Avid knitters and longtime friends Masey Kaplan and Jen Simonic know the love that’s behind a hand-crafted scarf, blanket or sweater.
“It feels like a hug,” Kaplan explained to Tulip Cremation. “When I make something for someone, I like knowing that they are surrounded by the love I wanted them to feel,” she said.
But the pair knew that there were many times when an incomplete project was left behind. “When someone dies with unfinished projects, that project could be donated away, thrown out … but what we were trying to is to figure out a way to have that be completed so it can go to its intended person and they would have those thousands and thousands of stitches that their loved one created special for them,” Kaplan explained.
After having been asked many times to finish projects like these, the idea for their organization Loose Ends crystallized while visiting their mutual friend Patti Gardner in Portland, Oregon. Gardner had recently lost her mom to cancer.
The two helped Gardner go through bags and boxes that belonged to her mother, organizing yarn and other items for donation. Sitting on the floor of her living room, they found two large unfinished blankets, one blue, one green, that inspired a bigger mission.
“Here were these two blankets. They were different. They were expressions of their mother’s love for them.” Though the pieces were imperfect, the mother’s “love energy was in there for them,” Kaplan said. These two blankets became the first official projects of Loose Ends, an organization the women started to finish projects left behind by death or illness.
They were meant for both of Gardner’s brothers and her mother had worked diligently on them throughout her chemotherapy. “I think knowing how hard she tried to finish them … it epitomizes her bravery going through what she was going through, her determination and her love. Her work is going to be all of that imbued in that crocheting … She would be so happy to have it finished. I think she would feel so incredibly pleased and honored. She just wanted us all to have these blankets,” Gardner said.
Gardner says the Loose Ends project “reminds you, especially after you lose somebody, that people really are good. You create something that becomes a legacy of your family. There’s just really good energy there.”
Kaplan and Simonic call themselves “matchmakers,” pairing “finishers” with projects that are left undone. There is no cost to those who make the request except postage when necessary. But as Loose Ends continues to grow, more and more, the pair is able to make matches locally.
The blankets for Gardners’ two brothers are being completed in Portland, Maine, and Vancouver, Washington. The brothers live in Rhode Island and Georgia, so the project is truly without borders.
Simonic says their volunteers are careful to preserve the work of the people who left the projects behind even if the stitches are a little “wonky.”
“We’re really careful about that, we’ll have people put ‘lifelines’ in and mark the last stitch … making sure that we take care of the work that someone had done.”
In just a matter of months, Loose Ends has blossomed to include more than 8,200 finishers in 43 countries, every state in the U.S. and every province of Canada, Simonic said.
And as Simonic explained, the project has created a vibrant community of helpers. “If you ever hang out with a group of people that loves a certain thing be it Dungeons and Dragons, or football or dogs, you will find there is a common language they speak. For our crafters, it is the love of the shared craft and caring for other people. This project really resonated with them,” she said. And while the group includes people “so very different in politics and geography … none of that matters because they are all there for the common purpose of filling the hole that was left behind by an unfinished project,” she told Tulip.
“We do see a lot of our finishers who themselves have lost a loved one,” Kaplan added.
Though many of the Loose Ends’ projects are completed by knitters, the group also accepts crochet projects, quilts, sewing, tatting and other hand-crafted fiber and fabric items.
In the end, the two say the completed projects make the love of the lost one become tangible. “It is from the invisible world where people go after they pass away, wherever that is, this is that physical love still. It is like you are surrounded by the intentions of that kind of expression from that person,” Kaplan said.
Gardner agrees. “To know that somebody can be their ‘ghost hands’ and get it done and then you can use it, and you can love it and you can remember them and the good energy that got it finished and remember them working hard on it and loving you, all good.”
You can volunteer to be a finisher or request help in finishing a fiber project at the Loose Ends website.
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