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Sarah Vandelist said that, to some extent, “people’s minds are starting to change” about buying things at thrift stores, and there’s now a resale market for used clothing. And people have actually heard of sweater mittens, which were a “completely new thing” when she began, she said.
If customers want, Sarah will also make custom heirloom mittens out of a sweater that belonged to someone special, Lisa Vandelist said.
‘A marketing genius’
With the exception of occasional sewing assistance, Sarah does “absolutely everything” related to Swag Mittens herself, her mom said. “She is a marketing genius,” Lisa Vandelist said.
She remembered how in high school, Sarah had everyone wearing her mittens, from the homecoming king to the teacher who wore them during a talent contest. At football games, kids would wear sequin-covered Swag Mittens and they would sparkle in the lights, she said.
And she often makes mittens for the needy or donates them to charities, Lisa Vandelist said.
The mittens are sold mostly through her website, but she sometimes attends events with other craft vendors, she said. She also sells them at a Minneapolis vintage shop and two other accessories stores around the Twin Cities. She’s considering selling them on Amazon, too.
After graduation from Macalester, she’d like to continue with Swag Mittens full time if there’s enough demand, she said. “It’s become a part of my identity, so it would be really hard to give it up at this point,” she said.
No one has been more surprised by her success than Sarah herself, she said.
She loves hearing stories from customers who bought mittens years ago and are still wearing them. Her favorite part is “just seeing how my product, how this little pair of mittens, is making people’s lives better, even if it’s in a small way,” she said.
Erin Adler • 952-746-3283