Amid all the pageantry and red-carpet fashion of last year’s presidential inauguration, one now iconic image stood out: Bernie Sanders and his large woolen mittens.
The photo of the senator in a parka, face mask, and mittens went viral, spreading across social media like wildfire, in all its Photoshopped glory.
You probably remember the memes — they were everywhere at the time:
Bernie and his mittens on the NY City subway. Lurking in a Game of Thrones scene or the Star Trek bridge. Having lunch with construction workers on a skyscraper beam. Sitting in detention with the rest of the Breakfast Club.
It went on and on — and it was hilarious.
We even saw Christmas ornaments of Bernie and his mittens during the 2021 holiday season.
If you haven’t yet heard the handwarming and heartwarming tale of Bernie’s mittens, it goes like this.
An industrious Vermont schoolteacher, Jen Ellis, makes mittens by cutting up old sweaters, adding a fleece backing for warmth, and sewing the pieces together. Back in 2016, she sent a pair of her homemade mittens to Bernie, and figured that would be the end of it. Little did she know that her gift would soon become the most famous pair of mittens on the planet.
I made Bernie’s mittens as a gift a couple years ago. They are made from repurposed wool sweaters and lined with fleece (made from recycled plastic bottles). #BerniesMittens pic.twitter.com/lTXFJvVy9V
— Jen Ellis (@vtawesomeness) January 21, 2020
Mittens for sale!
The mitten madness has inspired a whole new industry.
If you’re not at all craftsy, you can buy sweater mittens on Etsy.
Better yet, the Vermont Teddy Bear Company has partnered with Jen Ellis to become the official manufacturer of Vermont Mittens. Each pair is $49.99, and you have to agree to be surprised by the color and pattern. Since they’re made from upcycled wool sweaters, each pair is different.
Fifty bucks is not cheap for mittens.
But you probably have an old sweater in a drawer somewhere… (you see where this is going, right?)
Make your own pair of Bernie’s mittens
After the inauguration, mitten patterns popped up like crazy. And if you want to keep the mitten-love alive, you could make a pair, too.
Some of the patterns require actual knitting skills. They duplicate the brown and tan Fair Isle pattern that’s splattered all over the internet.
But anyone with basic sewing skills can create mittens from an old sweater, which is how Bernie’s own mittens were made.
Below are a few ideas to get you started making mittens — on the cheap, of course!
Bernie Sanders, Steal his look pic.twitter.com/c4Hw48aCUu
— Emilia (@EmiliaDeLarge) January 20, 2021
Knit a pair of Bernie-inspired mittens
These patterns are available for free from Ravelry.com:
Make mittens from an old sweater
Shop your closet or browse a second-hand store for a cardigan or pullover with a fun pattern!
The good news is, the sweater doesn’t have to be perfect — or even to fit you — because you’ll be cutting it up.
Many of the instruction pages we found (links below) involve shrinking the sweaters first, to create a denser, more felt-like fabric that will be easier to cut and sew without it unraveling. The technique involves putting the sweater inside a pillowcase, then machine washing and drying it.
Some of the links below involve emailing away for the template. We’ve tested all of the email addresses, and they work. But we suspect we’ll be unsubscribing to a few craft sites in the days ahead.
FREE patterns and instructions for recycling an old sweater into mittens:
♦ Make felted mittens from a 100% wool sweater (email for free template, instructions are online)
♦ How to make sweater mittens (instructions and free template that you’ll email for)
♦ WikiHow.com directions for making sweater mittens (make your own template by tracing your hand)
♦ Make your own sweater mittens (including how to draft your own template/pattern)
♦ Step-by-step photo tutorial for sewing sweater mittens in less than an hour (no shrinking required; this pattern cleverly uses the sleeve cuffs of the sweater to form the mitten wristband)
Are you a visual learner?
We browsed the mitten-making tutorials on YouTube and loved this one the best — because it includes a way to get a FREE template to help you cut the sweater.
To get the mitten template: Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and you’ll get an automated reply immediately. We tried it and it works! You’ll have to click on both links and print both files, resizing as necessary to fit your hands.
Watch the tutorial:
If you make a pair of Bernie mittens, please let us know!
Share a pic on our Facebook page.
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