Birmingham woman joining national effort to complete quilt for woman who passed away

Updated: Nov. 1, 2019 at 7:37 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - An unfinished quilt is bringing strangers from across the country together.

Shannon Downey found an unfinished quilting project at an estate sale in Illinois after the owner, Rita Smith, passed away at 99.

Now, she and complete strangers are stitching away to finish the quilt in Rita’s memory.

“I think there’s also kind of like a lost art to this sort of thing. I don’t know, I just love it,” said Chez Knox Kirk.

Kirk says she’s always had a passion for crafting.

“My grandmother taught me, and she and I spent a lot of time cross-stitching, and sewing, and everything together.”

So when she saw Shannon Downey’s post on Instagram about a special find at an estate sale, she wanted in.

“She posted this amazing map of the United States that she had found that had been hand embroidered at an estate sale. She used that to lead into telling us the story about how she found a bin full of quilt stuff,” said Kirk.

Rita Smith had passed away before completing the project and Downey told her followers she couldn’t finish it on her own. She needed people from around the country to stitch a state and a star.

“This lady was 99-years-old when she died, and we want her to rest in crafting peace,” said Kirk. “That sounds really silly.”

But the response to Downey’s Instagram post was anything but silly.

Now, each state has been assigned and is being completed by total strangers.

Kirk, who grew up in Alabama and lives in Birmingham, is stitching the Alabama piece.

Kirk says everyone participating comes from different backgrounds, and is doing it for different reasons. But in the end, it will all come together to make one beautiful piece.

“We’re so much more than what divides us,” said Kirk. “It takes a little more work to find the things that we have in common and the things that bring us together. But I think the pay off is so much bigger when we do.”

Once the quilt is completed, Kirk said it will go to the National Quilt Museum in Kentucky.

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