‘Craftivist’s’ ‘Bad-Ass’ Project Unites Quilters From Sea To Shining Sea

December 2, 2019
Shannon Downey is a craftivist who enlisted people from across the country to complete a quilt of the 50 statesShannon Downey is a craftivist who enlisted people from across the country to complete a quilt of the 50 states(Courtesy of Shannon Downey)
Shannon Downey is a craftivist who enlisted people from across the country to complete a quilt of the 50 states

Shannon Downey loves estate sales, so it was no surprise that she found herself haunting one this fall near her home in Chicago. It was there she found an unfinished project started by Rita Smith, a 99-year-old who had recently passed away.

"There was this map of the United States, framed and on the wall. I knew I had to have it," Downey said. "There were no other unfinished projects, just that one. And I thought, 'Oh my God, poor Rita,' because you know that's the one that she didn't get to finish."

Finishing the map, which included state flowers and birds, along with each of the 50 states, required a lot of quilting -- something Downey, whose website is called "Badass Cross-Stitch" doesn't do. So she sent out a request for help via Instagram -- and got more than 1,000 responses.

Eventually, that number was whittled to about 100 people -- including Karen Frazer. Now a resident of New York, Frazer asked Downey if she could stitch Colorado, as a means of remembering her childhood in Pueblo.

"It's one of those things where, I mean I moved away from Colorado a little over 25 years ago, but I never forget about Colorado," Frazer said. "I'm always thinking about it, and you know, you can leave Colorado but Colorado doesn't leave you."

When the project is completed, Downey says it will be displayed next spring at the National Quilt Museum in Kentucky.