In Minnesota winters, hats are more than an accessory — they’re a wardrobe staple. And there’s no need to sacrifice function for fashion, with Minnesota knitters and milliners selling hundreds of handcrafted styles. Here are five fantastic local hat-makers.
Designer Nicole Brown gives the classic winter hat a bold, modern kick with her mix of unexpected color combinations, whimsical patterns, neon-pink faux fur and oversized pompoms. Since founding the brand on Etsy in 2010, Brown has launched an e-commerce site and hired an all-female team of knitters to create her unique line of hand-knit accessories. She recently debuted a luxury line of hats made from extra-fine merino wool. A native of Alaska who now lives in Montgomery, Minn., Brown finds inspiration on runways as well as from street styles, describing her aesthetic as “trendy, playful and a little over the top.”
Where to buy: Carver Junk Co., (4748 Chicago Av. S., Mpls., 612-615-0071; 206 N. Chestnut St., Chaska, 612-615-0071), Salvage Sisters (Mankato), the Lake + Co. Shop (Grand Rapids, Minn.), the Refinery (New Prague, St. Peter and Waseca) and online at nickichicki.com
The classic trapper hat gets a luxury upgrade, thanks to this Bemidji-based brand. Fur Armor specializes in hats made from beaver fur, one of the warmest animal coats available due to its thick underfur. Pelts are sourced locally from places where beaver populations have proliferated and caused flooding (leftovers are sold to sled-dog trainers and high school biology teachers). Since 2009, Fur Armor has honed its original design to better shield against the elements. Lined with Polartec fleece, the hats are designed to lie low on the back of the neck. Styles range from full fur to sheared — a time-consuming process revealing the pelt’s short, ultrasoft underfur — and sewn with a heavy-gauge thread, resulting in a durable garment that appeals to hunters and fashionistas alike.
Where to buy: MartinPatrick3 (212 3rd Av. N., Mpls., 612-746-5329), Stephanie’s (735 S. Cleveland Av., St. Paul, 651-690-3802), through Feb. 4 at North Local Market pop-up (City Center skyway, 33 S. 6th St., Mpls.) and online at furarmor.com
Maggie Thompson was enrolled as an architecture major at the Rhode Island School of Design when she took a machine-knitting class and discovered her love for textiles. She promptly transferred to the school’s textiles program. After graduating in 2014, she returned to her hometown of Minneapolis and launched Makwa Studio, a line of colorful hand-loomed accessories. With Makwa — meaning “bear” in Ojibwe — the artist and weaver takes inspiration from her Native American heritage, subtly referencing traditional patterns and beadwork for her bold, colorful patterns (Thompson is three-eighths Fond du Lac Ojibwe). Her architectural training also comes through in the straight lines and geometric patterns.
Where to buy: Cliché (2403 Lyndale Av. S., Mpls., 612-870-0420), Spot Spa (1600 W. Lake St., Mpls., 612-823-7768) and online at makwastudio.com
Whirls & Purls
Jenny Banyard got local buzz recently when her purple-and-gold “SKOL Minnehaha” hat went viral. (KARE 11’s Belinda Jensen even wore one during a broadcast.) Banyard learned to knit at age 8. When she left for college, she started knitting hats and scarves for her classmates. After graduating last year, she founded Whirls & Purls on Etsy. Most of her pieces are made with extra-fine merino wool and come in sunny shades with chevron- and Fair Isle-inspired patterns. And most are topped off with an ultrasoft, faux-fur pompom. Due to the hand-dyed nature of the yarn, it’s almost impossible to create the same hat twice, so these hats are truly one of a kind.
Where to buy: whirlsandpurls.etsy.com
After studying in Paris and New York City under master milliners, Minneapolis native Celina Kane returned to her hometown in 2015 to launch Hat Make, a line of couture and demi-couture hats inspired by 1960s Italian films. Her hand-finished, made-to-order chapeaus give a contemporary twist to classic styles. This winter she expanded her selection of flannel-lined, faux-fur “furby” beanies while launching a line of couture silk-velvet turbans and head wraps. Two glamorous ways to beat the cold!
Where to buy: Feb. 1-3 at “Contemporary Pop’t Arts” pop-up at Rosenthal Interiors (22 N. 5th St., Mpls., 612-332-4363), March 24 at Mill City Farmers Market (704 S. 2nd St., Mpls.) and online at hatmake.com
Jahna Peloquin is a style, design and arts writer based in Minneapolis.