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Interview: Jennifer Simonic, co-founder, Loose Ends

22 March 2024

‘Think of us like a Red Cross for craft work’

© Winky Lewis

Loose Ends was an idea that aims to ease grief, create community, and inspire generosity by matching volunteer handwork finishers with projects people have left unfinished because of death or disability. Masey and I have been friends for 30 years, and we are both crafters. We have both finished projects like this for people who have lost someone.

We joke that Loose Ends exists because neither of us wanted to crochet.

Last summer, our friend Patty lost her mother to cancer.
Patty’s mum had started two blankets, one for each of her sons. As I sat there, thinking about how I was going to have to crochet a massive blanket, because I love my friend Patty but I am not fond of crocheting, Masey said: “I have been thinking about creating a group that does this, and I think we can get other people excited to help.”

One website,
some door-to-door flyer drop-offs, and a couple of posts on social media, and we were off to the races with 150 volunteers and five projects.

Since August 2022, we have matched over 1500 projects in 11 countries.
We have over 22,000 finishers in over 60 countries worldwide. People can reach us via our website.

When a project is submitted,
we match projects with finishers, using these criteria: proximity (are they close enough to meet?); skill (does the finisher have the skill to finish this?); and desire — because we want our finishers to like doing what they are doing. We match the projects to the finishers via email.

You can do this everywhere.
We have most of our projects in English-speaking countries, but we do have finishers everywhere. Think of us as like a Red Cross for craft work. We want everyone to be prepared to help everywhere, but you may sign up and be waiting for a while. When a project comes up, we look to see who signed up near by.

“Strange” is not a word I would use about any of our projects.
They are meaningful to the project owners. One that stands out for its whimsy was a bag full of styrofoam balls with hand-knitted scarves and hats. It turned out to be the original crafter’s wish to make a snowman for every family member. When it was done and sent to the family, we got a photo, with every member of the family holding their personal snowman.

We have been stumped at times by a request.
But, luckily for us, we have a magnificent group of finishers in our private Facebook group that helps us figure out things that are tricky. Sometimes, I get a project without a pattern, and I can ask the group if they recognise it. Most times, we get an answer within an hour.

My favourite was a crochet pattern that I was trying to figure out
that a finisher recognised as one he had seen in a magazine from the 1940s. He couldn’t locate it, but wrote it out for the finisher who was working on it.

Whether we correct any mistakes in the original is up to the project owner.
Usually, we leave the original stitches as they are, warts and all.

There are too many projects for me to pick the one I’m proudest of finishing.
That is like making me pick a favourite child.

I work on Loose Ends 40 hours a week.
I am a bookseller part-time to help pay the bills and have a little time away from the computer.

I’m one of the few extroverts at the bookstore.
It’s a wonderful opportunity to connect with people in my neighbourhood. It is fun to help people make choices about what they are going to read, and learn about new books that are coming out. I am constantly amazed at how well-read my co-workers are, and I’m learning every day. It is a really cosy and beautiful place to be, and is a new respite from thinking about loss and grief.

Don’t be disappointed in me, but I do enjoy a good romance novel.
I love reading for escape.

Masey has been crocheting since she was very small,
and knitting since high school, but she has tried her hand at many things, from spinning to weaving and quilting. She is always knitting, these days. I started knitting when I was six. I have come back to it many times over my life, and have been consistently knitting for 35 years.

I still wouldn’t call myself an expert.
I like simple patterns with thick yarns. I knit mostly with wool or cotton. I love making sweaters for my family, and baby items because they are small and fast.

Every assignment is difficult.
We are dealing with a beloved one-of-a-kind object every time. These unfinished items have a meaning imbued in them by the fact that they were left behind by someone who has died. We are taking a leap of faith in the goodness of people every day. The beautiful thing is, people step up to the challenges every day.

I had a crochet blanket from a young woman who took her own life.
She had been working up until the moment she passed away. Her mother had asked us to finish it. Our finisher did a fantastic job making a blanket out of it by filling in the space around the original piece and it ended up being a rust-coloured blanket with a rainbow in the middle. Her mother was so pleased and touched. She said: “You know, some people hang blankets on the wall for decorations. Maybe I’ll do that.” I suggested she might want to keep it on a couch so she could wrap herself in it. She said: “Oh! You know me so well. That would give me so much joy.” To be able to help her think about feeling joy again is wonderful.

I’m an only child who grew up as the youngest of eight.
My mum and dad had me early in life; so my mum’s siblings — she is the oldest of seven — were very close in age to me. I lived in New Jersey, and was lucky enough to have great public schools to attend. I was trained in science and then in education. I have been a classroom teacher, and worked for some start-up companies and in the corporate world.

Today, I live across the country in Seattle, with my husband and son.
My daughter is back in Philadelphia in college. They appreciate hand-made sweaters, and love when they get them. But neither of my children knit or crochet. My son is a musician, and my daughter dances. Those are their arts.

You know, I am not sure what my first experience of God was.
I grew up Catholic. But I think I experience God through my interactions with others.

Cruelty and injustice make me unhappy.

I’m happiest when someone shares something about themselves with me,
or when someone teaches me something new.

I love the sound of waves lapping against the shore.

I’d like to sleep more, and move more, in this coming year.
My New Year resolutions are going OK, but they’re still a work in progress. I’m walking, hiking, and running. I signed up for a 10k. Wish me luck.

People and my daily interactions with them give me hope for the future.
There is so much that we agree on if we take the time to listen. And teenagers, as crazy as they can be — they can be so earnest it hurts. Interacting with them can really give you hope.

I pray for safety for people.

I would love to see all of my grandparents again.
If we were locked in church together, they would feel comfortable, and it would be great to talk to them and fill them in on how everyone was doing.

Jennifer Simonic was talking to Terence Handley MacMath.


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