When Jennifer Simonic and Masey Kaplan stepped in to support a grieving friend who had lost her mother, they discovered two unfinished blankets while sorting through her things. Each took one away to finish it off.
Inspired, they launched Loose Ends in September 2022. The not-for-profit project connects skilled volunteers – known as ‘finishers’ – with people who have found unfinished knitting or crochet projects that their loved ones have left incomplete when they died. The idea is simple, say the pair, but often a profoundly healing experience for those who submit items.
“When a maker dies mid-project, this tangible, handmade expression of love could get lost, donated or thrown out,” says Kaplan. “Our volunteers’ goals are to finish these projects as intended and give them back to be cherished.”
There are now around 17,000 finishers in 60 countries. Sometimes, the projects are incomplete due to the original crafter’s worsening disability. While not always possible, Simonic and Kaplan try to match people with finishers who live locally. Some find it hard to send such sentimental items in the post, but it also reduces the project’s carbon footprint and shipping costs.
“That feeling of somebody in their community doing something generous for them just adds an extra layer of love into the whole thing,” says Kaplan. “Some really lovely friendships have been born out of it too.”
Many of the submissions bring tears to the pair’s eyes but some stand out in particular. For Simonic, who lives in Seattle, Washington, the tale of a young man called Alfredo has lodged in her memory. “His younger sister had passed away in a violent way,” she says. “He came to us with a crocheted leaf and said his sister had wanted to crochet a blanket when she made it.”
Loose Ends matched Alfredo with a woman in nearby New Jersey. “She was willing to meet with him and design a blanket that best represented his little sister around that one leaf. He picked all the colours, we got the yarn donated and she made this beautiful blanket with motifs on it. The leaf was in the middle,” Simonic adds.
Kaplan mentions a memorable quilt project that had been started by a young mum who died in a car crash alongside her husband and stepson. Her daughter survived. “The woman’s best friend submitted the quilt to be finished so that the girl would be able to wrap herself up in her mother’s creation. It is something we hear a lot: people feel like they are being held or hugged by their loved ones once again.”
Seeing the finished project for the first time is often a very emotional experience for people. “When you make something, your DNA is all over it,” says Kaplan. “Every single bit of that yarn goes through your fingers, and so it makes people feel very close to the person they have lost.”
One image that they were sent captures this perfectly for the pair. In the photograph (above), Peter Gregory cradles an unfinished jumper, emotion clear on his face. It was taken by Beate Sass, who told Loose Ends that her mother Doris started knitting the jumper for her father in 2011 but died in 2013 before completing it. Loose Ends matched Sass with Sita, a local knitter, who managed to finish the jumper in time for her dad’s 99th birthday.
“I saw that picture and immediately started to cry,” Kaplan says. “I texted it to Jen and said: ‘This picture says it all.’ It’s what we do this for.”
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