Red Olympic Mittens or Red China Blues?

by: EJ on 02/24/2010
Posted in: Sustainable Living

(apologies to Jan Wong for "mixing" her book title with my headline!)

When I was in Vancouver last weekend, I had serious red mitten envy. Those fancy red mitts with the white maple leaf and Olympic rings were everywhere and on everyone! From the Prince of Wales to Oprah, those toasty little beacons of Canadian patriotism were fluttering everywhere I could see - except on the ends of my arms. I had black gloves, how boring.

Despite my envy though, I just didn't feel right buying the mittens. Obviously, the contract to produce this many mittens must have been with a developing country (they are made in China) and probably under doubtful conditions as these economies of scale always seem to benefit the developed country. $10 for a pair of mitts purchased at The Bay probably does not translate into a very good weekly wage for whoever put them together in China. Also, I don't need another pair of mitts, red and trendy not withstanding.

Just where have those mitts come from? What factories manufactured them? Google search results just let me know that most Canadians didn't realize Canada doesn't mass produce anything like 2 million red mitts and were shocked and disappointed to find their mitts not made in Canada. I guess most Canadians don't read their labels very often or understand the global manufacturing world. I tell my son that somewhere in China there must be cities dedicated to teddy bear making (and probably mitt making too now!). Has anyone found information on the source of this red woolly tide that is sweeping the nation?

But never fear, for those of you constrained by your ethical buying consciences, I have found a slightly more ethical source of red woolly Olympic mittens! The Canadian Red Mittens Shop! The Red Mittens Shop is a 100% Canadian website, designed and built by a Canadian family on Vancouver Island, B.C., Canada.

Here is how it all got started:

We watched on TV as millions of Canadians were disappointed to find that the fabulous red mitts, with the charming little white maple leaf surprisingly tucked into the palm, were NOT AVAILABLE. We decided to launch this friendly, helpful little 'hand knit' website to gather up all the mittens that were still for sale somewhere, so that people could get their mitts on a pair of those red mitts! So far, as of Feb 20, 2010, over 2000 people from ALL OVER THE WORLD have managed to find themselves a pair. We never expected to be hosting an international website, but it soon became apparent that the whole world was shopping for a pair of the Canada red mittens. It has been our greatest pleasure to have been contacted by mittens shoppers from every country, sometimes not in English or French. We have a great MAC computer that translates any language for us - that is really cool! It is opportunities like these, where a Canadian heart is warmed to a full blaze. How wonderful to 'meet', via the internet, every day citizens of planet earth and have the chance to say to them with a big 'web style' Canadian smile, ":-D "Sure thing! I'll can give you a hand with that!" :-D"

All advertising revenues from the site are going to support the Special Olympics Games on Vancouver Island.

If that still isn't ethical enough for you (all these mittens were still made in China after all) for $5.00, you can download the knitting pattern by Canadian knitter Rachel Bearse, and make your own red (or perhaps purple) mitts, from homespun sheep wool dyed in beet juice!

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