The craft community has come together in heartwarming fashion to honor the memory of a recently-passed 99-year-old – by finishing her last stitching project. Shannon Downey is a craft enthusiast who often visits estate sales near her home in Chicago. She has a basic principle when attending these sales – to complete what was started. “Whenever I find an unfinished embroidery project I buy it and finish it because there’s no way that soul is resting with an unfinished project left behind,” she wrote in a tweet.

Image credits: ShannonDowney

So began the story of Rita’s quilt, and it’s fair to say that it is a powerful example of community, respect and wholesome goodness. People are amazing at coming together to volunteer their time for a common purpose!

You gotta love Rita’s optimism in starting such a huge project so late in life! While she wasn’t able to see her grand idea come to fruition, you can just imagine her happiness and pride in it becoming such an item of interest and bringing so many people together. In many ways, it is the perfect tribute to a fellow crafter.

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You can follow much of the process on Instagram, where Shannon gathered people round to help with the huge task. “You know my love of estate sales and the fact that I cannot handle stumbling upon unfinished projects,” she wrote. “I just know that the person who passed can’t possibly rest easy with an unfinished project out there.”

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“I buy them and finish them as a tribute.”

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“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.”

Image credits: vintagerefashioned

“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?!)”

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“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.”

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“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?!”

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“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?!”

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The response has been astounding, as over 1000 people quickly volunteered to help. Shannon chose 100 people from all over the U.S and Canada to make the hexagons, 50 for the states and 50 to each stitch a star.

She mailed them all envelopes and asked for their finished work to come back by November 15th.

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“We’ve got over 30 Chicago quilters lined up to handle the quilting phase of the project once we get all of the hand-stitched hexagons back,” Shannon told the BBC.

“A local quilting studio has also offered its space.”

Image credits: sarahtafelsky

Image credits: bewitchery_stitchery

When the quilt is finished, Shannon plans to donate it to a quilting museum as an example of a beautiful collaborative project. She believes the whole story has showcased the very best of what a community can do, as well as the positive side of social media.

“Humans are amazing,” Shannon says. “Community can be built anywhere.”

Image credits: bikingmustard

Image credits: ShannonDowney

Here’s what people had to say about the wholesome project