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Quilting helps local woman overcome health challenges

Quilting has always been a passion for Innisfil resident Shelley Zeleniak, and recently opened up her own online store

Shelley Zeleniak is the owner of D.A.T.S Quilting Studio in Innisfil and her love of sewing and embroidery has helped her overcome many obstacles and challenges throughout her life.  

From the early age of nine, Zeleniak was diagnosed as PHH (Profoundly Hard of Hearing) and as such learned to read lips – a skill that has become challenging amid Covid and mask-wearing. Zeleniak’s hearing loss was hereditary but also an allergy-related issue. However, it never stopped her from doing anything she wanted to do.

Zeleniak has been an avid quilter for many years. She worked at a fabric store in Cookstown for several years before taking the plunge to start her own business in April 2014 where she launched her company, D.A.T.S Quilting Studio.

“I wanted to be able to quilt my large quilts myself and that is how my business began,” states Zeleniak. “The name of the business in the beginning was… a play on the expression "That's Quilting" and was comprised of the initials of my husband, children and myself."

At the time, longarm quilting and consignment quilts were the only facets of Zeleniak’s business. But just after a year of being in business, Zeleniak was struck with another health hurdle: she was diagnosed with breast cancer in February 2015 and had to begin chemotherapy.

“I could not longarm with the same energy, but I could create and piece together quilts,” shares Zeleniak. “It was piecing that kept me sane throughout my treatment. Piecing gave me a purpose and a distraction during chemo."

Zeleniak continued to piece and longarm quilts after her chemo treatments ended in 2015 and began donating some of the quilts to the RVH Cancer Care Program. To date she has donated 25 quilts with the help of her friends.

During that time, she acquired an embroidery machine and found out firsthand how much fun (and sometimes frustrating) embroidery can be.

“Embroidery became my new addiction!” admits Zeleniak. “I love watching a new design stitch out on the embroidery machine."

Just as Zeleniak’s business was moving along again, she had to temporarily close in October of 2018 for a second mastectomy and reconstruction surgery that she had been waiting for.

“I was unable to longarm at all for three months but was able to make embroidered creations," notes Zeleniak. “Just after this recovery time, I started teaching an embroidery class at a store in Barrie. It was so satisfying watching others fall in love with embroidery too."

Zeleniak embroiders a wide range of items including vinyl key fobs, aprons, t-shirts, sweatshirts, kitchen towels, bath towels and more. She has done embroidery work for The Guild in Bradford and some promotional items for a Rogers Communication golf tournament.

“My best sellers would be my flour sack towels with either the farmer's market designs or the vintage Christmas designs. Most of the items I sell can be customized,” shares Zeleniak.

At the beginning of Covid, the studio also made and donated 200 masks, and now has more masks for sale. There are two different styles: behind the ear or adjustable behind the head.

“I do not embroider on the masks as my personal opinion is that it degrades the effectiveness of the masks," explains Zeleniak. “My masks are all made from 100 percent cotton batik fabric, have a pocket, and a padded nose wire."

Zeleniak adds, “My customers are amazing and inspire me all the time with their pieced quilts. I am honoured that they trust me to take good care of their treasures."

This year, Zeleniak took advantage of a programming partnership between the Town of Innisfil, York University, and ShopHere program to create an online store. The company was rebranded to D.A.T.S Studio so that neither division (longarm and embroidery) were referenced.

“Quilting, piecing and embroidering allow me to express my creative side and they are also jobs I can do without relying on being able to hear!” notes Zeleniak. “The studio has plans for many new items and will be starting with an embroidered greeting card line for Christmas."

To view Shelley Zeleniak’s quilts and embroidered items, visit: or @DATSstudio