Plain Township artist’s passion for quilting garners awards, international recognition
Sandra Soni’s exquisite, one-of-a-kind quilts have transformed her home into a living canvas of color and texture. The third-generation quilter has designed and made award-winning quilts for more than 25 years.
“I’ve loved sewing all my life,” said Soni, a former home economics teacher. “My grandmother taught me to sew on a treadle sewing machine; I made clothes for my Barbie dolls.”
Soni said quilting is enjoying a resurgence after nearly becoming a lost art.
“It’s a $3 billion business wordwide,” she noted. “The quilting and crafting industries are recession-proof. People make gifts during down times rather than purchase them. The act of creating is a stress reliever and also good entertainment.”
Soni has exhibited quilts in several national shows, including, most recently, the 40th annual National Quilting Association Show in Columbus in June. Her entry, “Amongst the Cosmos, Ganesh, Lord of Success,” an homage to her husband’s Hindu heritage and her own Christian faith, won honorable mention.
In May, she won first place at a show in Kansas City, Mo., for a quilt depicting the former Timken Stables in Canton. It also won a first-place ribbon at a show in February. Soni estimates she has made about 40 to 50 quilts.
“Each one has a story,” she said. She cites several sources of inspiration for her designs.
“I take a lot of photographs, and I’m very interested in science,” she said. “The more intricate the design, the less painful it is for me to do it because it’s so varied.”
Designs are hand-drawn — usually on freezer paper — to create a pattern, or “cartoon.” Like most modern quilters, Soni uses a special sewing machine called a “Longarm.”
A native of Arizona, Soni is a graduate of West Virginia Wesleyan University. While pursuing a master’s degree in nutrition from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, she met her future husband, Dr. Prasanna L. Soni, then an intern. Dr. Soni opened his orthopedic practice in Canton in 1977, and the couple married in 1978. They have a daughter, Sara, 25, a critical-care nurse and medical student in Los Angeles, and a son, Stephen, 20, who is studying economics and math at New York University.
One of Soni’s quilts is on display in Japan, courtesy of “Kimono as Art,” the Canton Museum of Art’s hugely successful exhibition featuring kimono by the late Japanese artist Itchiku Kubota. Soni was commissioned by Joy Timken to create a commemorative quilt for the event.
Her bas-relief, silk “Pegasus” quilt made in the shape of a kimono so impressed Kubota’s son that he took it back to Japan to exhibit in the family’s museum.
The art of quilting crosses countries and cultures. Evidence of it has been found among ancient Egyptians, as well as the crusaders. Soni said she believes quilting has not only endured but regained popularity because “people naturally need to create.”
“With every piece I do, I learn something,” she said. “You’re never satisfied.”