Leather Mittens Made with Love
This idea was born out of a college assignment first brought to fruition with the support of Native Women's Resource Centre of Toronto during my volunteer placement hours in 2018. I learned to make mittens from free templates I found online and I have been working to improve the quality and materials ever since.
I created this initiative because of the ongoing housing crisis in Toronto, lack of safe shelters, and inadequate mental health supports. The statistic of roughly 100 people dying every year in Toronto due to exposure to the cold absolutely floored me. I started this with Indigenous peoples in mind since our community is disproportionately represented in homeless and low income populations. As an individual person, I felt helpless as I wrote to multiple levels of government.
I learned to make leather mittens and found them to be the warmest I've ever felt. They have longevity, and they are made with love. I come from a long line of trappers, hunters, hide tanners, crafters, and teachers. Working with the materials I do, and sharing my knowledge and craft has helped me to feel closer to my ancestors and give back to my community.
The initial idea was to work with street-based Indigenous folks to make their own mittens, and I have facilitated workshops in community. But of course, the pandemic changed the way we can reach our community as we had to distance ourselves. During this time, I found a way to keep bringing mittens to the community members who need them the most. I asked folks to redistribute their wealth and pay for the cost of materials to supply winter warmth wear to community members who access services at Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre and their Four Winds Program.
I have recently received a grant from the Ontario Art Council recommended by Neto Hatinakwe Onkwehowe Native Arts to purchase a heavy duty sewing machine. Without their support, I would still be hand sewing leather mittens, and this project would not reach as many community members.
I am grateful for the community support with this initiative to meet me in the middle in terms of cost for materials, so please consider writing to your government about supportive and affordable housing initiatives in you community. Chi miigwetch.