Avid crafters create their projects for more than just the challenge of transforming a ball of yarn into a warm sweater or baby blanket; their work is also a labor of love. With every stitch, they’re thinking of the person who will someday wear their handiwork, imbuing the material with hopes, dreams, and aspirations. They’re picturing their loved one wearing the fuzzy hat they spent hours making, and the vision gives them joy in the work. And we all know that wrapping a plush handmade blanket around us can feel like getting a warm hug from the person who made it!
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Jennifer Simonic of Seattle, Washington was chatting with her friend, Masey Kaplan of Portland, Maine, in the summer of 2022 when the subject of unfinished work came up. Both Jennifer and Masey are lifelong knitters, and both have been asked by friends to finish a textile project left behind when a loved one dies unexpectedly. As they discussed this common experience, they wondered, “what do people do if they don’t have a friend who knits?”
Masey and Jennifer both enjoy finishing projects for grieving families, and they had a hunch that other crafters might feel the same way. They decided to start a non-profit website called the Loose Ends Project to connect volunteer crafters with families whose loved ones weren’t able to finish their projects before passing away.
“Crafters tend to be a generous lot, often creating items for hospitals, shelters, and schools,” Jen explained in a statement. “Handmade items are gestures of love. Loose Ends is simply another place for crafters to demonstrate selfless kindness to a stranger.”
“Handmade items are gestures of love,” Masey agrees. “The time, expense, and skill that go into making them are impossible to quantify. When you wear something made especially for you, it feels good; the recipient of a handmade gift is thoughtfully considered with each stitch. When a maker dies mid-project, this tangible, handmade expression of love could get lost, donated, or thrown out. Loose Ends volunteers’ goals are to finish these projects as intended and give them back to be used and cherished.”
The Loose Ends Project has really taken off since that first conversation! To date, more than 9,000 volunteer finishers have signed on to help. There’s a finisher in every state in the United States, plus Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C. There are even finishers in more than 42 foreign countries who are ready and willing to take on even the most challenging projects.
Loose Ends volunteers will take on any fiber arts or textile project imaginable, including knit, crochet, quilting, mending, rug-making, embroidery, needlepoint, and more. The best part? Aside from paying for postage, there’s no charge for the recipients!
“In early 2019, my mom and I had a fun afternoon at a local craft store choosing yarn for knitted throws for my two daughters.” a grateful recipient wrote on Instagram. “She had so much fun choosing just the right color and texture for each of them. When I would stop by her apartment, she would happily show me the progress she had made. Then, in June of that year, she died unexpectedly. When I was packing up her apartment, I found the bag with all of the yarn and her knitting needles. Over the next couple of years, the bag sat in my home office – a steady reminder of my mom and her love for my girls.”
She was matched with a finisher named Rose, who took the time to meet with her in person twice. A few weeks later, on Mother’s Day, Rose returned two beautiful blankets for the woman’s daughters to cherish forever.
“This was not at all how I had hoped these projects would end back on that day when my mom and I bought that yarn,” she went on. “And yet, I am deeply grateful to Rose and to Loose Ends for making it possible for me to deliver these throws – still created with so much love and care.”
Recipient Annie Gatewood told a similar story. Her mother, Karen Sturges, completed 3 of 5 infant sweaters intended for her great-grandchildren when a sudden cancer diagnosis cut Karen’s life short. Towards the end, she told Annie she regretted not being able to finish the gifts.
When a Loose Ends finisher completed the last two sweaters after Karen’s death, Annie was able to feel peace of mind knowing her mother would be so pleased. Now, all of Karen’s great-grandbabies will have a beautiful handmade baby sweater to remember her by.
It’s always incredible when a simple conversation between friends sends such life-changing ripples across the world. Leaving behind unfinished business is something no one wants to do. It’s nice to know these generous volunteers are there to tie up loose ends.
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