As It Happens

Volunteer 'finishers' help complete knitting projects started by late loved ones

Loose Ends Projects is an initiative based in Portland, Maine and Seattle, Wash., that brings together over 1,000 people across the world to help finish knitting projects left behind after the deaths of loved ones.

The project is 'special' for people who know what losing a loved one feels like

Two people knitting garments on a sofa.
Masey Kaplan and Jen Simonic, co-founders of Loose Ends Project. (Loose Ends Project/Winky Lewis)

Annie Gatewood's mother was dying of lymphoma. Before her death, the sweaters she was knitting for her grandchildren weighed heavily on her mind.

"She started knitting and she got through three of them before being diagnosed," she told As It Happens host Nil Köksal. "She died six months later." 

Around the time Gatewood thought of finishing her mother's labours of love, a friend of hers asked her to be a prototype project for a new non-profit she was starting, the Loose Ends Project. 

The project, co-created by longtime friend Masey Kaplan, seeks out volunteers around the world to continue knitting projects started by loved ones who died before finishing. 

According to the Loose Ends Project website, the goal is to keep "loved ones close by completing the projects they've left behind."

Gatewood, who is from Harpswell, Maine, said that's exactly what she felt when she was paired with a volunteer, or a "finisher," as Loose Ends describes them. 

"There was a sense of peace for me," she said. "I absolutely know that my mother would've been delighted." 

Loose Ends is a newer endeavor, having just started in September. It's headquartered in Portland, Maine, and Seattle, Wash. There's no cost to be connected with a finisher since the project is volunteer-run. 

The project has already accumulated around 1,000 finishers globally and is growing as volunteers aim to finish what couldn't be done. 

Letting go of her mother's craft

In order for Gatewood to hand over her mother's sweaters, she said it required some trust on her end. 

"I have to admit there was definitely a little bit of faith involved — a leap of faith, giving away these sweaters that my mom had knit, to a stranger," she said. 

But the experience was also necessary for her to make peace with letting go of her mother's craft. 

In the exchange, Gatewood said she received so much back. 

Not only was she given her mother's now finished sweaters, she also met her finisher, Sarah deDoes, who Gatewood said resembled her mom in more ways than one. 

In a piece by the Washington Post, Gatewood described deDoes as looking like her mom and even sharing some of the same mannerisms. It also didn't hurt that both women are of Danish descent.

"It was just really special meeting her and having them be finished by her," she said. 

'Everybody loses somebody'

Eugenia Opuda is a first-time volunteer with Loose Ends. 

The initiative is special to her — mostly because her own mother, a knitter, passed away ten years ago. Opuda can't bring herself to complete some of the things she left behind. 

"It's kind of nice to be able to take somebody else's project and see it through to the end," she said. 

Opuda signed up for Loose Ends and said she was contacted by Kaplan as early as the next day. 

Woman knitting a blanket on a pink sofa.
Eugenia Opuda said it was easy to join an initiative that is 'so heartwarming.' (Eugenia Opuda)

Then, she was matched with a woman in Portland, Ore., whose mother was going through cancer treatment and had started knitting blankets for her three children. 

Two of the blankets went incomplete after her death. Now, Opuda gets to see the project to completion and is sharing updates and her process through email. 

"I've never actually met her in person, but I think the process of crocheting this item is really fulfilling in a lot of other ways." 

Opuda originally heard about Loose Ends through a local newsletter she subscribes to. 

Since she's lost several people in her life, she thought the organization sounded like "a great initiative." Being able to help those who have lost loved ones is something she can connect with on a deeper level. 

"Everybody loses somebody," she said. "It's hard not to gravitate towards something that's so heartwarming." 


Keena Alwahaidi is a reporter and associate producer for CBC. She's interested in arts, culture, and human interest stories. Follow her on Twitter at @keenaalwahaidi

Interview with Annie Gatewood produced by Brianna Gosse.

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