Community Mitten Project Gives Saline Residents A Chance to Give Back

 10/30/2017 - 12:31
Volunteers work to cut and sew mittens at Salt Valley Arts Center
Volunteers work to cut and sew mittens at Salt Valley Arts Center

More than any other state, Michigan residents are familiar with the mitten. We wear them, we live in a state shaped like them, and now we can help members of our community by helping make mittens and by purchasing them.

Local artisan Nancy Miller is working hard to make sure that Saline area families are well-stocked with cozy mittens for the upcoming winter, and is enlisting members of the community to help.

The Mitten Project, started in 2016, was conceived by Miller as a way to continue to teach what she loved and to give back to the community.  “I wanted to continue to teach sewing at [Salt Valley Arts] as I had at [Two Twelve Arts Center].  I prefer to donate my time to teach others and help Social Services.”

Born and raised in Saline, Miller learned to sew in a Saline 4-H Club, The Busy Workers.  “I'm now retired from teaching first grade in Clinton and live in Ann Arbor.  Upon retiring in 2006 I upgraded my sewing machine and began to sew again.  I also enjoy making free motion art and applique pieces and up-cycled clothing as well as soap and toiletries.”

Miller began to sew and sell mittens originally as a fundraiser for her church, St James United Church of Christ in Saline.  They made mittens for about 4 years, and according to Miller, “I continue to make and sell digital mitten patterns and mitten kits for mittens on our Etsy shop, Seeketh Wool and donate the money to the church.”   Miller said, “My friend and I had been inspired by the Mackinac Mittens made by teachers on the Island. Another friend had just learned how to sew sweater mittens with her fiber group and taught me.” And thus, the Mitten Project was born.

Last year, Miller expanded her mitten project to the community when she contacted Saline Social Services “to ask if they wanted mittens donated and if we could sell some and donate the money.  They agreed!”  And the project was a success - the group made a total of 50 mittens and raised nearly $500 from selling some of them.

This year, Miller is continuing to work on the Mitten Project at Salt Valley Arts, and is working with Brecon Village, as well, holding classes there and giving the residents a chance to help in the community.  “I'm better organized in year two of the Community Mitten Project and had better expectations of capabilities of residents. Lots of community members are stepping forward to help as well.”

So far this year, $75 has been raised from selling mittens, 80 mittens have been cut out, and there are several more opportunities to buy mittens and to help make them. “Mittens are available at McPherson Local for a limited time in November as well as Craft Shows Including November 9 at Pittsfield Farmers Market, November 10 at Evangelical Homes of Michigan Craft Show and December 5 at Brecon Village Holiday Marketplace 2-4 pm. We are making small and large adult sizes as well as youth sized mittens.”  Pairs of mittens are $25 each.

If you’re interested in helping to make the mittens, with guidance from Miller and others, you have a few more chances at Salt Valley Arts: Monday, October 30 from 1 until 8, Thursday November 2 from 9 to 2 and Friday, November 3 from 10 to 2.

Katherine H. Downie
Katherine Downie is a local artist and art educator. She serves on the executive committee of the Saline Celtic Festival, on the board of the Saline Area Players, and on the Saline Library Art Exhibit Committee.

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