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Bernie's Mitten Maker (Paperback)
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Bernie’s Mitten Maker is a raw and honest account of the joy, stress, and shock of sudden internet fame. Told with captivating storytelling, this memoir explores the many roads that led to the Bernie Sanders mitten meme sensation that followed the 2021 presidential inauguration. Jen Ellis’s debut publication reads like an intimate conversation with an old friend. Vermont teacher, mother, and crafter, Ellis weaves the stories of her life together with humor and thoughtful insight. She shares her struggles with childhood trauma, infertility, and homophobia and shows us how crafting can build community and generosity can bring joy.
About the Author
Jen Ellis is a Vermont teacher, mother, and crafter. Originally from Maine, Ellis attended the University of Vermont. She started her teaching career with Teach For America in rural North Carolina before returning to Vermont to teach elementary school. She used her flash of fame to raise money for non-profits in her community. In her spare time, she likes to spend time with her partner Liz and daughter Helen. She enjoys long walks, finding new swimming holes in the Green Mountain State, and writing songs. Ellis is currently pursuing a masters in counseling from the University of Vermont.
Jen Ellis was a second-grade teacher and part-time mitten maker back in 2021 when her life changed on Inauguration Day. A photo of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) sitting cross-armed and cross-legged in a folding chair, wearing a pair of mittens made by Ellis, became a viral meme on the internet. The one-of-a-kind mittens were made of recycled wool sweaters and lined with fleece, and they had been gifted to Sanders in 2016. As the meme spread around the world, Ellis became in demand on multiple media platforms, requests for the mittens increased, and her email overflowed. Two years later, Ellis chronicled this unique time in her life in a book called Bernie’s Mitten Maker. She wrote about the role crafting has played in her life, the stress of becoming an internet sensation and her efforts to do something positive with the newfound attention. Ellis auctioned off mittens to raise money for Outright Vermont and Passion 4 Paws. Vermont Teddy Bear launched a line of Ellis’ mittens, and a portion of the proceeds go to local nonprofits. Darn Tough Vermont made a limited run of JENerosity socks, which raised funds for the Vermont Foodbank. After 17 years of teaching, Ellis left her job and is now in graduate school for counseling. She lives in Essex Junction with her family and their dog. Ellis only makes mittens for charitable causes or friends these days. Senior multimedia producer Eva Sollberger met up with Ellis at her home to watch her cut up some vintage sweaters and to hear about the process of writing her book. Ellis’ book launches on May 2 at Phoenix Books in Burlington. Filming date: 4/8/23 Music: Zachariah Hickman, “Future King of Heaven”
“In the fine old Vermont tradition, Jen Ellis keeps it real—as well as warm and fuzzy. Not even going viral stays this crafter from her self-appointed rounds of neighborliness, generosity, and radical kindness. Bernie’s Mitten Maker is an engrossing memoir about the healing power of handwork and the generative potential of an openhanded approach to life. And when you think about it, what’s an upcycled, fleece-lined mitten but a wide open hand?" —Alison Bechdel, comic artist of Dykes to Watch Out For and Fun Home.
“In her alternately moving, sharp, and funny memoir about her sudden fame as Bernie’s Mitten Maker, Jen Ellis reveals the possibilities and pressures of becoming meme-famous and how a gay, small-town elementary school teacher and crafter became a public symbol of hope during the pandemic era. Ellis’s candor and insight guide this book far deeper than the typical self-help tale, and yet it is an affirming, inspiring, generous read that cuts a new pattern for the American success story." —Maria Hummel, author of Still Lives and Motherland.
“At the heart of Jen Ellis’s book is the core belief in the incredible power of building human connection. And the thread that binds these chapters together is that having a generosity of spirit feeds others but also feeds us. She points us towards writing that thank you card, telling others what they mean to us, and yes, sending someone a crafted pair of mittens to show our gratitude." —Becca Balint, U.S. Congresswoman and author of The Girl in the Yellow Pantsuit: Essays on Politics, History, and Culture.
“Bernie’s Mitten Maker is a true story about a handmade gift to a certain Vermont senator. But it is also a gift to readers everywhere. Jen Ellis’s prose-crafting abilities are right up there with her sewing skills, and her selfless spirit, heartfelt honesty, and gently self-deprecating humor shine through on every page. This book will likely inspire readers to seek out opportunities to touch lives through small acts of kindness and generosity. It certainly did for this reader!" —Erica S. Perl, award-winning author of When Life Gives You O.J.
"Bernie Sanders' mitten maker Jen Ellis publishes new book on post-fame life. Essex Junction resident Jen Ellis never wanted to be famous. Ellis was an elementary school teacher in 2021 when a picture of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders wearing a large, fluffy pair of mittens she sewed became a viral internet sensation.To tell her own story about life before and after internet fame, Ellis is publishing a memoir on May 2 titled Bernie's Mitten Maker." —Burlington Free Press.
“Jen Ellis, the Vermont teacher who created the mittens that Senator Bernie Sanders wore in his now-famous photo, has written a surprisingly moving memoir not only about how that happened, but also how it ties into her wider story of coming out, becoming a parent, the power of crafting, and the magic of generosity . . . . This charming and unpretentious memoir of crafting, parenthood, healing, and connection offers a read as comforting and warm as her famous mittens." —Mombian.