January 20 was supposed to be about President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris’ inauguration, but the attention was on Jen Ellis’s mittens.
The brown-and-white patterned mittens Sen. Bernie Sanders wore on Inauguration Day instantly became iconic, so much so that the mittens will be mass-produced for a good cause.
Ellis, a second-grade teacher from Vermont, gave the mittens to Senator Sanders on a campaign stop years ago, and now, she has partnered with Vermont Teddy Bear to sell “Bernie mittens.”
A portion of the proceeds will benefit Make-A-WIsh Vermont, which shares office space with the Shelburne teddy bear business.
Ellis won’t be sewing the mittens herself anymore as she’s got her hands full with teaching. But she taught the company’s designers how to replicate her patterns to the T. She said that she’s thrilled that the mittens she sewed for Sanders have proven to be memorable.
“I did one thing years ago and forgot about it, and it has come back around in the most joyful way,” Ellis told CNN. “If I’m going to be instantly famous in a second for something, thank God it’s this.”
Ellis’s life drastically changed on Inauguration Day, when a reporter identified her as the designer of Sanders’ cozy mittens.
She was immediately bombarded with requests to purchase up more of her hand-sewn mittens, and as a self-professed “people pleaser,” Ellis found it difficult to turn her new fans down. However, she knew that she couldn’t meet the outrageous demand herself.
Vermont Teddy Bear reached out to Ellis, who excitedly accepted the company’s offer for a partnership. She wanted to pair with a company that would donate some of the mitten proceeds to charity.
“I just think it’s important to share the wealth,” she said.
The partnership with Vermont Teddy Bear accomplishes almost everything Ellis could’ve hoped for. It satisfies customers, donates to a good cause, and keeps production local and sustainable.
While Ellis humbly says that she’s ‘not a very accomplished seamstress,’ she made Sanders’ mittens out of a repurposed wool sweater and fleece made from recycled plastic bottles. While Vermont Teddy Bear uses recycled materials in its stuffing.
“It’ll be the exact same thing I made for Bernie, and it’s going to be great,” Ellis said.
Hayes McCarthy, vice president of product innovation at Vermont Teddy Bear, told CNN that the team will replicate all the details that made Ellis’ mittens an instant icon.
“It’s a phenomenal gift to us — not just in the financial contribution, but to be a part of this really fun thing,” Hathaway said.
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