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When Dutch entrepreneur Niek van Hegel visited his grandfather in a retirement home one day, he happened to get into conversation with a lady who was knitting next to them. As it turned out, she had no one to give her knits to, since she didn't have many relatives or friends left. 

Two things became immediately apparent to Niek, the fact that many senior citizens face a great deal of loneliness, and secondly, that their expertise on crafts such as knitting could be a great hit with younger generations in need of something unique, away from fast fashion.

He later shared his thoughts with his friend Jip Pulles, who decided to research the possibility of a social enterprise employing senior citizens as knitters while still at university. Upon Jip's graduation, the two friends launched Granny's Finest as a pilot project in 2011, and have gone from strength to strength ever since. 

Nowadays, their brand counts with a network of nearly 30 knitting clubs all over Holland, where the "Grannies" and even one Granddad happily knit away, while enjoying each other's company and the occasional excursion, such as last year's trip to the Dutch Design Week...

Camera/cut by Martine Rozema

However, Granny's Finest not only connects fellow knitters to one another, but also a team  of young Dutch fashion designers, who are in charge of giving the label their modern take on knitwear. This provides both sides with an interesting exchange of expertise in a long-standing craft on the one hand, and contemporary design on the other hand.

Last but not least, as a wearer and therefore brand ambassador you are also encouraged to become part of Granny's Finest. While each Granny or Grandad adornes his or her creation with a personal note, they would like you to take a picture of yourself wearing their piece and send it back to them.

Mrs. van der Put (photo by Jos Kottman courtesy of Granny's Finest)

If you happen to speak Dutch, you can also order the Granny's Finest Magazine, where the ladies share their favourite recipes amongst other treats and learn more about their lives through their blog.

 Mrs. van der Put for example tells us about her childhood in war-torn Holland, her first job as a stenographer for a socialist newspaper, and her happy marriage to her late husband Paul, a journalist from Rotterdam, and how she joined Granny's Finest. Her advice to young people? 

Leave your mobile phone at home once a day and look around you. There are so many fun people around.

You can find complete Granny's Finest collection in their e-shop (in Dutch), which also offers knitwear for little customers, along with soft furnishing, all made from mainly natural yarns such as merino, which you can also buy for your own knitting projects.

All images by Boje Ploeg courtesy of Granny's Finest

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