There are few things in the world more precious than a handmade gift or heirloom passed down through generations of loved ones.
Whether it’s a quilt made by a beloved grandparent, or a baby blanket crocheted for a new niece or nephew, these fibers connect us to lineages of love.
But sometimes, our loved ones become sick or pass away before they can complete their projects.
This is something longtime knitters Jennifer Simonic and Masey Kaplan ran into regularly: Friends would often ask them to finish blankets, sweaters, or other projects left undone by deceased loved ones.
So they started the Loose Ends Project, a nonprofit that connects volunteer “finishers” to uncompleted projects, hoping to bring closure to grieving families.
The Loose Ends Project came to be in 2022, but the organization already has a network of over 19,000 volunteers, from every state in the U.S. — and in 63 other countries.
The process is simple: Surviving families and friends can submit a project on the Loose Ends website to be paired with knitters, crocheters, quilters, rug hookers, and crafters of nearly any textile medium.
These skilled volunteers provide their services for free and return the completed project back to the recipient. Some volunteers will also teach how-to lessons, so folks can work on their loved one’s projects on their own.
“Handmade items are gestures of love. 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,” co-founder Kaplan said in a press release.
“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.”
While these projects become meaningful mementos of a loved one’s memory, they are equally satisfying for volunteers.
“Some of my most satisfying work has been legacy knitting for others,” one volunteer shared in a testimonial.
“I can’t think of a better way to love people,” another said.
To make these projects even easier, Loose Ends has recently kicked off a partnership with JOANN. The craft and fabric store will offer exclusive discounts to volunteer finishers, as well as in-kind product donations.
All JOANN locations across the country will also serve as designated “meet-up” spots for loved ones and finishers to swap projects.
This partnership comes after years of unofficial support, according to Kaplan.
“From the very beginning, JOANN generously provided needed materials to complete unfinished projects,” Kaplan said in a statement. “Now, as a formal sponsor, they are providing critical resources that will allow our organization to grow and further our mission.”
Since its inception, the Loose Ends Project has helped complete over 2,000 projects — and hopefully, this new project will be grounds to continue easing grief, creating community, and inspiring generosity.
“Crafters tend to be a generous lot, often creating items for hospitals, shelters, and schools,” co-founder Simonic said in a statement. “Loose Ends is simply another place for crafters to demonstrate selfless kindness to a stranger.”
To submit a project or become a volunteer, visit the Loose Ends Project website.
Header images courtesy of Loose Ends Project/Facebook