DID YOU MAKE BERNIE'S FAMOUS MITTENS?
Nope! That was not me...they were made by Jen Ellis of Essex Junction VT, an elementary school teacher who had given them to him as a gift in 2016. She no longer makes the mittens as a business. I make a very similar product in Southern Vermont, and have been making them since 2008. I have given away many pairs over the years, especially for fundraisers, but I did not make Bernie's mittens! I did recently hold a fundraiser raffle of a pair of Bernie lookalike mittens for the Putney (VT) Community Food Shelf and was able to raise $1080 for them! I will be doing something similar each year. I have always been a big Bernie fan, and am thrilled by all the Bernie mittens buzz. It has given my one-woman business a big boost!!
SHIPPING & DELIVERY
Shipping in the United States is priority mail and happens within two business days of the order. For shipping and handling in the U.S. I charge a flat rate of $7.95. Contact me regarding cost of international shipping.
BIO OF THE CRAFTSPERSON
I have been making mittens out of recycled sweaters since 2008 (see below for more information on the history of the business). Other things I love to do are spend quality time with family and friends, teach Zumba fitness, mountain bike, go exploring in nature, play the piano, dance, read, and laugh. Born on Nantucket Island, I've lived in Vermont since 1968, except for 6 years in the Philadephia area during college.
If you are not fully satisfied with your purchase, you may return it for a full refund, less the shipping costs. It is very rare that people are not fully satisfied!! (see Customer comments for more information)
TRACKING YOUR ORDER
Tracking number will be emailed to you at time of shipping.
100% SECURE ORDERING
I will never share or sell information about customers.
HOW DID YOU START DOING THIS?
(THE STORY OF THE MITTENS)
Back in 2008, my good friend Julia Zanes had been given a bag of brightly colored vintage cashmere sweaters by her mom. They had fit a tiny woman named Mrs. Wickens who had recently died. The sweaters had gone to Julia's mom and hence to Julia. They were too small to fit any adults we knew, and had a few moth holes here and there (moths love cashmere). Julia had the idea to make colorful fleece-lined mittens out of them, having seen some sweater mittens in a shop or online. She found a pattern online, cut out some paper pattern pieces, enlisted my help, and we were on our way. This was around mud season, 2008. Julia bought a whole bolt of black polyester fleece to line them. We would get together every week or two and work in the "mitten factory" while our kids played together. It took us a little while to fine tune the process and the pattern, and to figure out how best to sew the cuffs on, etc. We would cut as many pattern pieces out of one sweater as we could. Then we would match up the colors and sew them together. We tried to make the same amount of right and left handed mittens!! The pairs that we made were bright, playful, cozy and often (purposefully) mismatched in color scheme. Cashmere holds dye really well, so these mittens were made with beautiful jewel tones, gold, vibrant blues and greens, magenta, turquoise, lavender, etc. That first year we made about 30 pairs in all. We gave some away as gifts, we saved a pair each for ourselves, and we brought some down to the basement of Christ Church in Saxtons River, Vermont, and sold them to members of the River Singers, a local chorale.
It was fun to make them. They were super warm, lovely and appreciated by friends and family. The next season I bought a little workhorse of a home sewing machine, a Juki. I wanted to keep making mittens, but Julia was busy with her fine artwork and marionettes (see www.juliazanes.com for more on her incredible work), so she opted out. She graciously gave me the business and has also given me many sweaters to work with over the years. I try to keep her in mittens!!
Since then I've been making mittens, collecting materials, further fine tuning the patterns, developing more sizes and the style to make them uniquely "my mittens", which I ended up calling the business. Initially I made them at home, until the increasing number of bins of old sweaters outgrew the house. I had a studio on Canal Street in Bellows Falls, VT one winter, in the lobby of the Exner Block, (courtesy of Robert McBride and his kind tendency to support local artists and craftspeople). This space provided me with some nice local visibility, and I had some store front sales during the holiday season. However, while I was there, I had to pack up my bins at the end of each day and store them in a closet, which was not ideal. Shortly after leaving there, I was able to rent an absolute peach of a studio, the second floor of 5 Rockingham St., on the square in Bellows Falls,VT, where I worked for two years! (thanks to Peter Stolley and then current owner Sharon Boccelli) It was fabulous to work there, and I had a full view of the entire downtown square of Bellows Falls, so I could spy on everyone while I was working :) At present, I have moved my studio back to a wonderful light-filled barn space on my property in Westminster West. However, here is a great photo of Bellows Falls on a winter evening from the top of Fall Mountain. photo credit: Lila Shaw
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO MAKE A PAIR OF MITTENS?
It's hard to tell exactly how long it takes to make a pair because there are quite a few variables. I think it takes roughly two hours, sometimes a bit more. I make the mittens "factory method", that is, I will make 3-6 pairs at a time. I go to my studio and cut out the pieces of polar fleece linings for however many pairs I have the time to cut. I use an Olfa rotary cutter and cutting board to cut out the pieces. Then I wander around the space and make piles of sweater pieces that I think look good together. Then I design and cut out the pieces for the pairs of mittens. Lately the cuffs have been pieced of several different materials instead of just one, so that takes a bit of extra time. Also sometimes I have to handsew some scraps of fabric together to make a big enough piece to cut out a mitten piece. These hand sewn seams would be hidden underneath the cuff. When I have several pairs of pieces cut out, I place them in a box and take them home to pin and sew. The cuffs often gets trimmed with a blanket stitch of colorful yarn. Once the mittens are all sewn, I choose buttons, and that can take a while to do. Lastly, the buttons and the snowflake made of wool yarn finish off the mittens, and hold the cuff from turning inside out. Some of the steps of the process (pinning, trimming) are portable, so I can work on them while I'm in a meeting, or waiting for an appointment.
DO YOU MAKE ANYTHING BESIDES MITTENS?
So far, I primarily make mittens. However, I also make fingerless gloves, neck warmers, legwarmers, and skirts. I have made a few hats too. Keep an eye out for new categories of wearables on the website!!
WHAT MATERIALS DO YOU USE?
My favorite materials to cut and sew are warm but lightweight natural fibers such as lambswool, merino, cashmere, shetland wool, lambswool/angora blends and alpaca. The thicker wools are harder to sew, but it is satisfying to make such an insulating mitten too, so I use some super thick sweaters and boiled wools as well. All of the sweaters are washed in hot water (with old fashioned agitation to help them felt) and dried in the dryer to preshrink them. I buy anti-pill polar fleece to line them. I use Gutermann polyester thread, which is super strong and never breaks. I don't knit!!! I don't even like to knit!! All the mittens are made with recycled wool sweaters, occasionally old scarves or hats too. I have a button collection, many are vintage but some I buy at JoAnn's fabrics.
WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR MATERIALS?
I've been making the mittens for about 12 years, so I have amassed quite a large number of sweaters and sweater pieces (bins and bins). People give me their old sweaters, especially the ones the moths got into or that they shrunk by mistake. Sometimes I will buy sweaters or buttons at thrift stores or antique stores. I buy polar fleece, Gutermann thread and sometimes buttons at JoAnn's Fabrics. I buy wool yarn for trimming the cuffs at craft stores. A nice kind of yarn to use is needlepoint crewel yarn, 100% wool, made in Portugal. I got a bunch of little tiny skeins of colors at a thrift store ages ago, but I've used most of it up, and need to replenish my supply.
CAN I ORDER CUSTOM MITTENS?
I have done many custom orders over the years. One of my most popular sizes (medium slender) was originally developed at the request of a customer who wanted a pair which felt less roomy and more snug. I have made many "memorial mittens" which are mittens made of a sweater that has special meaning. Often this sweater belonged to a loved one who has died, and the mittens created out of this sweater become practical heirlooms and warm reminders of the person who has passed on. Please contact me if you are interested in custom colors, sizes, or memorial mittens. Here are some examples of custom mittens made from a special sweater.
WHAT SIZES DO YOU MAKE?
I primarily make medium regular (classic mitten shape, roomy fit) and medium slender (snug fit, elegant streamlined shape). These two sizes fit a hand that measures 7" long from wrist to tip of middle finger. These fit most women, most teenagers, and some men. I also make a small size, for 10-12 year old children and adults with small hands. The small mittens fit a hand that measures 6" from wrist to tip of middle finger. Large hands fit in my large (8") or extra large (9") sizes. I have a child's size that generally fits a child of about 6-8 years of age. I can make mittens for babies but do not have any in stock at present. If you would like an in-between size, please contact me. For example, I recently made a pair that was in-between small and medium, with a shorter cuff. The cuffs usually go part way up the wrist for extra warmth, but I can make a shorter cuff if needed. Custom mittens can cost up to $10 more than in-stock mittens.
HOW DO I CARE FOR THE MITTENS?
The mittens are easy to care for. Hand wash in cool or warm water with a mild soap such as Woolite. Reshape and allow to dry flat in a warm place.
CAN I BUY THEM LOCALLY?
Besides on my website, I sell them at the Putney School Harvest Festival on Sunday of every Indigenous People's Day weekend, and at the Putney Winter Farmer's Markets (Sundays 11-2, Green Mountain Orchards Apple Barn, Putney VT, late November through Christmas). I also participate in the Cotton Mill Hill Holiday Sale in Brattleboro VT during the first weekend of December. Contact me if you would like to arrange a purchase offline. I can sometimes provide a trunk sale :)
WHO DOES YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY?
I've taken all the photos except the ones of me were taken by my 21 year old, Lila. Lila has also helped with editing some of the photos
WHO MADE YOUR WEBSITE?
I made it myself using a template from Wix. Proud to say I figured out how to do the whole site myself without asking one question of anyone!!.