Our My Place project is all about supporting and promoting new talent and new work. And today’s My Place contributor really is a super-talented designer, whose beautiful new work I think all knitters will be seeing a lot of (and admiring) in coming months: Maaike van Geijn. After studying theatre costumes and taking her masters in Theatre Studies, Maaike worked as a theatrical curator for many years. Changing career direction, she has worked as a knitting teacher in Amsterdam and  Schoorl, as well as a sample and advisor/test knitter for Anna Maltz, Laerke/Fibertales, Julia Billings (Woollenflower) and Cinthia Vallet.  More recently,  Maaike has started creating, and publishing, her own beautiful designs: some of her new work will be published by Laine and La Bien Aimée in coming months. Taking inspiration from her own personal sense of place, the Kelp beret celebrates, and commemorates, the maritime landscape of Schoorl, in the north of the Netherlands. Maaike is donating all sales of the Kelp beret to support The Ocean Cleanup: a fantastic non-profit organisation which works to develop technologies to rid the marine environment of polluting plastic waste. Here’s Maaike to tell you all about her design, and her place.

The seaside in Schoorl – in the North of the Netherlands, where I live – is my place of recuperation, silence and inner peace. The sea is my guide. Always moving, yet never the same. Tides go up and down, sometimes peaceful, sometimes rough, just like life itself.

On a walk or cycle in the early morning I pass the pastures followed by the woods. The woods slowly turn into a sandy dune landscape that eventually leads me to the sea. 

Ending at the sea always creates an enormous feeling of freedom and peace of mind. On weekdays I mostly walk alone or with a friend, in the weekends it is always the three of us: my partner Wessel and my daughter Nanna joining me.

For a few years, I have lived here with my little family in Schoorl, a small village inbetween the pastures and the forest, bordering the dunes and the sea.

After a vibrant career in theatre, I started a new life project: knitting, when I was around 40 years old. A bike accident, which caused damage to my spine, forced me to physically slow down. But being in the prime of my life, my brain was still very active and curious. So I looked for a new challenge and found knitting. I taught myself many knitting techniques by making all the patterns I could lay my hands on. I also started reading about historical developments in knitting, for example. Bohus, Fair Isle, Hap & Yoke traditions and discovered the wonderful books by Kate Davies. More recently I started designing knitwear. Knitting has helped me very much in the process of accepting my limitations and slowing my life tempo down a bit, while still giving me mental challenges by keeping my mind inspired and active. 

After my accident,  nature became more and more important in my life. A move from the vibrant city of Amsterdam to the rural area of ​​Schoorl really helped me in finding a new life rhythm and to see new directions. I discovered a growing love for nature and the benefits of a more silent and thoughtful life. I think quite some people had similar realizations during covid times.

I also discovered the healing force of walking, both physically and mentally. After the accident walking luckily became possible after a while, first just little steps and slowly more and longer walks. Actually walking proved to be one of the most beneficial cures for my back pain. This process also made me realize that by running so fast, I had not paid enough attention to the world around me, to the earth we live on, the natural processes surrounding us, like the changing of the seasons and the influence of climate change.

Here in Schoorl we try to live more connected to nature and our community by taking care of our environment (for example by taking part in local nature and bird projects), by striving for nature protection and by trying to be more self sufficient by growing our own vegetables.

Life has taken me on a new journey and although it was for sure a quest sometimes, I can honestly say that I found a new and maybe even better place.

Kelp, my beret design, has been inspired by the nature surrounding me: the vibrant sea skies, the various blue colors from the sea and skies, as well as the green marram grasses, sea weeds, algaes, and kelp (a word which carries the same meaning in both Dutch and English)

I also took inspiration from old Dutch pottery. Many people know the blue and white Delft pottery. Few people, perhaps, know that also other colors were also sometimes used in combination with blue and white, like this green . . .

For inspiration for motifs I investigated Dutch handcrafting traditions. In the Netherlands we don’t have an explicit colorwork tradition in knitting. But there is a lively tradition of making darning samplers. The geometrical shapes in my beret have been inspired by pictures from old Dutch darning samplers, for instance the wavy forms I saw on a darning sampler from Annie Ellerburg 1897 (see picture). Annie was a craft teacher and used this sampler in her craft lessons. On the lovely website of Evelien Verkerk you can find various darning samplers, which she wonderfully transformed into darning charts. She also did a lot of research on old Dutch (lace) knitting patterns: Nederlands Gebreid

The wonderful palette of Milarrochy Tweed provided the perfect shades. I found a lovely range of blues, from which I chose Lochan, Ardlui and Smirr, representing the water and skies. Hirst is a perfect neutral ecru color next to these and stands for the sand and clouds. Garth is a beautiful green color that meets the colors of marram grass and kelp.

Kelp comes in three sizes, so it will fit small to larger heads. You can chose the fit and circumference that suits you best. The beret uses simple intuitive colourwork motifs using only two colours at a time. For the crown of the beret I specifically chose to continue with a similar colour and geometric motif, rather than a star shape or flower crown you often see in berets. All sizes use the same chart, markers guide you down the decreases, so you can sit back and enjoy the knitting. 

I am very much aware that nature and also more specifically the sea and sea life is under pressure. The plastic in the sea forms a big problem for marine wildlife. Here in Schoorl, we too often find plastic on the beach and even far up into the dunes. This is why I will donate the full proceeds from sales of Kelp to The Ocean Cleanup. 

This is a non profit organisation, developing and scaling important technologies to clean oceans from polluting plastic waste.

Thank you for supporting my work, and My Place!

Thank you, Maaike, for a beautiful design and a very thought-provoking and moving post.

Kelp is now available to download on Ravelry.