Meet The Vermont Schoolteacher Who Made Bernie’s Mittens

By now just about everyone on planet Earth has seen countless Bernie Sanders mitten memes. The image of the masked Vermont senator sitting cross-legged in a folding chair, wearing a blustery conditions-appropriate outer coat and THOSE mittens might become the most memorable fashion statement from Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’s swearing in ceremony, even more so than Lady Gaga’s dress.

Slate tracked down and interviewed the creator of the mittens that kept Sanders hands warm during the inauguration. She is Jen Ellis, a second-grade schoolteacher from Essex Junction, Vt. When reporter Rachelle Hampton caught up with her, Ellis told her that inquiries about her mitten-making skills had crashed her Gmail but she had to focus on getting her students’ report cards completed before the weekend. She did take time, though, to answer the three most burning questions about Bernie’s mittens.

Q: How did you come to give the mittens to Bernie?

A: “His daughter-in-law owns and operates a preschool down the street from my house, and that’s where we sent our daughter from the time she was 15 months old. I was making gifts for the preschool teachers and I knew Liza was connected to Bernie, so I made an extra pair for him back when he lost the bid for the presidential nomination in 2016 to Hillary Clinton. I was just sad, because even though I like Hillary, I’m also super pro-Bernie. I sent him these mittens kind of as a shoutout to who he is, and I put a note in that said something to the effect of ‘I hope you run again.'”

Q: How do you make the mittens?

A: “The outer layer is made out of discarded wool sweaters, so wool sweaters that have moth holes or that someone sent through the washing machine or they were ripped or whatever, fallen out of fashion. I cut them up and I piece them together with other sweaters with complementary colors and I use the cuffs of the sweater to be the cuff of the mitten. Then I line them with fleece, which is also a recycled material, made out of plastic bottles, shredded plastic. I bought some thread at thrift stores, I used all the thread from my grandmother’s old sewing basket after she died, and I find recyclable thread or reusable thread but usually I buy the thread.”

Q: Do you have a favorite meme?

A: “There’s one that’s a rainbow and it has all the different fashion from yesterday and all the other people, like red, orange, blue, and purple, are women and they’re wearing fancy designer clothing and the green color of the rainbow is Bernie. I would just love to get that one framed.”

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