Photo by Jarleene Almenas

The couple has been married 40 years. They met while working on the same satellite in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.

“And I just thought he was the cutest thing,” said Claire Sadowniczak while laughing. “And he had a wonderful sense of humor. He kept me laughing the whole week and half we worked together.”

Afterward, he asked her on a date where they spent the entire time trying to figure out ways they weren't compatible. It became a running joke. Eight months later, they were engaged. 

Bob Sadowniczak doesn't watch her work on her quilts very often, but he is around when she needs him — namely, to help hang quilts for the annual Quilt Week show at the Ocean Center.

Quilting will likely not be the last type of craft Claire Sadowniczak explores in her life, but for now, it's the one that brings her joy.

“I want to create," she said. "Any quilt that I design myself is a fun quilt.”

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