This Calgarian is keeping discarded sweaters and unused wool fabric out of landfills all while keeping people’s hands warm.
Shereen Groeneveld loves to spend time in her studio making mittens and thinking of unique ways to repurpose wool sweaters and various fabrics into items people not only love but that also keep excess out of landfills.
“I actually bought my first pair of mittens made from repurposed sweaters about 15 years ago. I found them in a small basket at the craft fair. I thought it was a great idea,” she says, adding the more she looked at them, the more she realized she could probably make them herself.
Over the next few years, Groeneveld started amassing sweaters, eventually running out of room to store them in her closets.
“I thought, ‘I should probably do something with these.’ ”
Finding a new purpose in life
That’s when and why Sherpi’s Mittens was born — Groeneveld can’t stand the idea of thousands of second-hand sweaters and fleece and wool blankets going to the landfill.
She has been making mittens and other products full-time for about seven years, even using the leftover wool and fabric to add appliqué on repurposed jeans.
Ironically, before this endeavour, Groeneveld didn’t even know how to use a sewing machine, previously working at a health food store for 13 years.
“I just kind of picked it up from remembering how my mum used to sew,” she says, adding there’s been a lot of “trial and error.”
“I have a basket full of mittens that are just all left hands.”
She often finds items from local thrift stores, rummage sales, and donations, and can repurpose anything from sweaters and scarves to blankets, lining the mittens with fleece.
“I have always been a frequenter of thrift shops, and I’ve always been amazed at the masses of clothing and textiles in the thrift stores,” she says, adding that’s what sparked her interest in upcycling materials that are already out there.
Not only do her mittens help the environment, they also make unique gifts for all occasions
Groeneveld says her busiest times of the year are from the beginning of September until the end of February, hitting the Christmas and Valentine’s Day holiday rushes.
“Sometimes I’ll have a company come to me and say they need 10 pairs for their employees, or there will be four sisters who want to get each other handmade gifts,” she says.
There’s also a Memory Mitten option, where someone can bring in a sweater from a loved one who passed away, opting to make some mittens from their clothing.
“They could wear the sweater but the mittens kind of give it a new life and a lasting memory. We’ve had a lot of tears in my studio,” she adds.
Sherpi’s Mittens are available online or at Amaranth Whole Foods Market, Sunnyside Natural Market, Village Arts Artist Co-Op, and at several markets around the city throughout the year.
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