Loose Ends Project Volunteers Finish the Work of Deceased Fiber Artists

More than 9,000 craftspeople from 44 countries have signed up to finish quilts, rugs, embroidery, weavings, baskets, and more.

Loose Ends founders and sole staff members Jen Simonic and Masey Kaplan
Loose Ends founders and sole staff members Jen Simonic (left) and Masey Kaplan pose with one of Kaplan’s quilts.
By Adrienne Perron
Photos by Winky Lewis
From our July 2023 issue

Masey Kaplan keeps a written log of every project she knits. She describes the pattern of the item she’s making and the materials she’s using and makes a note of who it’s for. She’s not just staying organized — she’s leaving instructions for someone else to finish her work, just in case. A knitter since she was 15, Kaplan, who’s now 53, has stepped in to complete a handful of family members’ and friends’ unfinished knitted pieces over the years, after they died or became too ill to work. “You don’t want to throw away a loved one’s half-finished project, because it’s part of them,” she says. “They made it with their hands and had intentions for it.”

That’s why she started the Loose Ends Project. Kaplan, who lives in Falmouth, and her friend Jen Simonic, who lives in Seattle, Washington, launched the effort last August, connecting volunteer fabric artists with other people’s left-behind works in progress. The idea came about after a friend’s mom died of cancer and Kaplan and Simonic were asked to finish two blankets she’d been crocheting for her sons. Simonic too had experience finishing knitting for loved ones after their deaths, and the pair knew they weren’t alone. “There’s something about unfinished projects that compels crafters to finish them, out of an unspoken respect,” Kaplan says. 

So they created a website for submitting incomplete works and pulled in volunteers through social media. In less than a year, more than 9,000 craftspeople from 44 countries have signed up to finish quilts, rugs, embroidery, weavings, baskets, and more. Menders have also enlisted to fix tattered clothing and other items made by people who’ve died. Kaplan and Simonic match volunteers with assignments based on skill set, experience level, and location, so that, if people choose, they can meet up in person. For the most part, the service is free — project owners only supply materials and, when necessary, cover shipping costs. Since the site launched, volunteers have taken on some 700 projects. The Washington Post and NBC Nightly News are among outlets who’ve covered the effort.

For Kaplan, the good press is nice, but the real reward is helping strangers do kind things for other strangers: volunteers and owners who wouldn’t have otherwise connected, joined in appreciation for a lost maker. “Someone pops into your life and cares about you enough to finish an item for you, and they get nothing in return,” Kaplan says. “It’s an act of respect for what someone was making, but it’s also an act of love for the person receiving it.”

Learn how to become a Loose Ends Project volunteer here.

April 2024, Down East Magazine

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