Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Slip-on Potholder

       I've always preferred to reach for an oven mitt rather than a potholder in my kitchen. But we've been asked for potholders to match our aprons enough times that I thought I would give them a try.
      I don't really like the idea of sewing all that bias tape trim that I see on most potholders, so I played around a bit with designing something different. I decided on a sandwich method of construction where I pile up the layers, sandwich them wrong side out, sew around the square and turn it right side out. No need for bias tape trim. But it seemed a little dull to me. How could I make it more interesting? With hand grips on the back! That way I can have fun adding other colors and fabrics (and the part of me that really wants to be able to slip my hand into an oven mitt for more protection and a better grip is happy.)   
 Here's my first go at a tutorial - sharing my slip-on potholders with you. These potholders make a wonderful, easy project for beginning sewers. I wish I had this project when I was introducing machine sewing to eighth graders at our Waldorf School. They are a marvelous way to put your fabric scraps to good use. Plus, they are a great gift for holiday giving, teacher gifts, hostess gifts, or maybe just a gift to yourself, replacing those grungy old potholders in your kitchen.

What you need:

  •  8” square fabric for the front
  •  8” square fabric for the back
  •  Two 8” squares of fabric for the hand grips
  • Two 8” squares of insulation. I use one layer of 100% cotton batting and a layer of Insul-bright. This is a heat resistant polyester layer available at Joanns. You could also use two layers of cotton batting or maybe repurpose heavy wool coats, old worn blankets, etc.
  •  4” of bias tape (stitched closed) or ribbon for the hanging

     Begin by cutting your six 8”squares. Using a cutting mat, a rotary cutter and a measuring grid, will make this part so much easier. If you have the material for more than one, it is easy to cut multiples. Once you have cut your pieces, you are almost half way finished.

       Next, the back. Take your two squares that will become your hand grips and fold them on the diagonal so they form two triangles. Press.

       Making your hand grips on the back. Lay your two folded triangle pieces onto the right side of your back square. Make sure the two folded ends meet along the diagonal of the square. Attach these two triangles to your back square using a basting stitch leaving a 1/4” seam allowance.

          Now to build your sandwich. First, the insulating layers. Think of these as the bread of your sandwich. Place your two layers of insulation side by side. (If you are using Insul-Bright, make sure the shinier, heat resistance side is facing up) You are ready for the innards. Take your top piece. Put a pin at the corner you want to be the top of the potholder where you want your hanging loop to be. Place your top fabric piece right side up on the Insul-Bright or cotton layer. Take your assembled square for your back and place it right side up on the other layer of insulation.

      Assembling your sandwich. Take both your top half and bottom half and sandwich them together with right sides facing each other in the middle. Make sure the diagonal opening for the hand grips lines up with the top. When you've built your sandwich, you should be looking at the two layers of batting on the outside of your sandwich. You may notice my little porcupine buddy watching out for me here. That little porcupine pincushion just may be my next tutorial.

      On to the sewing. Pin one side of your sandwich ending where you placed the pin for the top. Leaving a 3/8” seam allowance, sew one side of your sandwich ending with the pin for the top.

     Adding your hanging loop. Take your bias tape or ribbon for your hanging loop and fold it in half. Open up your sandwich and slide your folded hanging loop right up to the seam you just finished where you marked your top. Now close up your sandwich and securing the hanging loop with your seam, finish sewing the other three sides, leaving a 3 ½” inch opening in the middle of your last side for turning right side out.

     Trim the corners to reduce the bulk. You will be glad you did.

     The fun part - turn your potholder right side out through the 3 1/2” opening. When you have it right side out, you can stick your fingers into the corners to get them as sharp as you can. Sew an edge stitch all along the outside edge to give your potholder a nice finish and close up the opening.


    Sew one more layer of stitching ¾” from the outside edge. Voila! A lovely new potholder which looks so nice you just might have to hang it up by the loop for all to see. 

   The potholder I just finished matches my favorite aprons in the shop: the Reversible Apron in Everglades Stripes and the Vintage Apron in Everglades Stripes.  So now it is your turn. See what you can cook up at your sewing machine.
     Feel free to share this post with others, but kindly link the post back to our blog: www.bluestarvermont.com

Monday, May 14, 2012

For Children in the Kitchen

     The wooden kitchen made by Angel and Elves held a beloved place in our house when Liam was growing up. He became the baker, the chef, then the restauranteer during those many hours working away in front of that kitchen. Seeds got planted in front of that kitchen that he carries with him today as a student cooking gluten-free for himself at Brown University.

          Remembering the importance of kitchen play, we are happy to announce the arrival of our latest children's aprons, oven mitts and chef hats! What we love about this new apron is that even the youngest children can put it on and take it off by themselves, helping to build independence, self esteem and confidence. It has an elastic neck strap which slides over the head easily and a back strap which closes with velco. There are no ties to think about. The pattern is adapted from Meg McElwee's Child's Apron from her wonderful blog: www.sewliberated.typepad.com. We love this apron so much we are making it in four charming fabrics: Childs Apron in Green Apples, Childs Apron in Red Cherries, Childs Apron in Tie-Dye Print and Childs Apron in Pink Posies.


           I always had a step up stool next to the kitchen counter so Liam could join right with me in preparing food, cooking and baking. To help complete the cook's outfit are the necessary oven mitts. We now make oven mitts to match all of our aprons. Our child's mitts have the same  quilted shape and look as the oven mitts we make for Mom & Dad. We have scaled down our adult oven mitts (made from an antique pattern) to a size which comfortably fits young hands from age 3 up to 8 or maybe 9.
     We make two different versions of our mitts. One is quilted with a soft layer of 100% cotton batting, perfect for pretend play. For the young one ready to work with handling hot items in the kitchen with supervision, we also make this size child's mitt with an additional heat resistant layer of Insul-Bright just like our adult oven mitts.


     To top it all off, we had to make a chef hat. Isn't it wonderful how simply putting on a hat can transform us into a role? We make this hat in three different colors to coordinate with all our aprons: Childs Chef Hat in Green, Childs Chef Hat in Pink, and Childs Chef Hat in Yellow.
      Imagine your young one donning an apron, hat and a pair of oven mitts and becoming the baker or the chef.