In the midst of preparing meals everyday, two of the most-used items in my kitchen are my potholders. They are seemingly in constant demand at the stove, oven, and table. Sadly, they are also one of the last things to get replaced when they wear out! They just seem to escape my notice when I am not using them. As I contemplated my very badly-worn potholders, I decided to make another set of denim potholders that would compliment the one I had already made.
Potholders are very simple to make from old clothing that you have around the house. The only real caution that should be observed when choosing what fabrics to use is that they need to be made of natural fibers. If the tag is missing from a garment you would like to use, test the fiber content by holding a small scrap of it near a candle flame. If the fabric wants to smoke and burn, it should be fine for this project. If it melts, it is made of synthetic fibers and would not be suitable for the high temperatures that a potholder would come into contact with. I chose to work with old denim overalls, parts of felted wool sweaters, and some strips of a man’s dress shirt.
I began by tracing a paper pattern of my current potholders, which were a pocket-style so that there was a place to slide your hand inside. They were a nice size and have worked well, so I saw no need to alter the basic size or shape. The only thing I changed was the front pocket. Since the pair of overalls that I was redeeming had sizable rear pockets, I decided to use those instead of cutting new pieces. (For the sake of clarity, I need to state that I made a new matched set, so my instructions from here to the end of the article will refer to two potholders.) After I had cut the front pockets and the fronts and backs for the back sections out of the denim, I turned my attention to cutting the inner lining (the piece that insulates the hand). As I said, I chose to use felted wool sweater, but if that is not available, other materials like old cotton terrycloth towels or pieces of cotton sweatshirt cut and stacked together should also work. I used the same pattern I had used to cut the outside fabric and cut enough sweater pieces to make reasonably sure that the pad would be thick enough to insulate my hand.
Since I was using the old pockets from my overalls at the front of my new potholders, I wanted to make sure that there was some insulation in them as well as in the back. I cut two thin, felted sweater pieces, enclosed them in the pockets, and sewed the pockets closed. The fronts of my pot holders were pretty much done. Then I turned my attention to the back pieces. I decided to quilt the pieces of denim and sweater together, so I drew some simple lines on the front of the denim in pencil (these are a little hard to see), stacked and pinned all the layers together and stitched along my lines. The multiple layers do want to creep around some, so be sure that you have pinned the pieces well and don’t sew too quickly.
With my front and back sections completed, I needed to have something to cover the raw edges along the sides once I had stitched the sections together. For this I made some homemade bias “tape.” I used the back of a man’s old dress shirt which, though not 100% cotton, was enough of a blend of natural fibers to work as an edging. I like working with men’s dress shirts for something like this because many of them have a plaid pattern, which makes cutting them evenly very simple. They also tend to look the same on both sides of the fabric, making them perfect for jobs like this. Bias tape is made by cutting diagonal strips from the fabric and stitching them together until you have enough for your project. The strips that I cut were about an inch-and-a-half wide. To connect them together they need to be overlapped and stitched together as the above photo demonstrates. After I had stitched all my strips together, I ironed all the seams open and then ironed a quarter-inch fold (towards the side with the seams pressed open) all the way down the length of one side.
With my bias tape made, I was ready to add it to my potholders. I folded over a small flap on the end of my tape (this makes a nice edge on the front when you are through), and starting at the top and matching the raw-edged side of the tape to the raw edge of my back piece, I pinned the tape all the way around and cut off the excess when I reached the top again. Because my overall pocket fronts already had a “finished” edge that I did not want to cover under the bias tape, I only pinned the tape to the back piece. If you are making a single layer fold-over style potholder, you will also be pinning the tape to the single piece. But if you are making a pocket style and your front piece also has raw edges, you need to stack the front and back together and then pin the bias tape on top as shown in the photo. Then I stitched the tape in place. Before I folded the tape to the back, I added my pocket piece to the front and stitched it down. Then I folded the folded-edge of the tape to the back of the holder and hand-stitched it in place.
My final step was to cut a length of one of the top-stitched seams from the overalls and form hanging loops from it to sew to the tops of my pot holders. Because of the overall pockets that I used, my new holders are slightly smaller than my old ones, but outside of that, they are working very well. And they were completely free except for my thread!
This project brought to mind Malachi 4:1&2, “For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the LORD of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root not branch. But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings…”. It is comforting to me to think that there is coming a day when evil and wickedness will be no more. At one point in my life, I would have had to fear this day, because I would have had to count myself as one of the wicked. But because I have trusted in the name of Jesus Christ as my Savior, I no longer need fear the penalty of my sin. Like my hot pads absorb the heat from my hot dishes, He faced the heat of God’s judgment for me, and I now stand protected by the sacrifice He made on my behalf. Now I can look forward to the day when the “Sun of righteousness (shall) arise with healing in his wings”!