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Behind The Scenes

How Annie Larson Made Our Hats

If you thought that machine knitting meant you could just press a few buttons and kick up your feet, you’ve got the wrong idea. Annie Larson’s device employs technology from the era of the floppy disk and Oregon Trail and requires a lot of personal attention. “To make a sweater, it takes about ten hours from start to finish,” she says. “And the design process can be frustrating—and long and cumbersome. There’s only one way to figure out if something will work, and that’s to actually make it.” Here, she shows us her machine and explains how she created the hats she made just for us.“All of the yarns sit on the floor and run through the tension unit—that wire frame that extends from the center of the machine.”“The machine consists of a keyboard-sized instrument that has 200 needles and then the ribbing attachment that has another set of 200 needles and is also the size of a keyboard. Once I cast on, those two different needle beds move close together so that the needles interact with each other to actually make the ribbing.”“Once the ribbed section is completed, I transfer all of the stitches from the ribbing bed to the main bed by hand with a tiny needle.”“Now I’m programming in the first pattern, the red and white dashes. The machine is scanning all the information and memorizing the different needle placements. The graph paper is pretty hard to come by. I ordered it from the U.K., and it’s not even made specifically for the machine. I should probably stock up, actually.”“This next picture shows the second pattern being created. The white needles are extended outwards—that’s how the actual dashes being made.”“I’m gathering all of stitches at the very top of the hat with a double-eyed tapestry needle. They’re still live stitches, so if I miss one the whole thing can unravel—you have to be very careful, and it’s especially hard with a black yarn because its harder to see.”“After I finish that part, then I take it off the machine, I steam it, and I wet it down—it’s called blocking—to make sure that all the dimensions are proper. I let it dry that way. When that’s done, I put it back on the machine and match up the different patterns and do a single crochet stitch. If I have really severe color changes like I do in this hat, I use three different linking yarns so that when you stretch it out you don’t see a little red yarn pulling from a blue section.”“It’s taking on more of a hat form, and now I’m cinching it together. I’m just pulling on the strings—pulling as hard as I can—and tying a knot.”“You don’t ever see it, but there’s a tiny hole in the center of the hat. All the pompoms have waxed cotton strings that create their entire structure, and I use a hook tool to pull the tail of the pompom through that tiny hole in the top of the hat. Then I use a black button as an anchor—like a nut, I guess—to secure it. Because the string from the pompom is waxed, it sticks super tight. And then it’s all done! That’s it!” The hat Annie Larson made just for Of a Kind is sold out! Check out (amazing) limited-edition exclusives by other designers here. Photos courtesy of Annie Larson.
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Annie Larson's Pompom Collaborator

All of Annie Larson’s color-drenched knit pieces are created entirely by her—except for the hats, for which she calls in backup to complete the finishing touch: a soft, fluffy pom. Her friend Crystal Quinn, a jack-of-all-arts who lives upstairs from Annie in their Minneapolis apartment building, has become a fuzz-ball master, and Annie gives her total creative license—making for some pretty awesome (and sometimes eccentric) color combinations. “Crystal started making these pompoms, and one day during the summer she dropped one off at my house. I wore it in my hair everywhere I went—I just loved it. I thought it was the best accessory I had ever had. Then, when it started getting to be fall, I thought, ‘I guess I should make a hat!’ This picture is in New York, where I was on vacation in July.” “This photo is of us reenacting a pompom delivery—20 pompoms are in that pink bag. After Crystal shows up, we set them out on a table and look at all the different ones. There are always moments where I’m like, ‘Oh my god! I can’t believe it!’” “She makes whatever pompoms she wants to, and it’s interesting because that makes every hat sort of new, in a way. The one in this picture is a really classic Crystal pompom. She liked the color peach before anyone else did.” “Crystal is a maker of all things, and I feel like I specialize in one specific thing. These are slippers that Crystal does—she’s been into working more with the foot lately—and that’s one of her drawings. If you were to look at our collected bodies of work over the last five years and compare them, you’d probably see very little crossover, but this partnership is working out really, really, really well.” The hat Annie Larson made just for Of a Kind is sold out! Check out (amazing) limited-edition exclusives by other designers here. Images courtesy of Annie Larson and Crystal Quinn
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Annie Larson is a Karaoke-aholic

Growing up, knitting whiz Annie Larson was all about the music. “When I was in high school, I was in the band. I was first-chair saxophone. I was a drum major. I was a student accompanist. I played piano for 12 years, and I almost went to college for piano performance,” the 27-year-old Minneapolis designer explains. It turns out the skills she picked up in music translate directly to her design work. “I have compared knitting to playing the piano—the physical relationship that you have with an instrument,” Annie says. “The machine I use sort of resembles a keyboard, too, and there’s the way that you use your fingers in pre-orchestrated, planned-out motions.” These days, though, she mostly shows off her musical talent through her devout dedication to karaoke—as in, for two years, she went every Friday. Here, she speaks from experience. Annie (right), in the zone On mixing things up:“My friends and I really pride ourselves on always trying to pick different songs and repeating as little as possible. So, yeah, I don’t really have a signature song. I’ve sung a lot of songs.” On killing it:“One of my best performances of all time was ‘Give Me One Reason’ by Tracy Chapman, and I’ve had others tell me that my version of ‘Rocky Raccoon’ by the Beatles is really good. The thing is, I’m not even a very good singer, but I’m very enthusiastic—and serious. I take it very seriously when I do it.”In a few extra-special (and extra-bizarre) costumes On the appeal:“I work at home and spend a lot of time by myself, so sometimes I’m in the mood to embrace that more performative part of my personality. I like activities, and it’s fun to be able to go out and do something that’s specific. There’s a tradition aspect of it, too. And I just like singing.” On songs she wants to sing that no bar ever has:“‘Honey Pie’ by the Beatles, ‘This Must Be the Place (Native Melody)’ by the Talking Heads, ‘Pepper’ by the Butthole Surfers, ‘Dear Yoko’ by John Lennon, ‘Brokedown Palace’ by the Grateful Dead.” One of the designer’s dynamic creations. On getting the crowd going:“I saw this woman do a Tina and Ike Turner song once, and she had three backup dancers and a choreographed number. I thought that was really great. So I think about stage presence, choosing songs to motivate people to get up and dance.” On taking her show on the road:“I sang ‘Escapade’ by Janet Jackson at Pianos in New York—yes, the song where she shouts out to Minneapolis.” The hat Annie Larson made just for Of a Kind is sold out! Check out (amazing) limited-edition exclusives by other designers here. Images courtesy of Annie Larson
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