An Awesome Mitten Christmas List: 8 Great Michigan-Made Gifts

Today, guest blogger Erin Berhnard from The Awesome Mitten tells us about some great Michigan-made gifts to keep in mind as you start to cross items off your shopping list this holiday season.

At The Awesome Mitten, we encourage our readers to support local shops and start-ups to help revitalize the Michigan economy; as a state, we have the capacity to rebuild ourselves just by buying nearby. Team Awesome learned about some amazing new products this year, so we’ve compiled a list of some of our favorites in hopes that Santa is reading.

Photo courtesy of Teamwork Bags

1) Teamwork Bags: Founded in 2006 and with a recently updated website and online ordering system, Teamwork has expanded its operations to give every purchaser statewide his or her own eco-friendly bag. The Nicks (Stockton and Stygstra, the company’s founders) started making bags out of old sails, military canvas remnants, and other recycled materials and found a market for everything they sewed through pop-up shops throughout West Michigan.

Must-have item: Waxed Canvas Classic Tote, $45.99

2) High Five Threads: After the opening of their second store in downtown Traverse City and their acquisition of Two Bays, High Five Threads seems to be having the best year ever. H5T achieves their mission of creating high-quality goods and supporting local entrepreneurship with every piece of apparel they create; everything is designed and printed in Michigan and made in the US.

Must-have item: Classic Sweatpant in Royal, $35

3) Mittenfest: December 2013 marks the eighth annual Mittenfest in Ypsilanti and, after a successful first S’Mittenfest this summer, the festival is sure to be a knockout. Originally created as a one-day event, Mittenfest is now a weeklong celebration of Michigan music and holiday cheer during the week between Christmas and New Year’s. The festival exists to benefit 826 Michigan, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting students ages 6 to 18 with their creative and expository writing skills.

Must-have item: Tons of tickets, $10 each per night

4) Handmade Kalamazoo: Handmade Kalamazoo gives local artisans a network within which to create, market, and sell their goods. The marketplace thrives through grants such as the Kalamazoo Foundation’s ChangeMakers grant, which allows Handmade Kalamazoo to open pop-up shops throughout the downtown area.

Must-have item: Pleasant Peninsula t-shirt, $25

5) Shinola: Shinola opened their watch factory in downtown Detroit after vetting locations around the world. Why? Because Detroit has a great manufacturing legacy as well as the promise of a great future. A great statement to Michigan-made, Shinola is glad to have landed in such an up-and-coming city and makes the watches, bicycles, and leather goods to prove it.

Must-have item: Leather Card Wallet, $80

6) Shaggy’s Copper Country Skis: Shaggy’s is handcrafting both custom and mass-market ski lines for skiers in Michigan and beyond. Their brand-new factory in Boyne City is churning out skis for the upcoming season; purchase a limited edition pair and get a free season pass to Mount Bohemia! Keep watching the company for the launch of Shaggy’s longboards in spring 2014.

Must have item: a pair of Tubbys, $449 or $600 in the Mount Bohemia Colab package

7) Libations: How can we pick just one, with so many amazing craft brews, wines, and spirits being made in this great state? Among our favorites are:

-Brys Estate: This winery on Old Mission Peninsula has a Pinot Noir that is a consistent gold medal and best in class winner, directing the international wine market’s attention to Michigan reds.

-Ore Dock Brewing Company and Blackrocks Brewery: These two Marquette breweries recently got the go-ahead to start canning their beers for wide distribution, meaning we’ll no longer have to make the trek to the 906 to get great UP beer!

-Traverse City Whiskey Company: A smooth and creamy whiskey out of Traverse City is planting roots downtown, with plans to expand its distillery and open a tasting room in the recently dubbed “SoFo” neighborhood.

Must-have item: a little bit of everything!

8) The Awesome Mitten Crate: We’ve partnered with our friends at Mitten Crate to bring some of our favorite goodies to you in one convenient, easy-to-ship Awesome Mitten Crate!

We’ve included everything from Dave’s Sweet Tooth Toffee  to Noteware Candy Company’s Michigan-Shaped Chocolates, as well as a limited edition Awesome Mitten t-shirt and some surprises to boot.

Must-have item: a crate for me and for my favorite people, $65 each

This is obviously only the beginning of the list of amazing Michigan-made products available for the holidays.

What’s your favorite local product?

Erin Bernhard is the Managing Editor for The Awesome Mitten. She’s a northern Michigan twenty-something who loves good microbrews, great wine, summertime grillouts, and well-roasted coffee. She is also a dedicated yoga practitioner, social media and marketing enthusiast, reader and writer, local food junkie, and outdoors explorer–and she’s always adding to the list. She is located in Traverse City and loves helping to make her hometown shine. Check out her portfolio, follow her on Twitter, connect with her on Facebook.

Manistee’s 24th Annual Victorian Sleighbell Parade and Old Christmas Weekend

Holiday spirit is in the air across Michigan, with many festive events on the horizon – including the Victorian Sleigh Bell Parade & Old Christmas Weekend in Manistee. Today, the Manistee County Convention & Visitors Bureau fills us in on this family-friendly event, which is coming up next weekend.

Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire, I’m Dreaming Of A White Christmas, Yuletide Carols, One-Horse Open Sleigh, Jingle Bells, Pipers Piping . . .

The images from our favorite Christmas holiday lyrics will be joyfully brought to life at the 24th Annual Victorian Sleighbell Parade and Old Christmas Weekend, December 6 to 9 in the City of Manistee in northwest Lower Michigan.  There are dozens of events, some beginning the previous weekend, some are daily and some are ongoing.  Here’s a sample of what you can expect during that Happy Holidays week.

The highlight of the festival is the Victorian Sleighbell Parade at 5:30 p.m., Saturday December 8. Authentic, true-to-period with Victorian costumes, horse-drawn floats, turn-of-the-century characters and two community Christmas trees, pulled by horse teams down River Street.  Follow the Community Christmas Tree to the end of the parade route for the Tree Lighting Ceremony and Holiday Carol Sing-a-Long. 

The parade follows a days-long schedule of events that begin Friday Nov. 30 with the opening of Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” at the Ramsdell Theatre.  Other events include visits with Santa; carriage rides; the Historic River Street Merchant Open House with holiday food and drinks; a Storefront Gingerbread House Competition; Jingle Bell Jog 5k run/walk; Downtown Soup Cook Off; Sleighbell Prince and Princess Pageant; Festival of Trees; Victorian Dessert Concert by the Manistee Choral Society and a special Christmas During Wartime exhibit at the Manistee County Historical Museum.

Don’t miss the “Sled Dog Express” which more than makes up for the absence of Dasher and Dancer and Donner and Blitzen; Cookie Fun; craft show and bazaar; Michigan Audubon Chickadee Christmas at Lake Bluff Bird Sanctuary; Sleighbell Chocolate Shop; guided tours of Manistee’s architectural beauties; Manistee Community Band Christmas Concert; Kiwanis Kops; Muskegon Regional Police Pipes & Drums; Annual Jingle Mingle at the Ramsdell Inn; Victorian church services; “Visions of Sugar Plums” art exhibit from Manistee County’s K-12 students and the Guardian Angels Bell Tower Concert. 

And that’s not all! While you may not associate Opera with Christmastime, a generous donor has provided the where-with-all for the Ramsdell Theatre to simulcast live in HD Metropolitan Opera Theatre productions with shows Dec. 1, 8 and 15.  There are also special events in our charming small towns around the county, like Bear Lake’s Sparkle in the Park, which creates a Holiday Light Show at Waterfront Park.  So you can make your list and check it twice, information and the schedule for all of these events can easily be found at

While our architecture and history bring to mind the olden days of this Victorian Port City on the shores of the Great Lake Michigan, there’s nothing formal or stodgy about the fun and festivities ahead or the warmth and hospitality from our citizens and shopkeepers.  Come join us.  We do small town festivals in a big way.  And dress warmly.  Most likely, Jack Frost will be nipping at our noses.

Will you be heading to Manistee for their Victorian Sleighbell Parade and Old Christmas Weekend celebration? Share with us below! For more holiday-related events in your community, visit