Bernie Sanders’s Mitten Meme: A Sit-Down with the Creator of the Famous Sanders’s Mittens


Photo credit: Lance Pitcher

Rachel Ledoux, Writer

Despite it being Joe Biden’s inauguration, Bernie Sanders ended up as the main focus of the event thanks to his choice of attire. Clad in a jacket from Burton and a pair of handmade mittens from a Vermont teacher, Sanders soon became a widespread meme online. He was edited into image after image, from classic movie moments to personal pictures, making the country laugh even in the midst of our current political climate. 

Among those laughing was Jen Ellis, the Vermont teacher who gifted those mittens to Sanders. They were handmade, out of recycled sweaters and plastic. She usually sold them at craft fairs and gave them away to family and friends, but gave Bernie a pair for free five years ago. 

In an interview with Jen Ellis, she said that although she was “completely overwhelmed” by the nation’s response at first, she has “settled” into it. 

Ellis noted the similarity to her experience last year when Bernie wore the mittens on the campaign trail, but that was “on a much smaller scale,” she said. Within hours of the Bernie meme’s creation, Ellis had been found on social media and was being spammed with 1,000s of messages. 

“It was hard,” she expressed. She was simultaneously being bombarded with national attention while still having her report cards due that Friday, two days after the inauguration, and it was difficult knowing that she didn’t want to quit her day job just to make mittens for people 24/7. “Everything inside me felt like it was burning,” Ellis said. 

Eventually, though, she came to a solution: partner with a company to produce the mittens and donate the money to charity.

Ellis has partnered with Vermont Teddy Bear Factory, who will be making the mittens, with a portion of the profits going to The Make a Wish Foundation. With this collaboration, “Everyone who wants a Bernie Sanders mitten [can] get one,” Ellis said. 

Ellis added that the idea of helping people with her mittens has been “mind blowing.” She has also created a website:

Bernie Sanders had a similar idea. He has been taking advantage of this new meme format to sell sweatshirts. The proceeds from those have been going to charity as well (almost $2 million). Ellis was very enthusiastic about it, saying that she was “absolutely delighted.” 

Ellis said that although she imagines her popularity “will probably die down within a year,” she is excited to have the opportunity to help people thanks to her success.  Who could have imagined that that single pair of mittens could have such a positive impact on the world?