Mollie Makes meets MochiMochi Land

MochiMochi Land's Anna Hrachovec

Anna Hrachovec’s super sweet knitted characters that live in the fictional world of MochiMochi Land have taken the internet by storm…

You’ve probably spotted her insanely cute animations pop up on your social media feeds, but Anna Hrachovec has been “knitting little characters and making them do silly stuff” for ten years.

Based in Chicago and working from an office in her basement, Anna designs and sells knitting patterns and kits – a hobby, which she started on a whim and has grown into an international business. Her kawaii inspired characters have also led her her create books and videos based on their life in the fictional MochiMochi Land (not to mention a very funny Donald Trump video). We caught up with Anna to discover how she creates her animations, what inspires her makes and her top tips for knitting your own little critters…

Mochimochi Land mushroom and gnomes

Hi Anna! We love your little animations, how did they first come about?

I decided to take a class in it back in stop motion animation 2010. I learned a lot, but it actually discouraged me for a while, because it emphasised a traditional approach that involved model making and a special set with rigging. Finally I just tried taking a series of photos of a couple of knitted Santas that I’d made, using a piece of styrofoam as a set. I realised that it was actually really easy to do with my simple, lightweight materials. I was hooked, and went from making GIFs to longer animations over the course of a couple of years.

Mochimochi Land set

Which is your favourite one and why?

If I have to choose, I’d say Funky Fleece. The idea for it developed in a playful, organic way, and figuring out the timing of the choreography was a fun collaboration between myself and Maureen Boyle, an animator who works with me. I remember the shoots being a lot of fun too. You just can’t be in a bad mood if you’re making little gnomes with colourful afros dance around!

How have the animations helped to grow your business?

I take the approach of making them just because I want to. Many people who enjoy the animations aren’t knitters, or aren’t ready to make the skill level leap that you need for my projects – which is one reason I’m excited to start creating more beginner level patterns. But my animation work has lead to opportunities to collaborate with companies like Nickelodeon and Sesame Street, which have been exciting projects that I’d like to do more of.

Mochimochi Land knitting gnome

How did you learn to knit?

I first learned to knit in Japan, when I was a high school exchange student. My host sister had recently learned to knit herself, and she taught me how to make a scarf. I really picked it up big time in college, when my boyfriend’s mom was a knitter. It was wonderful to have a hobby to bond with her over, and now she’s my awesome mother-in-law!

What’s the first thing you ever made?

A purple fun fur scarf! I was super proud of it. I might have even have had the impression that all knitting was done in furry yarn when I started out.

MochiMochi Land studio

Describe your work space to us?

For the past year I’ve been working in an office basement, which gives me ample space to get messy with my materials and do photo shoots without disrupting home life too much. I don’t like being confined to one space, though, so sometimes I’m at a coffee shop around the corner, or outside on our balcony on nicer days.  On an average day I spend some time knitting, emailing, writing patterns or social media stuff and some time taking photographs. I also try to squeeze in a short walk to the post office or grocery store in the middle of that. I work more set hours than I used to so I can hang out with my baby boy every morning and evening.

Donut and bunny photography by Brandi Simons

What inspires you?

I’m deeply inspired by Japanese characters like Hello Kitty and Kogepan—I love how they contain so much meaning and expression in their minimalist designs. I’m also inspired by character artists old and new, including Dr. Seuss, Mary Blair, and Friends With You. I love children’s artwork and outsider art. Nursery rhymes, fairytales, and urban myths are also important to my work.

MochiMochi Land giant gnomes

Can you explain your design process?

I sketch and sketch until an idea is working for me. I’m not much of an illustrator, but I find the process really helpful. Then, I’ll usually just start knitting, unless it’s a particularly complicated pattern that I need to plan out. I’ll usually make two to four versions of something, taking notes on the pattern as I go, before I feel like I’ve got it right. If it’s a tiny character, this can take just a couple of hours!

How big is your yarn stash?

It’s big, but not enormous. Thanks to my assistant, Lindy, I have most of it labelled in large storage bags in my basement closet. Yarn that I use frequently (particularly Cascade 220 and Knit Picks Palette) lives in a few sets of mesh drawers that are easy to grab.

Mochi Mochi Land tiny owl

Who are your favourite knitters?

Donna Wilson has been an inspiration to me, and SpillyJane is one of my favourites for her lovely colour work.

What’s your favourite thing to make and why?

I love knitting tiny toys—I’m sure I’ve knitted several hundred tiny gnomes at this point. Designing something small enough to fit into your pocket is instantly gratifying, but also a challenge because it means reducing a thing to its most essential characteristics, and being able to convey those in knit form. Knitting a cute little animal in just a few minutes also means that I can hand lots of them out to friends just for fun.

MochiMochi Land snowman and spongebob

You’ve published five books now, but how did you get your first book deal?

I was lucky enough to be contacted by an editor who had seen my work on Flickr. But, even though she reached out to me, I still had to put together a full book proposal and go through another editor to get approval, which took quite a lot of time.

What’s been your proudest project?

I was delighted with the turnout for my Project Gnome Diplomacy last year—I invited knitters and crocheters to send me little gnomes they had made, and I received more than 300 of them from all over the world! They travelled with me to South Korea, where they were part of a Mochimochi Land art show at a gallery called Everyday Mooonday, then they were distributed for free to people who visited.

MochiMochi Land christmas tree

Anna’s top three tips for creating your own patterns?

  1. Simple is good, but it’s also important to include as much clear, concise information as you can.
  2. Take lots of photos as you go! If I’m designing something based on or inspired by a real-life creature or person, I’ll do an image search, especially of stock photos and clip art, to get a sense of how the basic features and proportions should go.
  3. Get your patterns tested by at least a couple of people, to be sure they make sense to an end user.

To see more of Anna’s work visit www.mochimochiland.com or follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr and Pinterest