Our Recent Posts


Woman Gets Quilting Group to Finish Found 50-State Quilt

Images are brought to you by NPR.org Manuel Martinez/WBEZ

Chicago resident Shannon Downey found an incomplete quilt when sorting through a local thrift shop, one of her favorite pastimes. The partially finished quilt she discovered had hexagon sections cut out and designed for each of the 50 states. She learned that Rita Smith, a 99-year-old woman who had died earlier this year, had started the quilting project.

Images are brought to you by NPR.org Manuel Martinez/WBEZ

Downey's has an Instagram handle as Badass Cross Stitch, as she has a reputation for blending art and activism, so she put a call out on Instagram for help complete this project. She estimated that she would need 100 quilters to embroider each state hexagon and the stars. Women from across the country wanted to help. And offered their services. Whenever someone had a question about the art or intention of the quilt, Downey said she thought about what Rita Smith would have wanted "This is her art and we're just the hands," Downey said.

Images are brought to you by NPR.org Manuel Martinez/WBEZ

After all the embroidered hexagons had been assembled by Downey, she organized a modern day quilting bee at a crafting workshop called Wishcraft, carrying out a long tradition of women getting together to sew and quilt. Women came from all over the Midwest came to Chicago this past Saturday to help.

It took seven hours to finish the basic quilt work. The remaining stitchers stood in a circle, each holding an edge of the quilt top, nearly 8 by 9 feet. In the coming weeks , a professional quilter will put the filling and back on the quilt.

The finished will be on display starting On Dec. 21 in Chicago at a local gallery called Women Made, before moving on to the National Quilting Museum in Paducah, Ky., in March.

Downey told NPR that she's frustrated that society doesn't place the same kind of value in crafting, whether it's embroidery, quilting or sewing, as people do in other types of art. She said she feels like a lot of that is because these skills are considered "women's work." When she attended Rita Smith's estate sale, Downey purchased another completed map of the United States that Rita had embroidered. It sold for $5. "That gutted me," she said, knowing the time and effort that went into the piece.

If you would like to hear an interview with Shannon Downey, please go to this site, https://www.npr.org/2019/12/09/786395095/quilters-across-the-u-s-answer-call-to-help-sew-up-unfinished-project