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.

Fun and Friendship at South Haven’s Women’s Only Weekend

The gals are taking over South Haven! November 8th-10th is Women’s Only Weekend. Groups of gal pals will hit the shops, restaurants, and local attractions in downtown South Haven to enjoy each others company and be entertained. Guest blogger Lisa Shanley gives us the scoop on this fun-filled ladies-only getaway. 

If November 15th is opening day of firearm deer hunting season in Michigan and all of the Michigan men supposedly head to the woods, then it stands to reason that the women of Michigan should lay claim to an opening day in their own right. Well, they have!

Head to South Haven, Michigan on November 8th and see for yourself why over 300 women have converged here!  Believe me, the excitement of opening day at  South Haven’s Women’s Only Weekend is better than “bagging your first buck!” With over 50 activities packed into three days, it’s important to establish your “base camp” early. Translation – book your room! Just like antlers, they come in all shapes and sizes. Choose from historic B&B’s, family resorts, waterfront inns, or a vacation rental that will sleep all of your gal pals.

Next, you’ll want to buy your “license to hunt” – also known as your Women’s Only Weekend Ticket. These can be purchased online for just $60 per person. Aside from lodging and meals, this is all you’ll need to get into most weekend events.

Now, comes the best part – staking out your territory! With so much going on, you and your group of gals will want to zero in on your targets early. Check the schedule on the home page of the visitors’ bureau website. Whether it’s shopping downtown, tasting wine, taking in classic chick flicks or just kicking back in your room with a glass of wine and a novel,  this weekend is all yours so do what you want at your own pace!

With so much shopping, entertainment and fun; the “Sisterhood is Powerful” Brunch sponsored by Midwest Living Magazine is a top draw on Sunday, and is also included with the price of your ticket this year!

In the world of “Buck Pole Contests” – you know the ones where all the men proudly display their hunt side by side to see who shot the largest buck – well, we can top that too! At the end the weekend, the women with the most shopping bags will be entered into the WOW Shopping “Hall of Fame!” It might not be a Boone and Crocket big game record buck, but when you open the next credit card bill, let’s compare who had the most fun. WOW, I guess we win!

Where do you like to go for a fun-filled Pure Michigan getaway with your friends? 

Lisa Shanley is the executive director of the South Haven/Van Buren County CVB, past president of the Michigan Association of Convention & Visitor Bureaus, and marketing chair for the Michigan Beachtowns Association. Lisa and her all-star team at the CVB have been promoters, partners, volunteers, and participants of South Haven’s Women’s Only Weekend for the past three years! 

Traverse City: A Holiday Shopper’s Dream

Jennifer Lake loves to shop almost any time of year – but she’s especially enthusiastic when it comes to picking out the “perfect” holiday presents for family and friends. Luckily, she happens to live in Traverse City, where the opportunities for creative shopping multiply exponentially this time of year. Below, she shares a few of her recommendations.

For more ideas on places to shop and visit in Traverse City, visit

Right now, I’m doing everything in my power to resist the leftover Halloween candy that’s sitting just out of reach on my desk. The most helpful technique?  Distracting myself with thoughts of what lies ahead.

I’m not talking about snow (did I really see flurries this morning?!), I’m talking about the holidays and all that they entail: the family gatherings, the mouthwatering food and – oh yes, the shopping!  Admittedly, I’m a shopping enthusiast. I take pride in making the perfect purchase, and I love finding things that can’t be found anywhere else. Being a designer, it’s just engrained in my psyche to seek out the unique, colorful surprise that brings a smile to the people whose names are on my list.

Fortunately, I don’t have to go far to find those special treats for my loved ones (or myself) this year, because here in Traverse City, the holiday shopping is very hip! It’s true that TC doesn’t have big malls or zillions of choices of department stores, but what we lack in quantity we certainly make up for in quality. This is a place full of boutique shops and unique markets that make holiday shopping a downright joy! It’s got one-of-a-kind items, friendly shop owners and affordability. What more could one want?

If you’ve been to Traverse City before, you know that the downtown district is brimming with old favorites and new stores to delight all kinds of cravings, especially when it comes to fashion, food, and furnishings. I could spend all morning browsing the wonders of Horizon Books and make my rounds to Sweet Pea (for my one year old), then What To Wear (for me) and on to several of the new salon boutiques (for friends) until I land myself in Amical for much needed nourishment and a big ol’ glass of red wine. And then my shopping frenzy really starts to get interesting.

I’ve found that some of the best shopping in Traverse is popping up in the revitalized Warehouse District, the Village at Grand Traverse Commons, and at the increasingly growing number of artist markets around town. In the Warehouse District (Hall and Garland) I keep discovering amazing gift ideas like terrariums at the Green Room, eclectic decor goodies at The Red Dresser and plenty of stylish socks and accessories at freshly opened  Relish. The Grand Traverse Commons  continues to surprise me with new stores like 27 Stitches (local, handcrafted gifts and yummy yarn) and great collections of jewelry at Silver Fox Jewelry and Gallery Fifty. (Did someone say Fordite? I’m there!)

Finally, indie art markets are becoming very trendy in the area this year, and it’s exciting to see the talent and variety of items available at these events. I hit the local Makers Market in September and I’m already plotting to attend next year with my organic knapsack ready to fill. This weekend I’m headed to The Children’s House Holiday Art Market to get my fix of adorable winter hats and scarves, pottery, soaps and ornaments – all handmade, all one-of-kind, all made right here in Traverse.

And did I mention that this shopping experience is beautifully enhanced by incredibly helpful people, no line-waiting and the numerous cozy restaurants that seem to appear around every corner just when you need a break? Traverse City shopping is a package deal! So, in case you need another excuse to visit our lovely city this season, put on your boots (from Robert Frost) and find out what holiday shopping is really all about. It’s not a chore, it’s a celebration!

‘Tis the Season, after all.

Guest blogger Jennifer Lake is the founder of Brand Tonic, a boutique design and branding firm giving a daily dose of creativity to businesses throughout Michigan. Talk with her at