The talk last fall was of troop deployments, failed diplomacy, war preparations. And Naomi Dagen Bloom and Sally Mericle -- both mothers, neither politically active -- were feeling increasingly helpless.
"I thought, 'I've got to do something and not just stand here idly while this happens,' " Ms. Mericle, 38, a graphic designer, said recently.
And so was born the NO WAR Patches Project, a program with the goal of creating 400,000 "NO WAR" badges -- about one for each of the Americans in Saudi Arabia.
"We see this patch as being as supportive as a yellow ribbon," said Ms. Dagen Bloom, 57, a clinical social worker and feminist therapist.
The idea, an echo of such traditional women's crafts as quilting, is simple: With a rubber stamp Ms. Mericle created, the women began stamping "NO WAR" onto strips of old bedsheets and cutting them up into patches measuring about 2 1/2 inches square.
When they had created several hundred -- one twin-sized bedsheet yields 800 -- the women began giving the patches away.
On Jan. 12, Ms. Mericle and Ms. Dagen Bloom took piles of the patches to Lafayette Park, across from the White House, and gave away 500 in an hour.
"It felt so great," Ms. Mericle said. "It was such a high. The good will that was generated in that hour. I felt like we'd done something."
"It was really therapeutic for us to have a project to express our feelings," Ms. Dagen Bloom said.
The night after the gulf war started, Ms. Dagen Bloom and Ms. Mericle held a NO WAR "stamp-in" at the offices of the All People's Congress in Waverly. In three hours, the 30 people who attended had made about 5,000 patches.
At a Jan. 19 protest in Washington, the women gave away 5,000 -- and were featured on the "MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour."
"People kept coming up to us saying, 'What group are you with?' " Ms. Mericle said.
"And we'd say, 'We're two women from Baltimore,' " Ms. Dagen Bloom said.
Before the warfare started, Ms. Mericle concedes, she got more friendly notice from strangers when she wore the patch around town. Now, she says, some people stare as if unsure what to make of her and her politics.
"This is all I'm trying to say," Ms. Mericle said, pointing to the words on a badge. "I'm all for the 'new world order' that George Bush talks about. I believe Saddam Hussein is bad. But is war part of it? It seems to me there's got to be a better way."
The women are selling two sizes of stamps ($3 and $6 each) and encouraging others to make badges. Information is available from P.O. Box 65006, Baltimore 21209.