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Grandfather’s passing inspired ‘smittens’
LeeAnn Schmitz’s children, Judd and Wriglee, are seen with several pairs of the ‘smittens’ she makes at home.

BOSCOBEL - Following the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris recently, it seemed as though something unusual stole the spotlight. Senate Budget Committee Chair and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders was seen at the event donning a pair of homemade mittens. The now famous mittens were created for Sanders by Jen Ellis, a Vermont elementary school teacher, from a re-purposed wool sweater.

Locally, LeeAnn Schmitz has been crafting and creating sweater mittens in memory of her Grandpa Sconne.

Grandpa Sconne, or as most people knew him, Bill Beinborn, passed away about six years ago and the Christmas following LeeAnn knew she wanted to do something special for her family in his memory. 

“I reached out to a local lady, Mary Fitzgerald, to see if she would make mittens out of Grandpa Sconne’s sweaters. Mary told me, “No, I won’t make them, but I’ll teach you how! If it wasn’t for Mary I wouldn’t have Sconne’s,” LeeAnn recalled with a chuckle, adding that before Mary taught her, she had only done very small sewing projects such as hemming pants.

“At first I thought, ‘Gosh, it would be easier if she would just make them,’ but I got the hang of it and I’m so glad she decided to teach me. Just to see the expression on everyone’s face when they opened them and knew that was a sweater of grandpa’s to keep them warm, it was just awesome.”

In October, LeeAnn’s Grandma Onie, also known as Leona Blair, passed away from COVID. LeeAnn decided to create memorial smittens, as LeeAnn calls them, once again.

“It’s really rewarding and fulfilling to create these,” LeeAnn shared. “When I was making the smittens I found myself recalling lots of memories of my grandparents.”

Prior to her Grandma Onie passing away, LeeAnn created about 40 pairs of the beloved smittens for family and friends.

She shared that perhaps one of the most rewarding parts of the whole experience is hearing about the loved one whose memory is being honored with the smittens. 

“It’s so special to me when people share their story and how these warm smittens lead to warm hearts,” LeeAnn expressed. 

A couple of weeks ago NBC 15 also did a story on LeeAnn and her smittens. Since then she said the response requesting smittens has been incredible.

“I’ve really blown up with orders,” LeeAnn said. “I’m so happy to be able to do this for people.”  

LeeAnn shared that she is able to get a pair done in roughly an hour and offers them in adult and kids sizes. She can usually get one to three pairs from a sweater depending on size and material. She has also done pillows out of loved one’s shirts as well. There is approximately a two-week turnaround right now for smittens with a cost of $35. Local pick up is available but she can also pack and ship them to your loved ones as well.

Additionally, LeeAnn is accepting donations of old sweaters to be used toward mitten making as well.

You can reach LeeAnn on her Sconnes Smittens Facebook Page or at 608-485-1008.