pretty little potholder tutorial :: a DIY step-by-step guide

"Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."

William Morris

* * * * * *

And if your potholders are both useful and beautiful... all the better!

You'll need:

  • 2 pieces of cotton fabric 9 1/2" x 8" for potholder base
  • 2 pieces of cotton fabric 8" x 8" for potholder front
  • 2 pieces of InsulBright or 3 layers cotton batting 9 1/2" x 8" for potholder base
  • 1 piece of InsulBright or cotton batting 8" x 8" for potholder front
  • 1 piece of cotton fabric 2" x 13" for ruffle ( make it longer if you like a really full ruffle )
  • 1 piece of cotton fabric 1 1/2" x 7 1/2" for binding above the ruffle
  • cotton bias binding (must be cut on the bias) 2 1/2" x 44"
  • ribbon or trim to make loop 4"
  • decoration for the potholder front (hexagon flower, fabric patch, ribbon, trim, etc.)
Finished potholder measures 9" x 7 1/2".

Tools I find invaluable but you can get by without them:

Note: I made two hotpads using InsulBright and found that the metallic material inside the batting really does effectively reflect heat back to the pot or dish while the underside stayed cooler. I also made a potholder and discovered that one layer of InsulBright was not enough to comfortably remove a piping hot dish from the oven. Two layers was perfect. So, if you want to make a pretty potholder that really functions (so you don't burn your fingers!) I would use the InsulBright as directed. Now, let's get sewing!

1. Quilt the potholder front. First mark your lines on one piece of the 8" x 8" cotton fabric at a 45 degree angle using your quilt ruler and a pencil or your Hera marker (using a piece of batting beneath to imprint the lines) at a space of 1 1/4" apart. Then mark your opposing lines, again at a 45 degree angle and 1 1/4" apart.

Now layer:

  • 1 piece of 8" x 8" front fabric (print side down)
  • 1 layer of InsulBright (shiny metallic side facing up)
  • 2nd piece of front fabric (print side and marked side up)

I use quilt basting spray to hold this all together and it works like a charm. If you don't have basting spray, I suggest a long easy basting stitch about an inch from the edge to keep the layers from shifting. Quilt along your marked lines and when finished, trim back to a clean 7 1/2" x 7 1/2" square. (If you basted it by hand, now pull out the basting stitches.)

2. Quilt the potholder base. Do the same as above using your base fabric: mark the quilting lines and then layer:

  • 1 piece of 9 1/2" x 8" base fabric (print side down)
  • 2 layers of InsulBright (metallic shiny sides facing outwards)
  • 2nd piece of base fabric (print side and marked side up)

Baste spray (or baste stitch) all the layers together and quilt along the marked lines. Trim back to a clean 9" x 7 1/2" rectangle.

3. Add ruffle to potholder front. Fold your 2" x 13" ruffle strip of cotton in half, lengthwise, and press. Now set your sewing machine to it's longest stitch length and sew a straight line 1/4" in from the long raw edge and leave at least 3" tails on each end. Knot the tails at one end. At the other end, gently tug on the top thread to create the ruffle.

You'll have to fiddle with it a bit ~ pushing the bunches down to the end, adjusting, evening them out ~ getting the ruffle to the right length (7 1/2" in this case). Pin the raw edge of the ruffle to the top edge of your quilted potholder front. Leave 1/2" of the ruffle unruffled at each end.

Sew the ruffle on 1/4" in from the edge.

4. Add the binding above the ruffle. Pin your 1 1/2" x 7 1/2" binding strip atop the ruffle, print side facing down. Sew it on 1/4" from edge. Now press the binding up and over the raw edge to the backside.

On the backside, fold the binding edge under a 1/4" and use your fabric glue stick to hold in place (or use pins to secure.) The binding should be evenly lined up on both front and back so that when you topstitch the front, it secures the binding on the back. Topstitch the front (it is more important that the front look even and neat than the back.)

5. Decorate your potholder front, if you like. As you can see above, I added a few fabric patches and zigzag stitched them in place. In the past, I've appliqued hexagon flowers on by hand (see the Briar Rose potholders), I've added a bit of trim peaking out from beneath the patch (see here), and added trim or labels in random places. What I like about these little potholders is that you really can't go wrong. The sky is the limit ~ decorate as you like!

6. Sew the potholder front to base. Lay the potholder front on potholder base, so that the bottom edges are aligned. I sew at the bottom first, then up one side (slightly less than 1/4" in), backstitching a few times at the top. Then I sew the other side, starting from the bottom up. This all may seem very particular but I do it this way to prevent any awkward shifting of the layers while they're sewn.

7. Create your curved corners. Grab any small circular item in your house (I use an old Jello mold) and trace the curve at all four corners of the potholder. Carefully clip along your traced lines.

8. Zigzag stitch the entire potholder. This keeps the edges smooth and uniform for binding.

9. Add hanging loop (optional). I used cotton/linen ribbon for mine. Turn the potholder over and find the middle at the top. Pin your ribbon on (raw edges aligned with top) equally spaced from the middle point. Sew over the ribbon ends, a little less than 1/4" from the edge, backstitching a few times.

10. Bind with bias cut binding. Your binding must be made with fabric cut on the bias (cross-grain) or it will not wrap around the curves neatly. If you are making your own bias cut binding, luckily this is a small project (you'll only need a strip 2.5" x 44"). Press your bias cut binding in half lengthwise and sew to the front of the potholder just as you normally would attach binding. (If you need a good tutorial on binding, I used this one when I first began to sew. Also, Lori has a great tutorial here.) However there's no need to deal with mitered corners for this project.

Simply ease the binding around the curved corners (but don't stretch the binding) and keep on going 'til the whole potholder is bound!

I forgot to take a pic until after I'd already sewn the binding on (above), but I wanted to show you how you would pin the binding in the curve. Also, before pinning, use a hot iron to press the binding at the curve ~ it really helps to set the fabric into shape.

Once you've sewn the binding on the front, press it over to the back. I use my fabric glue stick and a hot iron to set the binding in place, but you could also pin. Mine looks like this:

Next, pin your loop into its upright position like this:

Now top-stitch the potholder from the front so that it looks neat and wonderful on top, at the same time the stitches are catching the the binding on the back. This is how the loop will look on the back:

And now your pretty little potholder is finished! Yay! Let the holiday baking begin!

Please leave any questions in the comments section and I will do my best to answer these. My apologies right up front ~ I am not a teacher by nature, much more of a silent doer. I hope this tutorial does help some of you, though. Also, I'd love to see pics of your pretty little potholders ~ please add them to my "Inspired by nanaCompany" flickr group~ I look forward to seeing them!

xo amy

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