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  • WarmQuilts

Rita's Quilt



More than 1,000 people have volunteered to help embroiderer Shannon Downey

finish the quilt in honor of Rita Smith (High School photo on right).

This amazing story takes place in Chicago, Illinois and the happy ending will finish in Paducah, Kentucky. The completed quilt will be be displayed sometime next year at the National Quilt Museum.

From Shannon Downey's Instagram posting on October 23, 2019:

A short story and request for stitching help. You know my love of estate sales and the fact that I cannot handle stumbling upon unfinished projects. I just know that the person who passed can’t possibly rest easy with an unfinished project out there. I buy them and finish them as tribute.

Well yesterday, fate brought me to Mount Prospect Illinois to the home of Rita Smith. Rita was clearly an astounding stitcher with a love for the US and state flowers. She was 99 when she passed according to my online research.

I bought this AMAZING completed embroidery map with state flowers. It’s breathtaking. I went upstairs and came across a box full of fabric. What I discovered is that Rita had just begun an epic quilting project (I mentioned she was 99 right?!). Well I went through the box and Rita had prepped, cut, all the squares and started transferring the designs onto the squares. She started stitching New Jersey.

Obviously I bought the whole box. I cannot possibly stitch all this myself with all the rest of my stuff but I’m wondering if we can crowd stitch/ crowd finish this project for Rita?! Like if I mail you a square will you stitch it and send it back to me and then I will host a quilting bee to finish the thing? Anyone interested in helping me help Rita rest in craft peace?! ———————————————— UPDATE: thank you all so much for your generosity of spirit in offering up your help! This is astounding. All of the pieces have been assigned and are in progress.

Follow along #ritasquilt


Shannon chose 100 people to complete the hexagons to be embroidered to make the quilt — 50 for the states and 50 to each stitch a star. She then made a spreadsheet to track it all. She mailed 100 envelopes from the post office, asking volunteers to send back their completed embroidered blocks by Nov. 15.

Shannon discovered that "Rita had stitched 2 of the states already! What a grand surprise. I’m not saying I cried but I’m not saying I didn’t."

This feel-good story will continue with the quilters. Shannon posted, "We’ve got over 30 Chicago quilters lines [sic] up to handle the quilting phase of the project once we get all of the hand-stitched hexies back. Humans are amazing. Community can be built anywhere."

It is such a special way to honor Rita Smith by completing her 50 State Hexagon Quilt. A loving story -- one where Shannon Downey, the 100 embroiderers and 30 quilters will become part of the quilt's history.

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Nov 23, 2019

What a great story and so heart warming! Not that I'm surprised by the number of people who have offered to stitch a hexie, quilters are a generous bunch! I hope you can update us when the stitching is complete? Thanks for posting about it.

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