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I begin by gathering the appropriate felt colors and the blank piece of mitten-shaped cardboard with the autograph on the back.If necessary, I also print up a copy of the logo to use as a guide: I usually attempt to cut out letters and shapes freehand, but in this case I used printed guides for the triangle and the outline of the penguin.Once I do that, the final step is to glue the clothespin onto the back: The clothespin actually has no real function anymore, because I no longer clip the mittens to a Christmas tree, but it serves as a connection to the very first crude mittens that I made.The sweater mitten would simply feel incomplete without the clothespin.The players autograph the cardboard mittens and mail them back to me, and then I can add the proper sweater design on the front.It’s exciting to come home and find letters from all over the world (I’ve received them from 20 different countries), each containing a new autograph — and it’s free!In most cases, this is straightforward enough — crest hem striping shoulder yoke (if applicable).
I soon found that the best way to go is mailing blank pieces of mitten-shaped cardboard to the players.
An added bonus is that the players often include handwritten notes, cards, and photos along with their autographs.
Over the past 18 years, I’ve made over two hundred of these mittens, each autographed by an appropriate player.
The result was crude but (I thought) successful, so I made a Montreal Canadiens mitten the next year, ten more the year after that, and since then it’s been a Christmas tradition to get out the box of felt in December and make more “sweater mittens.” Over the years I’ve honed my technique, adding more care and precision to the cutting and replicating each hockey sweater as closely as possible, matching not only the crest but the hem striping and shoulder yokes as well.
Around 2003, I came up with an idea: The mittens all had a blank area on the back next to the clothespin — how difficult would it be to get that space autographed by a hockey player who had actually worn the sweater that the mitten’s design was based on?
For example, here’s a mitten based on the Boston Bruins’ 1935-36 uniform (the oldest design in my collection): On the back is an autograph from Ray Getliffe, who played left wing on that Bruins team (and is now, unfortunately, deceased): As you can see, the signature is on a little white sticker.