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Kara King tried. She bought how-to crochet kits and hooked her way through a tiny narwhal, a dinosaur and a fox.

But even before she gave up on the last one ("The unicorn broke me"), King realized she'd been unrealistic. Despite her best efforts, hope and drive, her budding crochet skills were just not going to improve enough to finish the intricate tablecloth her grandma had been working on when she died.

That's where a stranger stepped in.

Brandon Buchanan's hobby is crocheting lace doilies — the kind that use the most delicate, tiny thread and include fanciful patterns. He especially likes a combination called the pineapple stitch.

He and King live near each other in Minneapolis, but had never met until they were connected through a nonprofit called Loose Ends. One pineapple stitch at a time, Buchanan is now working on the final, complicated rounds of the project that King's Grandma Jen began years ago.

Kara King with her Grandma Jen and son Escher.
Kara King with her Grandma Jen and son Escher.


Started by two longtime friends (one in Maine, the other in Washington), Loose Ends matches unfinished projects with volunteer "finishers" who are skilled in many textile crafts, from knitting to quilting. Family members and friends submit handiwork that a loved one started before they died or became disabled. Volunteer finishers donate their time to complete and return the projects so they can be cherished as originally intended.

Loose Ends, which began in 2022, has grown quickly. It now has volunteer finishers signed up in more than 60 countries, with thousands of projects completed or in the works. They are currently getting a boost from Joann Fabrics and Crafts stores across the country. During the month of February, the donated change from shoppers who decide to "round up" will go to Loose Ends.

In Minnesota, more than 500 people have signed up to be finishers, setting up an account online ( and filling out a profile, including a mailing address and skills assessment. When someone submits a project, they also fill out a form online with details so that the group can match it to finishers who live nearby and have the required skills. Once there's a match, the project owner ships the handiwork and any patterns and materials to the finisher, who then returns it once it's done.

Founders Jennifer Simonic and Masey Kaplan, both avid knitters, hit on the idea after visiting a friend whose mom had recently died. Among her things were two crochet blankets that she had been working on for her sons during chemotherapy treatments, Simonic said. Their friend asked if they could help her finish the blankets, explaining that her mom had fretted about leaving the blankets incomplete. Instead, Simonic and Kaplan told her about their idea to find volunteers to help.

"We joke that we started a nonprofit because we didn't want to finish a crochet blanket," said Simonic.

Of course, Loose Ends is about much more than finishing uncompleted projects — it's about connection, legacy and, ultimately, love.

In all of these projects, the initial intention was to take care of someone, Simonic said. The maker likely thought, " 'Someone's going to look at it every day and think of me,' " she said. "Or, 'Their feet won't get cold.' Or, 'They'll have a blanket for the baby.' So that's why we do this kind of stuff. So that, you know, people can feel loved."

Stitching it together

Before she saw a Facebook post about Loose Ends, King had been wondering if anyone could figure out how to pick up where her grandmother had left off.

King, who grew up in Sioux Falls, went to her grandparents' house every day after school. Her grandma was a school bookkeeper by day and a ballroom dancer by night, teaching lessons with King's grandpa. She has so many memories of Grandma Jen sitting in her TV room, watching movies or chatting and working away on her lace crochet like it was the easiest thing to do. King quickly discovered it was not.

After reading about Loose Ends, King, who works as a customer service manager, decided to submit her grandma's project.

"This seems like a really rare thing," she remembered thinking. "Maybe there won't even be anybody to do anything with it."

Two days later, she got an email from Loose Ends notifying her that it had found a match in Buchanan.

For his part, Buchanan jumped at the chance to do some lace crochet. He'd been waiting months for a Loose Ends assignment. To save on shipping costs, the nonprofit tries to pair projects and finishers in the same area. That can sometimes mean a wait of many months, although some volunteers land a project right away.

Buchanan, who works at a restaurant, especially loves crocheting as a pastime because it gives him something lasting to show for his time, he said, unlike his other hobbies of playing video games or cooking.

Brandon Buchanan is working on finishing the crochet project that a stranger's grandma left incomplete when she died.
Brandon Buchanan is working on finishing the crochet project that a stranger's grandma left incomplete when she died.

Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune

"Blankets, sweaters, toys, rugs, hats, mittens, gloves, scarves, I've done most of the typical stuff," he said. "But I really enjoy doilies."

The two met at a coffee shop so King could pass along the project. She told him a little about her family and he told her that he was looking forward to helping out. (He's made so many lace doilies that even his mom has more than enough, he said.)

Buchanan was able to start crocheting where King's grandma left off, but he ran into a problem: A page was missing in the photocopy of the pattern King had given him. He tracked down the original pattern book online and has been working on the tablecloth ever since.

"I got the impression that her mother would just be thrilled to see this thing finished," he said of King.

King is already planning to host a family dinner that would feature Grandma Jen's tablecloth. She measured her table and, once completed, it will fit perfectly.

"It'll be pretty cool to have something that she spent so much time on as part of our meals," she said. "We're big on pulling people from the past forward in my family."

On special occasions, they get out the bone China dishes that were King's great-grandma's, even though they have to be washed by hand.

"The things that you carry with you have meaning and kind of keep those people with you," she said. "And so that's kind of a piece that will allow us to have Grandma with us."