Kathy Sodt learned to sew and knit when she was younger, one of nine children adopted by her parents.
When she started her own family and her career at the University of Michigan started taking off, she found little time for the craft.
But as her own children moved out and she sought a hobby, Sodt turned back to knitting, and eventually quilting and jewelry making — activities that helped her feel connected to her mother after she died, and also show appreciation to those who helped her through a fight with breast cancer.
“After my mom passed away, I inherited a lot of her quilting fabrics and a couple of her machines, and the rest is history,” said Sodt, a senior business intelligence analyst with Enterprise Data and Information Services and Health Information Technology & Services at Michigan Medicine.
“I took off and I could not stop. I just absolutely love it. I get so much enjoyment.”
Sodt learned how to knit from her mother, who also was heavily involved in quilting. When her father died in 2007, Sodt moved her mother to a retirement home closer to her and took up knitting while they spent time together.
At her mother’s request, Sodt knit a baby sweater and hat for a lady at the home and her mom was thrilled to see her daughter knit.
“My mom never really taught me how to quilt,” Sodt said. “She started to, but we never finished a beginner quilt, we just worked with 4-inch blocks that you cut up and sew back together. I picked up quilting on my own.”
Sodt started watching YouTube videos on quilting and eventually dove in headfirst after purchasing some material and a pattern. The activity dovetailed nicely with her career talents. She has worked at U-M since 1991 and for the last 13 years has been with HITS.
“Being an analyst, you have to think, problem solve and visualize your work. Quilting is the same; you need to think about the process, problem solve and visualize your quilt,” she said. “It seemed like a natural fit. I just fell in love with quilting.”
It was an especially comforting activity after her mom died July 23, 2016 — which was Sodt’s and her husband’s anniversary. Sodt was bequeathed her mother’s quilting equipment and she and her husband, Jim, began creating a quilt studio in their home.
Then in March 2017, Sodt was diagnosed with triple negative invasive ductal carcinoma, an aggressive form of breast cancer that was detected fairly early.
“There’s only one course of treatment for my type of cancer: You have to go through the treatment of chemotherapy, radiation and surgery,” she said. “Thank goodness mine wasn’t in an advanced stage, but every six months I’m faithful about visiting the cancer center for follow-up appointments and getting necessary tests done.”
“I just count every day as a blessing.”
Sodt said she considers herself cancer-free as of Dec. 13, 2017, after nine grueling months of appointments, treatments and surgery at Michigan Medicine. Between her medical team, family members, co-workers and friends providing emotional support, Sodt said there was much thanks and appreciation to share.
“Once I went through all my treatment and we finished my studio, I began creating quilts and table runners, etc. As a thank-you, because I received so much love and support from people, I began sending things to people that helped us,” she said.
Sodt also made jewelry, which she became interested in after seeing a co-worker’s handmade wares. She said she’s made at least 200 pieces of jewelry over the years, rarely keeping any for herself.
She’s made many different quilts of varying sizes and designs. She recently became interested in embroidery, so she purchased machinery to handle that duty and the added touch it provides to her quilts.
Sodt said she can “create and design baby quilts very quickly” because of their small size. Larger quilts with more advanced design can take up to six weeks to complete.
“For the top of your quilt, you create a pattern or pick one out, chose your fabric, cut your pieces, piece it together and incorporate embroidery. To finish a quilt you create a sandwich with the finished top, batting and back and then perform some top quilting, trim the edges down, create a label and bind the edges,” she said. “There are so many steps in creating a quilt. It is a very involved process filled with love and time, you just get so wrapped up in it.
“Every time I create a new quilt or table runner, I think I like the one I just finished the best. But then the next one I finish is the best and the cycle repeats.”
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Sodt and her husband, who is retiring at the end of the month from Saline Area Schools, plan to rebuild on their in-laws’ property, which they inherited in Lewiston. She has designs for a larger quilt studio. She hopes to teach younger children when they make the move north.
For now, she recently finished making a coffee bag for a retiring co-worker and finished making placemats for their new sunporch in Lewiston. Her next project will include a couple seasonal banners for her youngest sister, Kim.
“I just love the fact that I can create; it makes me happy and takes me to a different place, it helps me relax and enjoy life,” she said. “Life is short, and we never know when our time is up, so find a hobby that you love and keep giving back to other people.”