Calexico resident Sandra Tauler’s crocheted doll depicting the iconic image of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders during President Joe Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration ceremony is shown. Tauler has been making the doll for friends and patrons who have contacted her on Facebook. | SANDRA TAULER PHOTO
CALEXICO — Some might say the “Bernie Mittens” meme has outlived its shelf life, but there’s no denying it’s become a cultural movement and produced some mighty iconic imagery along the way.
For Calexico resident Sandra Tauler, she’s been having fun “feeling the Bern” since the craze went viral just days after the Jan. 20 inauguration of President Joe Biden, the event that produced the memorable moment captured by Agence France-Presse photographer Brendan Smialowksi.
Like many artisans across America, Tauler has brought that image to life. An expert with a crochet hook and a ball of yarn, the avid crafter and retired Calexico librarian and Community Services Department director was creating her own version of the “Bernie Mittens” figure within days of the photo becoming an internet staple.
Type “Bernie Mittens” in Etsy and be prepared to go into a diabetic coma, or at least suffer a huge toothache, as hundreds upon hundreds of items emblazoned with the idealistic former Presidential candidate and independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders cause the eyes to glaze over.
It’s like a virtual waterfall of T-shirts, coffee cups, Valentine’s Day cards, key chains, prayer candles, and on and on, printed, painted, carved, and embroidered with the little old man in a parka, hands folded over his chest in multi-hued, gifted mittens, looking as uncomfortable there as he does everywhere.
Today, Tauler is still taking orders and selling the dolls, which take quite a bit of time for her to produce. While we’re not here to sell her wares (she can be found on Facebook), we did want to get her take on the craze and her place in crocheting the cute little creations.
Clearly there is a desire for the dolls, and Imperial Valley residents aren’t immune from being swept up in this frenzy. Case in point, we created a couple of Bernie Mittens memes and posted them to both the Calexico Chronicle and Holtville Tribune social media pages on Jan. 21. Bernie at Border Friendship Park reached nearly 12,000 people and Bernie outside George’s Pizza in Holtville saw some 6,000 impressions, not to mention the reach of Instagram.
Tauler, whose been retired from the city of Calexico for about a year and half, joined us for a Q&A about the beloved “Bernie Mittens” dolls. Crafting and crocheting is something she has been involved in for years, and since retirement, she’s had plenty of time to follow her pursuits.
“I am loving it! I am amazed at his busy I still am. I have been crocheting since I was a kid — but I started crocheting a lot about 15 years (ago). Then about 10 years ago, we started a crochet club at the Recreation Department,” Tauler wrote in a message. “Anyone interested in one of my crochet dolls can reach me through Facebook. I make a lot more than Bernie dolls.”
Q&A with Sandra Tauler:
How did you come to knit these cool Bernie dolls?
Let me start by clarifying that knitting and crocheting are different (not interchangeable) … I crochet. Crochet is done with a hook and knitting is done with two needles. I have been crocheting for many years, thus most people who know me know that about me. When the Bernie doll suddenly became popular, many people started sharing/posting and tagging me on the picture. I thought it would be fun to make one. A few days later I had finished the doll!
We can see that you’re an expert with a crochet needle. How much work goes into such an intricate piece?
This particular pattern is very intricate and detailed, so it takes eight to 10 hours to make.
I can imagine they are a pretty hot item. How many have you made so far?
I have only finished a couple so far but have 10 in production. I’m doing them assembly-line style — 10 of each, so when I assemble, I will finish all 10 rapidly. I will be making then in batches of 10 to fill my orders.
Tell us a little bit about what you get out of crocheting/knitting. It seems like it would be a pretty relaxing thing to do?
Crocheting has always been very relaxing for me. It also gives me a sense of satisfaction every time I finish a project.
What do you think of the whole “Bernie Mittens” craze? And of Sen. Sanders himself?
No political comment on Senator Sanders. Sorry. The craze with the mittens and the picture of him at the inauguration is topical for this time when social media explodes such things. Anything can go viral. His mittens were a unique choice for the occasion.
(Editor’s note: For those who might now know, the knitted mittens were handmade for Sanders by Vermont schoolteacher Jen Ellis.)
Do you have a favorite Bernie Mittens meme or items yourself, besides your own doll, of course?
My favorite is Bernie at the Camarena Memorial Library!
See a photo gallery below featuring some of the most creative (and homegrown) versions of the “Bernie Mittens” meme.