Emilie Springer -- 'Bernie-style' mittens closer to home
Saundra Hudson teaches PE and health for freshmen females at Homer High School. She moved to Homer 29 years ago and taught at Homer Middle School prior to this. We talked this week about some artistic hand-crafted mittens she makes, gifts and sells that look surprisingly similar to the pair Bernie Sanders wore at the presidential inauguration that immediately populated public and social media over the past week.
Hudson shared that she started making the mittens while recovering from a serious head injury as a result of an ice-skating accident several years ago. Before the rest of the story, she wanted to make sure I note that she received amazing Homer community assistance during the time when she needed 24 hour care. After travel to medical facilities outside of the state, she came home and wanted something to occupy her time. “I don't know how to say it, other than it made my brain really happy to craft mittens. It also gave me a way to give a token gift to all the people that cared for me.”
“In recovery, I made about 45 pairs of mittens and gave them out to all the people that spent really long nights at my house or we're there to take care of me during those months,” she said. “I've always considered myself the crazy lady with a room full of mittens and I often give them away my students.”
“I just sent out about 40 pairs in December to my girls because of remote learning and I thought a little kindness might brighten their hearts and then the mittens might warm their hands.”
However, just after the inauguration and the media-popular images of Bernie Sanders she posted images of her mittens in a Facebook note.
“I thought maybe I'll try to sell the few pairs that I have on hand. I certainly wasn't expecting the response that I got,” she said.
She sold out immediately and has orders for over a hundred or more. Her daughters helped organize a website and order form because none of that was in place. It all happened this week.
“What's neat about it,” she explains, “is we have orders from people all over the nation. I sent a pair today to a professional musician in Chicago.”
She connects the mitten market to her teaching experience in history: “I'm super interested in people's stories and to be able to interact and hear a little bit about them and where they're from is really fun.”
Saundra has a unique perspective on the meaning behind making mittens: “It makes my heart so happy to get to craft mittens and then find homes for them. The money piece to me is not the important piece at all. What I love is crafting something useful out of something otherwise not being used, making it functional and matching it to a home that will love them every time they put them on. That's, that's the joy I find in it,” she says.
I like how she explains pattern and icon choices on the mittens, “It's the story of the sweater. My process has been listening to the sweater to see what it wants to be. I had a sweater recently that sat on my shelf for two and a half years, and I just kept looking at it and thinking about it and it just wasn't ready. And then all of a sudden, about a month ago, the sweater was ready to become mittens. I made about four pairs.”
“A really neat part of the process for me finding these treasures at thrift stores and then figuring out what it wants to be. It just totally comes from the sweater itself,” she says.
On her new order form, buyers can help the process of an old sweater finding a new life: “people might have something in their closets that they picked up traveling in Ireland or maybe they have a sweater from a parent or a grandparent that's super special, but they never see it because it's packed away. And I love the idea of remaking it into something functional.
I ask her how long how long it takes to make a pair. She talks more about what the sweater wants to “be.” If the mittens have an applique feature it takes a little longer but in general, about three or four hours. She only uses wool for the outside and cashmere or fleece for the inside.
Saundra plans to continue making more. It’s a good thing because she’s had hundreds of responses already. You can find her mittens at www.recoveredgoodsshop.com.
“And,” she says, “if anybody ever has wool sweaters that they don't need, I would like make a really good home for them. I can make that work for sure.”