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A bright pink knitted afghan changed hands on Bestor Plaza and two women embraced in a warm hug.
“I’m stunned,” said Janice Donald. “It’s so beautiful; it’s just so beautiful.”
The hug on July 14 between Donald and Kimberly Schuette, managing director of the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra, came at the end of a long journey.
It started with Donald’s mother, Grace Regan of Boston, knitting two panels of the blankets with hourglass shapes in the early 1990s. She used a pattern called “Knitted Aran Isles” from a book of Fisherman’s Afghans and bought all the raspberry-colored yarn she would need.
In 1993, Regan was making a quilt for her granddaughter’s wedding, but she wasn’t feeling very well, Donald said.
Donald quilts, but doesn’t know how to knit, so the two came to an agreement.
“She made a deal with me, if I would finish the quilt for her, she would do the afghan for me,” said Donald, of Rochester. “But sadly, my mother died before she could finish it.”
Donald finished the quilt, but the two panels were left waiting to become an afghan.
As three decades passed, Donald made two attempts to connect with someone to finish the blanket.
Then, the third time was the charm: She found out about a program called Loose Ends, which matches fiber arts project holders with finishers, all in the name of closure for families.
“When a maker dies mid-project, this tangible, handmade expression of love could get lost, donated away, or thrown out,” according to the project’s website. “Or, it can be finished as intended and given back to be cherished.”
A knitter since childhood, Schuette read about Loose Ends in The Washington Post in February and signed up.
“My mom gave me knitting needles, yarn and crochet hooks for my ninth birthday, so I’ve been doing it ever since then,” she said.
The program matched her with Donald, and Schuette received Regan’s bright pink panels and her other materials in the mail in March.
She tied the last knot on June 23, just before the start of the summer assembly on the grounds, and the pair met for the exchange on the plaza at the end of Week Three.
“It was really easy to match up the parts that I did because her edges were so neat on her pieces,” Schuette told Donald. “It was a pleasure to work on it.”
As a “fearless” teenager, Schuette said she worked on a similar five-paneled cable knit afghan, but it was a bigger challenge with less experience. “I wasn’t smart enough to be like, ‘Oh, that’s too hard,’ ” she joked.
Donald plans to hang on to the completed afghan for a while before giving it to her niece, Regan’s granddaughter.
“Now, to see (the pieces and yarn) all put together into the actual afghan they were meant to be, is just wonderful,” she said.
Feeling connected with other crafters, Schuette said she was honored to complete Regan’s work for Donald and her family.
“She obviously started with love,” she said. “ … to bring something to completion for someone else is really nice.”
Donald, who has only kept one quilt of several she herself has made over the years, said she understood and appreciated Schuette’s generosity and the effort it took.
“I am just stunned that you were willing to spend your time (and) your talent, putting this together for someone else,” said Donald.