[Editor’s Note: Today we have a guest entry by Tim Merkley, who’s going to tell us about his completely wonderful DIY project. Most of the photos can be clicked to enlarge. Enjoy. ”” PL]
By Tim Merkley
Back in 1998, my wife, who’s very craft-y, was making homemade Christmas ornaments by cutting out small pieces of cardboard in the shape of a mitten (3.75″ x 2.5″, or 9.5 x 6 cm) and then adorning them with glued-on pieces of felt in Christmas-themed colors, patterns, and designs. A clothespin glued onto the back enabled the ornaments to be clipped onto branches of our Christmas tree.
I decided to take a crack at it. As a longtime fan of hockey uniforms, I thought it would be fun to make an ornament with based on a Toronto Maple Leafs sweater — a blue leaf on a white background. The result was crude but (I thought) successful, so I made a Montreal Canadiens mitten the next year, ten more the year after that, and since then it’s been a Christmas tradition to get out the box of felt in December and make more “sweater mittens.” Over the years I’ve honed my technique, adding more care and precision to the cutting and replicating each hockey sweater as closely as possible, matching not only the crest but the hem striping and shoulder yokes as well.
Around 2003, I came up with an idea: The mittens all had a blank area on the back next to the clothespin — how difficult would it be to get that space autographed by a hockey player who had actually worn the sweater that the mitten’s design was based on? For example, here’s a mitten based on the Boston Bruins’ 1935-36 uniform (the oldest design in my collection):
On the back is an autograph from Ray Getliffe, who played left wing on that Bruins team (and is now, unfortunately, deceased):
As you can see, the signature is on a little white sticker. I put the stickers on the back of the mittens to better define the space where the player is expected to sign (to ensure there will still be room to add the clothespin), and to also provide a clean background for the signature.
I began attending autograph signings to get the ornaments signed, but that became prohibitively expensive. I soon found that the best way to go is mailing blank pieces of mitten-shaped cardboard to the players. The players autograph the cardboard mittens and mail them back to me, and then I can add the proper sweater design on the front. It’s exciting to come home and find letters from all over the world (I’ve received them from 20 different countries), each containing a new autograph — and it’s free! An added bonus is that the players often include handwritten notes, cards, and photos along with their autographs.
Over the past 18 years, I’ve made over two hundred of these mittens, each autographed by an appropriate player. My collection has expanded to include all-star sweaters, the WHA, minor league and junior hockey teams, and teams from the Olympics and the Canada Cup:
The autographs on the back come from players who range from current NHLers (Carey Price, Alex Ovechkin) and Hall of Famers (Jean Beliveau, Bobby Hull) to career minor leaguers and obscure Finnish goalies from the 1976 Canada Cup. One of my favorites is this mitten based on the sweater worn by the 1960 Japanese Olympic team, which is autographed on the back by Shoichi Tomita, who played goalie on that team and signed his name in Japanese characters:
In some cases, the mittens represent the sweater a player wore in a particular season or tournament. But sometimes they represent a single game or historical landmark, such as Paul Henderson’s Team Canada sweater from Sept. 28, 1972, when he scored the Summit Series-winning goal, or the Bruins sweater worn by Willie O’Ree on Jan. 18, 1958, when he broke the NHL’s color barrier. Here’s a look at that one:
Unlike some of the other DIY projects featured on Uni Watch (such as Wafflebored’s impressive projects), the mittens themselves aren’t particularly complicated or labor-intensive to make. Most of the effort comes beforehand, in obtaining the autographs and researching the sweater designs. Thankfully, NHL and WHA sweater history is easily accessible (NHLuniforms.com and WHAuniforms.com have been invaluable resources), but tracking down the designs from older international tournaments can be a challenge. I’ve spent countless hours conducting Google image searches for uniform details such as which color shoulder striping was used on the West German sweaters in the 1956 Olympics.
Once I’ve chosen which mitten to make, I think out the design. In most cases, this is straightforward enough — crest + hem striping + shoulder yoke (if applicable). If the player was a captain or alternate captain, I try to incorporate his captaincy designation into the design as well:
But sometimes the designs are much more complex, such as the one for this 1992 French Olympic sweater:
To show you my working process, let’s look at the 1973-74 Pittsburgh Penguins road jersey worn by goaltender Andy Brown. Brown was a journeyman goalkeeper who played 62 NHL games for the Red Wings and Penguins in the early 1970s. His final NHL game in Atlanta on April 7, 1974, was notable for a reason that might be interesting to Uni Watch readers: It was the last time an NHL goalie played without a mask.
I begin by gathering the appropriate felt colors and the blank piece of mitten-shaped cardboard with the autograph on the back. If necessary, I also print up a copy of the logo to use as a guide:
I usually attempt to cut out letters and shapes freehand, but in this case I used printed guides for the triangle and the outline of the penguin.
Next, I glue the cardboard to the main felt backing color and cut it out, and then do the same for the logo and other elements:
I then create the logo from the separate elements, building up layers of felt to create outlines as necessary:
Then I add additional details — in this case, the penguin’s stomach, gloves, stick, and beak — until the logo is complete. I have recently purchased special snips to perform this type of precision cutting:
The next step is to add the appropriate striping and shoulder yoke to the background color:
I always wait to glue on the logo last to ensure it is centered correctly. Once I do that, the final step is to glue the clothespin onto the back:
The clothespin actually has no real function anymore, because I no longer clip the mittens to a Christmas tree, but it serves as a connection to the very first crude mittens that I made. The sweater mitten would simply feel incomplete without the clothespin.
In this case, though, I clipped the finished Penguins sweater to a tree, just to show it off for Uni Watch readers:
I consider a mitten to be a success if the sweater it represents is easily recognizable. I do not want them to be perfect (and they cannot be, due to the limitations posed by the felt material and the shape/size of the mitten template), but I find part of their charm to be that they are so obviously imperfect. They are an attempt to combine an obsessive, nerdy level of detail with the messiness of a felt craft project. And making them has brought me much joy over the past 18 years.
My rate of acquiring autographs has far outstripped my work pace on the mittens — I now have about 500 autographs on blank cardboard that are waiting to be turned into sweaters. So this project will likely be continuing for a long time.
Oh, man — I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that this is one of the greatest projects ever featured here on Uni Watch. Big, big thanks to Tim for sharing his excellent hobby with us. Tremendous stuff.
Important T-Shirt Club reminder: If you collected all six of this year’s Uni Watch T-Shirt Club designs, you qualify for the year-end prize — a patch based on the jock tag graphic that appeared on this year’s shirts. In order to claim your prize, you must send me proof that you purchased all six shirts by the end of this week. The proof can be photos of the shirts or screen shots of your “Thank you for your order” emails from Teespring and Represent. Send your proof to me here. Thanks.
Raffle reminder: In case you missed it last week, the annual Uni Watch year-end reader-appreciation raffle is now underway. Enjoy.
By Brinke Guthrie
Here we are, just a few days to go before Christmas and Hanukkah, so we start off this week with a 1966 San Francisco 49ers Christmas card. It would be great to bring back that retro logo, but the 49ers have bigger priorities after this season’s mega-disaster.
Now let’s see what’s in Santa’s bag this week:
• The yellow outline is emphasized in this 1970s Steelers promo glass from your friends at Channel 11.
• Here’s one for Paul: a 1970s N.Y. Nets bumper sticker sponsored by the A to Z Equipment Corp. “Rebound With The N.Y. Nets!” [I did indeed see the Nets play back in the Dr. J era when I was growing up. Good times. ”” PL]
• This K.C. Chiefs sideline jacket from the 1960s or ’70s just proves that this is one timeless design.
• Want another old-school design from the sidelines? No problem — check out this Philadelphia Eagles jacket from the early 1970s. And sticking with Philly, we have another Sears item — this Eagles sweatshirt!
• Always loved the way mid-1970s NFL pennants depicted the helmets. Up until then, it was basically a bare bones profile of a helmet with a single bar face mask. This NY Giants version presents an entirely new “pennant style.” Here’s another style of helmet used on pennants of the same period — never seen this version until now as shown for the Bengals.
• Speaking of the Giants, why can’t they bring back this mid-1970s “NY” look as an alternate, as seen on this medallion? Wouldn’t even violate the one-shell rule.
• And one more for the Bengals: This women’s sweater is a size extra-small, and sure looks like another Sears design from where I sit.
• Another long-lost (and lamented) logo, this time for the Quebec Nordiques on this white pullover.
• San Diego Trust & Savings Bank was the sponsor for this mid-1970s Padres cooler bag. It plugged something called “7/24 ’Round the Clock Banking.” Also, “Push Button Banking,” and “The Teller That Works Harder Than Humanly Possible.” Back then, you see, the ATM was a newfangled innovation!
That’ll do it. No Collector’s Corner next week, so we’ll see you in 2017. Until then, the staff of Collector’s Corner (um, me) wishes you a very happy holiday season and a happy new year!
By Mike Chamernik
Baseball News: The Staten Island Yankees will not change their name. The team was in the process of a name change but cancelled that plan. Further info here. … Sports Illustrated flipped this image of reliever Billy Wagner. He’s actually a lefty (from Jonathan Sellers).
NFL News: Couple of notes from last night’s MNF game: Panthers RB Jonathan Stewart’s facemask fell off after a run play (from Mak Popa). … Both Cam Newton and Greg Olsen had small marks or logos on the upper right face of their hand warmers. It might be a digital display (from Andy Connelly and Cork Gaines). … Newton wore Family F1rst cleats and Washington’s Ricky Jean Francois wore Sager Strong cleats during pregame warmups. … The Warriors’ Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry wore their favorite teams’ jerseys. … Cameron Wake wore an outdated (and Pinktober-themed) Dolphins hoodie after Saturday’s game against the Jets. The Dolphins last used that logo in 2012 (from an unnamed reader). … Let’s hope that Packers DE Mike Daniels sat in a puddle of water on Sunday (from LeRoy DePas). … Washington’s Fanbulance ”” a team-themed converted ambulance ”” has a new owner (from Tommy Turner). … God bless the National Film Board of Canada. Will Scheibler found some great footage of the 1967 Grey Cup. Will also sends us a collection of old CFL letterheads and a complete set of CFL ice cream helmets from 1976. … A sporting goods store in Eau Claire, Wis., has a neat Christmas tree made of Packers knit hats (from Michael Bialas). … Pirates legend Willie Stargell watched the 1979 AFC Championship Game from the nosebleeds of Three Rivers Stadium (and was that Dave Parker next to him?). “A far cry from LeBron James in his box during the World Series!” writes Jeff Flynn. “Steelers and Pirates players were really tight that year, the ‘City of Champions’ season.”
College Football News: Central Michigan’s NOBs were barely visible last night (from Jonathan Hall). … Here’s what Auburn has worn for each Sugar Bowl appearance throughout its history (from Clint Richardson).
Hockey News: New mask for Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo. … New alternates for the South Carolina Stingrays, a Capitals affiliate. Zach Spencer says that the logo appears to be too high up on the chest. … Good photo gallery here of every uniform worn in the Winter Classic (from Phil).
Basketball News: The Bulls and Pistons went grey-vs.-blue in Chicago last night. Ben Zobrist, the Cubs 2B/OF and World Series MVP, attended the game and received a personalized Bulls jersey. … The Mavericks nearly went through a redesign in the late 1990s. More info here. … During Tim Duncan’s jersey retirement ceremony on Sunday night, the Spurs put 97:16 on the game clock, representing the span of his career from 1997 through 2016 (from @Coach_KT). .. ESPN named the original Air Jordans as the best basketball shoe of all time. The site also told the story of Allen Iverson’s signature shoe, the Reebok Question. … Duquesne wore 1970s throwbacks last night. Here’s a clearer view of the uniform (from Rich Donahue).
Soccer News: Ross Barkley of Everton suffered a torn jersey yesterday (from @black_bile). … Werder Bremen of Bundesliga revealed a Christmas jersey (from Josh Hinton). … Atalanta, an Italian club, will wear a Christmas shirt for its match against Empoli tonight (from Ed Å»elaski). … FIFA fined England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland for wearing poppies on their jerseys during their Armistice Day games in November (from Mark Johnson).
Grab Bag: New logo for NASCAR. The previous logo had been in use since 1976. Also, Monster Energy is the new advertiser of the premier racing series, replacing Sprint. More details here (from David Firestone). … New logo for National League Lacrosse. Here it is in every team’s colors. I think it’s an upgrade. While it doesn’t give even a hint of being lacrosse-related, it’s still much better and more professional than the dated old logo. … An art gallery at New York University has a collection of punk and rock badges and pins (from Adam Herbst). … Michigan State Police are bringing back campaign-style hats next year for the force’s 100th anniversary. The hats were last worn by troopers in the 1920s.