Annie Larson, knitwear designer


If you follow Annie Lee Larson’s Instagram — and chances are good that you do, considering the New York knitwear designer’s followers almost tip into the five digits — you might envision that she lives in some Peter Halley-meets-Memphis–inspired fantasyland, all primary colors, geometric patterns, and kitschy throwback accessories (hello Bananagrams!) But the truth is, Larson’s 5th-floor East Village walk-up doesn’t appear all that crazy upon first glance. A pretty but small, light-filled, plant-friendly apartment, the place is largely decorated in black and white, save for a trio of painted shelves where Larson keeps her most prized possessions, and a punch of colorful bedding. It’s only upon closer inspection (and I mean, really close, considering Larson’s love of miniatures) that her oft-photographed influences begin to reveal themselves — dice, Swatch watches, Japanese toys, and ’80s electronics among them.

But perhaps the biggest influence on Larson’s sweater aesthetic has been something that she doesn’t keep in the house at all but rather in her Williamsburg studio: the Brother KH-965i knitting machine that she bought from a woman named Lora back in Minneapolis, where she attended college for fashion design in the mid-2000s. When she bought her first, now-defunct Brother machine, she was working for Target, designing classic men’s knits and sweaters. “I went to see a demo on a knitting machine, and I was kind of romanced by it,” says Larson. “I ended up buying my first one towards the end of 2009, and I practiced for eight or nine months. The first garment I ever made with the machine was a cardigan, and right away I didn’t have the ability to generate my own patterns. But the Brother machines all come with, like, 500 or 600 preprogrammed patterns. There are basic things you can do to manipulate them, like mirroring or flipping upside down, scaling a pattern to be double tall or double wide, or isolating a chunk and deciding where it’s placed. So a lot of the early stuff was an experimentation with that.”

She founded her online shop and eponymous label — called ALL Knitwear — in 2010, and when it began to take off, Larson moved to a machine that’s controlled by computer software rather than the old way, which involved her filling in the pattern on Mylar graph paper with a light-sensitive pencil. But the motifs she creates are still similar in spirit, and that simply patterned, explosively colored aesthetic has clearly struck a chord with her bordering-on-obsessive fan base, which pleases Larson to no end, considering where she started. “The sweater thing just fell into my life, in a way. It introduced itself in a way that was completely unexpected, and it took over. Even when I left my job at Target, I didn’t have anything lined up. I was just like I’m going to be unemployed for a while. I didn’t think ‘I’m going to be a knitwear designer,’ or ‘I’m going to be a small business owner.’ Those thoughts never crossed my mind. They weren’t part of the plan. Now that’s fully my life, and I love it.”