Sully’s Softies: Premium Sweater Mittens & Other Recycled Wool Creations
The saying “Mittens warm the hands, family warms the heart” speaks true to Shawnee, Kansas mother Karen Sullivan. It was not long after Sullivan moved with her husband and son to Kansas City from San Francisco in 1998 when she realized although she was still a California girl at heart, Kansas City winters require extra warmth, which is exactly what she created.
“When we moved to Kansas from California, my son at the time was a one year old and he’s 22 years old now but all through the years of him being in school he was in sports whether it was football or track. Being out in the freezing cold watching my son play sports, I couldn’t stand that my hands were freezing,” Sullivan said. “I couldn’t find any gloves or mittens that would keep my hands warm so I started making them for myself and then the other moms saw how warm they were and they wanted them and then it just kept growing from there.”
A hobby, Sullivan says, quickly turned into a part-time gig and the birth of her brand Sully’s Softies.
“I work full time at The Kansas City Country Club in the fitness business so I just wanted to get to the creative side of my brain. I did a lot of sewing when I was younger and in 2012, I started selling items as part of a creative outlet,” Sullivan said. “The word Sully’s comes from my last name and softies is a term in England for stuffed animals. I used to make stuffed animals before discovering my passion for sweater mittens.”
“Sully’s Softies mittens are made of no less than 80% wool and they’re felted. The insides are one layer of anti-pill fleece, and one layer of that really soft Sherpa-type fleece, that’s what you feel when your hands go inside. I usually try to find vintage buttons or thrift store buttons at flea markets and garage sales for my mittens,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan has turned an upstairs room of her home, overlooking her backyard, into a crafter’s heaven, complete with a sewing machine, embroidery machine, and a fitting sign that says “Keep Calm And Craft On.” She makes sure that every pair of mittens are unique to each customer by doing a lot of small, detailed techniques by rounding out the edges and adding embroidery and embellishments.
“I’ve had some sweaters given to me and several times I’ve had people give me sweaters from people that have passed away and they want to treasure their memory. I’ve also had people just give me some of their favorite sweaters and I like to call those ‘Memory Mittens’. I’ve had friends and neighbors drop bags of sweaters on my front porch and I like to call them my sweater fairies,” Sullivan said.
“I’ve been in Kansas for twenty years now and moving from California was hard at first but I love the changing seasons and it’s exciting to have something different to look forward to,” Sullivan said. “Some of my mittens are Kansas City-related and that supports the whole thought of our community as makers. I like being part of the makers that are in Kansas City and that whole vibe. We put our heart and love into what we do, it’s not something that’s mass-market produced. I’m thinking of the person while I’m making the mittens and I’m thinking of the person that wore the sweater as well. I like the circle of recycling but also the circle of community,” Sullivan said.
To view all of Karen’s latest creations be sure to follow Sully’s Softies on Facebook and Instagram.
Words & Photos: Ellen Leinwetter