Podcast #109 Loose Ends: Finishing the Project Someone Else Started – with CoCreators Jennifer Simonic and Masey Kaplan

This world-wide project, called Loose Ends, started in 2022 and “aims to ease grief, create community, and inspire generosity by matching volunteer handwork finishers with projects people have left unfinished due to death or disability.” What do they and their mass of volunteer finishers take on? Knit, crochet, sewing, quilting, tatting, rug-making, embroidery, cross-stitch, weaving… to name just a few! Join us for this creative chat and find out about some of the projects have they finished (think: historical to quirky), plus why do such legacy projects matter?

More about Loose Ends here ⁠https://www.looseendsproject.org/⁠

For more information on Best Life Best Death please visit our website at ⁠⁠⁠www.bestlifebestdeath.com⁠⁠⁠ Follow us on our social channels to receive pertinent and helpful resources on death, grieving, and more at: Facebook: ⁠⁠⁠www.facebook.com/bestlifebestdeath⁠⁠⁠ Instagram: ⁠⁠⁠www.instagram.com/bestlifebestdeath⁠⁠⁠


Hi, I’m Diane Hullet and welcome to the best life, best death podcast. Today I’ve got a really fun episode with two women, Masey Kaplan and Jen Simonic. No I totally slaughtered that. Simonic, like rhymes with harmonic or demonic, whatever you choose. There you go. Oh my. Oh, that’s good. To Simonic.

Welcome Jen and Masey. They’re the founders and the purveyors and the creators within the Loose Ends Project. And many people have heard of this, but I just really wanted to take the time to ask the more questions about it and hear what they it is that they offer. So, Masey, start us off with how did this get going?

So Lucent’s project got going only one short year ago when Jen and I were sitting in the home of a mutual friend, helping her go through a bag of her mother’s, her deceased mother’s craft supplies to try to figure out what to do with, with what that was in that bag. So [00:01:00] where do we put all of these needles?

Where should, what should we donate? What should we keep? What do you want to finish? And in that process, we found two blankets that had been begun by her mom for her brothers. And Jen and I were each going to take one of those and finish them ourselves. But had already been that this, the idea of loose ends project had been percolating for a few years.

And it kind of was this moment where we thought, you know what, this is actually a great time to think about starting this. We might be able to kick this off with two projects right away and see if there’s any interest in having some other and some strangers helping each other finish projects that people have left behind.

And so that’s kind of, that’s it. That was the seeds of loose ends project. And we’re coming up to our very first one year birthday in a couple of days. And I mean, what we do is we match people. Masey and [00:02:00] I aren’t sitting at home knitting and crocheting all day long. What we do is we match people with who have projects.

Yeah, exactly. With projects who the loved one has died or is infirmed and can’t finish it. Alzheimer’s, dementia, sometimes loss of eyesight. And then we match them with somebody in hopefully in their neighborhood that has those skills and can finish it. We call them finishers and our finishers are matched by location, skill set, and whether or not they like that project.

So we have a lot of people who are knitters, but they’re like, I’m never knitting anything black again. So we’ll won’t match them with this black sweater that we get, because we, we don’t want it to be. Much like I, I was going to knit my friend Patty’s mom’s crochet her blanket, I wouldn’t have enjoyed it.

And there would have been a lot of angst and aggravation in that stitching. We want people to, to be happy when they, when they do this nice thing for other people. Right. So it’s like I, I’ll [00:03:00] finish a blanket, but I don’t know how to finish a sweater. And so you’re trying to like fit that finisher with the project need.

What give us a range. What are some of the projects you’ve seen go from incomplete to complete Masey, you’re laughing. So there, so we will accept and match projects. That are any fiber arts handwork craft. So knitting, crochet, quilting, sewing, mending, embroidery, cross stitch, all kinds of rug making.

We’ve had weaving submitted on looms that we’ve been able to match to neighborhood weavers. So I guess you could say anything that’s made of string. Fluff or strain? I don’t know. Yeah, we’ve had a couple of, we actually have a felted project that’s going on right now. So that’s roving. And we had one person who had signed up as that’s the only thing I do is felting.

And she happened to be [00:04:00] in a neighborhood. Two neighborhoods over from my house and there was a woman who submitted the project and she was a block away from my house. So like some of these things, there’s a lot of kismet and a lot of like, I do that. Oh, I do that. Oh, I think we knew each other from in kindergarten.

Like there’s a lot of that kind of stuff that happens all day long. I’ve just gotten to the point where I’m not surprised by any of this stuff anymore. And the project, I mean, we have, we have things from heirlooms, like a needlepoint project from 1886 that was started about the Mayflower. It was weird that someone’s great grandmother, this 80 year old man’s great grandmother had started to, you know, some snowmen.

That were knitted around styrofoam balls that were really special to this family because everyone had one except it was like just some really interesting projects that, you know, they take a myriad of talents [00:05:00] and and people to finish. So it’s kind of neat. I love that, like, from the historic to the quirky.

Yeah. Yeah. And I don’t think either of those was more love than the other. Like they were both things that were sentimental and meant something. So there’s no project that we look at and go, I mean, there’s projects that we look at and do that and be like, okay, what, what is the craft here? Because there’s sometimes it’s things that, you know, like hairpin lace that’s done on a loon.

We had a project that was a, it was a crochet or grandma was crocheting. She made a crocheted bag. Like a shopping bag and it wasn’t all the way done. It was half done. And then there was a, there was a chain that she had done and we made a nice hanging for her because it was a special thing that this person had found.

And she made more like a memory box and our finisher did, or did a really wonderful job of, of making that, that handiwork special for the, for the person. We just got, that’s the, that’s the whole thing. You get [00:06:00] that tangible thing at the end. Neat. So sometimes it’s even adapting a project to be something a little more functional than what it maybe was going to be.

And it seems like you’ve had an outpouring of interest, especially from finishers. So, so in one year, what did you do? You started a website and a Facebook group or how did people find out about this? Yeah. So just about one year ago coming in just a couple of days will be one year when we built the website.

So Jen and I were in our friends living room. We went back to our homes and thought, let’s just give this a whirl and see if anybody else is interested. So we made a pretty, you know, a basic website. using Google forms, you know, we’re just trying to gauge interest and, and started to join Facebook groups that were related to craftings from all over the U S we just kind of joined quilting groups and, you know, knitters going to knit and.

[00:07:00] Different things and just started to say, hi, we’re doing this, is anybody else interested in this? And then we walked into a bunch of yarn stores and we walked into assisted living homes and funeral parlors and grassroots in the beginning, coffee shops, putting up signs and coffee shops. I think my phone number is still on the ones around my neighborhood.

And just kind of kept, kept doing that kind of grassroots things, talking to every knitter we know, talking to pattern designers that we knew, stalking people on Instagram and putting stuff up and, you know, anyone who would listen to us. We were like, this is what we’re trying to do. And then before we knew it, like we had a couple hundred finishers who had signed up.

We only had a, maybe a dozen projects in the beginning. And then we slowly started to get some press. And once we started getting into the news that became more news, which became more news. And then before you knew it [00:08:00] we had a lot of finishers signing up and then we just started to adapt. Like we needed to incorporate different crafts and like right, Jen, in the beginning, we were just like, let’s.

See, knitting, crochet, and quilt, right? Yeah, and then there were people who were like, well, well, how about, you know, lace, and specifically, or, and then quilting was, is a, is something that I’m not familiar with. So there’s a whole bunch of stuff after the quilt top is made. There’s, there’s batting, and then there’s backing, and then there’s the actual quilting, and then there’s the actual binding off.

And we were a little shy of that at first, because it’s a, it’s a lot for someone to take on. It’s a big ask. It’s a big ask, but what we’re finding is we have people who will, you know, they’ll finish the top and then we can pass them over to a long armor. We have some long armors who are willing to do those smaller projects.

And we have some people who are just really into hands quilting. So they’ll do the hand quilted thing. And right now I’m dealing with [00:09:00] a couple of applique quilts. So I’ve got to learn how to ask people if that’s their jam because It’s not a lot of people who can applique with a machine. So we’ve got, I’ve got a couple of those types of projects to, to place.

So, yeah, so it’s a process. It’s you know, hunting, right now we’re in the, the phase of we have the, the finishers on our Google Sheets and, and we’re working towards getting a, a web app set up that can hold millions of finishers and, and go through data a lot faster than a spreadsheet. And it’s pretty manual right now.

I just got off the phone. I just called somebody who sent in a project and their email bounced back and I felt like, oh, I should call them and they hung up on me because people don’t like getting phone phone calls. And then I texted. And it was a landline. So we’ll, we’ll, we’ll hopefully get ahold of this person because here’s this thing and I want to follow through on it.

But yeah, yeah. You went old school calling. Yeah. I mean, [00:10:00] sometimes that’s what you have to do. So there’s a lot of that where you get a call and just say, Hey, and you got to get it all out in one breath because people don’t. Hi, this is Jen from loose ends. You’d submitted a project. You know, us, you know, us, you know, I’m not trying to sell you anything.

I want to do something for you for free. I know you’re not. I know your email address. Yeah. In this one year, we’ve grown from those first couple of hundred of finishers that we were so excited about, which was amazing. Like we couldn’t believe that there were people who were like interested in doing this too.

To, to welcoming 16, 000 finishers now in, as of yesterday, 60 different countries. So amazing, so right, so I’m so that’s kind of cool that behind this very hands on one at a time manual craft project finishing is going to need to be this really high tech [00:11:00] database, right, that you’ve probably had to reach out and get some funding for to figure out how to.

Man, I live in Seattle and I have neighbors who are lovely and my neighbor, my neighbor, Mark is a web web. He’s a, he’s a programmer. And at Christmas Eve, I was explaining what we were doing and how we were using a database and we had just gotten some press. So we had people kind of pouring in. And I have heard that he was in bed with Megan, his wife, saying, I’m not going to do this for Jen, because I think it’ll be a lot of work.

And the next day, he’s like, I want to talk to you about this. And I was like, all right, well, this And then the next thing out of his mouth was, I think I can get this done in a couple of months. It, I think. He also works on a website for people with muscular dystrophy, finding cures and finding treatment.

So that ours got pushed to the side because our people weren’t alive but it’s okay. Finisher of sort as well, right? He [00:12:00] almost certainly, and he, we’re getting to the point where that’s going to be used and we’re going to, it’s, it’s can’t come a moment too soon. So it’s a. It’s amazing to have their it’s, I’m just shocked at how, I don’t know why I’m, I’m not shocked.

I’m actually pretty sure that anytime I have a problem, I have people around me that will know somebody who can help me with that problem. And it, it comes from just asking and it’s, it’s hard because I mean, as a public school teacher a million years ago, You felt like you were always like could you just, would you mind if you gave me this for free?

But you get used, you get inured to the The, the embarrassment, you just ask. And I don’t mind asking because if I know it’s a good cause, so people, and people usually like to help, you know, people love helping. It’s like degrees of separation. If they don’t know someone, they know someone who knows someone and yeah, and pretty soon you’ve got it done.

What has been kind of your biggest podcast.[00:13:00] 

It’s lovely, though. We’re happy to be here. The first press we got was King 5 weekend news, because my hairdresser’s daughter is the weekend anchor, Madison Wade. But after that, we did some press in Maine. And then a woman named Caitlin who’s a writer for the Washington Post wrote us an article and I think that was our, that was when, when the tidal wave hit.

I mean, we, we thought we were pretty excited when, when the local press hit, but when the Washington Post went out, it then got syndicated. So it was like, I had friends, I had friends sending me newspapers from San Antonio and. Baltimore and Atlanta. My one friend went throughout DC and snagged people’s newspapers from their front porches.

Oh, that’s sweet. That’s great. That’s so neat. I think it was some years ago that I first read an article in a paper about someone in Chicago who just on her own would go to yard [00:14:00] sales and estate sales and pick up unfinished projects and finish them. And I remember just being so touched by that and thinking how neat that was.

And then when I heard about your project kind of taking that to scale I was like, Oh, yeah. I, I’m a quilter and I have a friend that I typically quilt with and she’s just a master at going through thrift store fabric bins and she’s found the neatest things there. And I just think, wow, you know, what home did that quilt top come out of or those quilt blocks and she’ll salvage them and turn them into something completely different.

But the original owner, you know, the original family has lost that piece. I would just wonder if people. You know, if they knew that this was out there, even if they’re not crafty themselves, are they interested in having it done? Yeah. I mean, that’s, that’s basically the, the thought process. Crafters have been doing this for years.

This is not a new thing. You know, someone died in a, in a quilting bee or [00:15:00] quilting. Guild. They, the crafters in that guild will finish their stuff for them. The thing is that, I don’t, I don’t know if it was a pandemic, how far away we were from people. It, it just is, there’s a lot of times where people don’t really understand what their parent or their loved one was doing.

So it takes a little bit to, like, look at it and be like, I get a lot of, I don’t know, maybe it’s a blanket, maybe it’s a pillow. And just having a resource. To match people with strangers who will do that for you is, was, I mean, that’s the neat part about what we’re doing. That’s the unique part. I, because we, we generally get a lot of, well, people have been doing this for a long time.

Like, yes. They just haven’t been doing it at this scale or for strangers. I’ve noticed a lot of the finishers to will mention when they send in their application, there’ll just be a little blurb in there about how they love. They’ve always loved to rescue partially [00:16:00] done projects from thrift stores or estate sales.

And I did too. I mean, I love it. I mean, you, you, you think. You know, it’s a shame that those things were donated away because the families will probably love to have them and keep them. And as a crafter, my plan would be to, I mean, maybe we made this so Jen, so that we have. So we’ll have someone to finish our stuff for our family.

This is not gonna be my kids. I would haunt this world until they were finished. I would, if I could. I mean, we don’t know, right? What happens. But if there’s an ability to engineer some sort of finishing, I’ll try to do that. Yeah, I love it. I think that’s fair. Yeah. I have one child who will wear anything I make and who is always excited and the other one who’s like, yeah, and I don’t think she’s ever worn anything that I’ve made, but he, he doesn’t know [00:17:00] how to finish anything.

But he does know how to ask me to do things, right? And you figured out how to ask other people to do things. I mean, I love that. I think the crafting world is so reciprocal, right? There is this sense of like, Oh, let me help with this. Oh, I’ve got some of that. Oh, you need some of this. And so I think you’ve just tapped into this big sense of reciprocity that craft people carry with them.

And, and I think this legacy piece, that’s probably what draws me to it as well, right? This sense of, What do we leave behind and often craft people who make things that they have probably done some things of making a quilt for every grandchild or knitting a sweater for the three children or whatever the thing is.

And so what do we leave behind. And if it’s unfinished. Cause probably none of us are going to have everything done. How do we, how do we get it finished after that point? So, well, I think this is just a huge service and, you know, how, how can listeners get [00:18:00] involved either as a finisher or as a, I have a project.

So on our homepage, loose ends, project. org. There are buttons to either sign up as a finisher or to submit a project. We are on Instagram. We’re on Facebook. People can follow us there. We also have a page where people can download flyers in multiple languages and just share those with their communities at their libraries local fabric and yarn stores, senior centers, cafes, any place that people might see them just to kind of increase the visibility of.

loose ends because it’s been like you mentioned, like crafters are, are genuinely like generous and gregarious with one another. And it hasn’t been as hard to find finishers as it has been to find projects. And we have about a one to 12 project [00:19:00] to finisher ratio right now. So any way that people would.

Be willing to like help spread the word to places where we might be able to help projects come in that would be. That would be huge. Yeah. That’s kind of where our focus is right now. Yeah. And crafters know what they’re looking at. People who have these projects or have a bag of mom’s stuff don’t normally know what they’re looking at.

So we, we, you know, we want to get the word out to people who don’t know our yarn stores and craft stores have been really very happy about helping us out. We also have a donation. button on our website. Masey and I have been working at this full time for free for a year and it helps with, you know, paying for computers and paying for just getting, getting stuff done.

And we also, you know, if you have some skill that would be helpful that is not knitting, we, we’re always looking for people who are, you know, do you know a foreign language and can you translate a flyer for us? Cause [00:20:00] we don’t know and we’d like them to be. Culturally appropriate for the language that it’s going in and things like that and for communities because really this is about community building as well as You know, I thought it was very interesting.

Our friend Patty once the blankets got done, she met the finishers of her blankets and she did say, she was like, I felt like I tied mom’s life up in a bow. Like I finished the thing she had started. And that’s just a, that’s a lovely gift to give to somebody at the end of their life. Right? Like that, this, this has been done.

Because there’s a little bit of anxiety and, and, and worry that you’re not leaving your mark the way you want it to be. Beautiful. I love that tying it up with a bow and feeling a sense of completion and a sense of gifting to whoever’s receiving these pieces. Well, I, I know. Some people who need to work with you are also [00:21:00] afterlife professionals, and I bet they already know about you.

I’m thinking of a few that I know, but I will definitely be spreading the word more. And I think it’s really interesting that part of what you need is a call for projects. Yeah, then that makes me think too, like, how do we, how do we plant this seed with. You know, it’s the bereaved family who’s going through the piles in the craft room who just goes, Oh, I can’t deal with this.

Donate it all. That’s the place where we want to be upstream planting this little possibility in their ears so that they can bring those projects to you and all these thousands and thousands of finishers who are willing to help people. Yeah. And I’ve got to believe like hospice care places, and we’ve talked to some of them, but places where people are planning for the end of their life.

Unfortunately, a lot of us don’t ever think we’re going to pass. So not a lot of planning is being done about where things are going to go in the future. And it really takes, takes a load off of the people left behind when you do make a plan for something. [00:22:00] And you, you know, I’ve got, I’ve got 10, 12, probably 20 projects.

That are in different states. Not all of them need to be finished. For me to be happy in my afterlife. I won’t haunt people if the, the weird you know, fun, novelty project that I came up with doesn’t work out. That’s okay. Then get rid of that stuff right now. I’m going to, but what you need to do is like, like if someone’s going through this, maybe every little potholder you’re making doesn’t need to be made, but maybe the ones for the special ones.

So like take stock of what you, what you’re doing and what. But what you want, and even, even if you don’t think you’re gonna go away tomorrow just take stock. Leave a little note and keep us in mind if you, if you’re a crafter. I love that. That is perfect. Well, we don’t think we’re going to die, which is why we keep buying fabric and yarn, right?

So you know. Well, we buy, we buy fabric and yarn just because that’s a hobby in [00:23:00] itself. So that’s fine. That’s it’s own craft. That’s it’s own craft. Collections. Collections. Well, I thank you both so much for number one, starting this project and number two, coming on and telling us about it. And I can’t wait to see where this goes in like a year.

I mean, I just think it’ll be so interesting to see. I can imagine that there’s like some new thread too, which is even like, how do we build on this community? How do we help this weaving of community? Tie even stronger to each other. Whatever that looks like. Yeah, beautiful. And that’s a whole another part of it is that the make having people come together over this one little thing.

You know, we all might we have finishers from all different backgrounds, religions, political views that and we don’t really know anything about these people except what they tell us. And just the compassion and love that, that the finishers show. They do start out with, you [00:24:00] know, I’m so honored to help you with, with finishing this project.

Thank you so much for giving me a chance to finish this project. They’re, they’re just motivated by the ability to do something good for someone else. Which is, which is not something that we’re always given a chance to do. Some of those opportunities are out there, but you really have to go look for them.

This is I feel like we’ve given a space for people who, who might not go out and reach out for those things to do things. Yeah. And to bring their skills to the table, what they know how to do to complete something. Yeah. Well, I thank you both so much. You can find out more about Masey and Jen’s project at loose ends project.

org. Am I right? That’s right. Okay. Thank you. And as always, you can find out more about my work at Best Life, best death.com. Thanks so much for listening, and hey, dig through your closets and see if there’s a project from your grandmother in there, . That’s right. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you both. 

Diane Hullet

Diane Hullet

End of Life Doula, Podcaster, and founder of Best Life Best Death.