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.
From the Author
At the root of the Bernie Sanders mitten meme story, there was a gift. It was a simple gesture that brought joy. The strange and wonderful way these mittens became an iconic symbol of one of the most historic elections in American history is a story worth remembering and repeating. Even in one of our darkest hours, when our world was gripped by the sorrow and loss of the Covid-19 pandemic, we experienced a global moment of laughter. We were able to reach across the partisan divide and share memes with people who didn’t agree with on us any other topic. This moment showed us that we can laugh together; we can heal together; we can move on. My gift sparked millions of memes and countless moments of joy, and it is my hope that this joy will continue to spread when this book is shared worldwide. This is my story: Bernie’s Mitten Maker.
Advance Praise for Bernie’s Mitten Maker
“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, 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.
Media & Reviews
“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 (link to full review)
“Ellis has been making mittens out of old sweaters for about 10 years. In 2016, Ellis sewed a pair for Sanders’ daughter-in-law, who was the director of Ellis’ daughter’s preschool. For years, Ellis didn’t think much about it, until the mittens became Vermont-famous with a meme of Sanders drawing rainbows with the mittens in 2020. A year later, the mittens became world-famous with a photo of Sanders wearing the mittens at President Joe Biden’s inauguration.
“This is a fame that I didn’t necessarily want,” Ellis said. “But even from the beginning, I could see that it was an opportunity to do something good, and it was a really interesting story, which is why I wanted to write the book.” (link to full article)
Jen Ellis was a second-grade teacher in the tiny town of Westford, Vermont, in 2021 when a pair of mittens suddenly made her famous.
And it wasn’t just any kind of fame. It was viral internet meme fame. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders wore her mittens – a gift from Ellis after Sanders lost the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination – to the inauguration of President Biden, and within hours, memes of Sanders wearing Ellis’ fuzzy mittens were everywhere. (link to full feature story)
About the Author
Jen Ellis was a teacher and crafter when the mittens she sewed for Senator Bernie Sanders became the inspiration for millions of memes. Originally from South Portland, Maine, Ellis’s teaching career spanned nearly two decades in the public schools of North Carolina and Vermont. She is a songwriter, beekeeper, and still sews the occasional pair of mittens for local non-profit fundraisers. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in counseling from the University of Vermont. This is her debut publication. Ellis lives in Vermont with her wife and daughter.
Bernie’s Mitten Maker — the book! — was made possible with the generous support
and partnership with the following Vermont companies:
Vermont, Vermont Teddy Bear
PCC/Pediatric EHR Solutions
224 pages; 5.5 x 8.25/ Trade Paperback
$19.95 print / $9.99 e-book
Publication Date: May, 2023
Distributor: IPG / Chicago
Rights sold: All rights available.
Rights contact: Dede Cummings
Distributor: IPG; also available through Ingram, Follett/Baker & Taylor, and other wholesalers.
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