Making Issue No. 7 / Pot Holders - Process
The process of making these pot holders was an experience that filled me with the joy of a little kid. This project felt like play; it was so much fun to pair together fabrics and decide what quilting pattern I wanted to use and allow myself not to take any of it too seriously. When it came to sewing, it was fun to change things up mid-project and choose to use a different fabric for the binding or play with quilting design instead of what I had initially planned.
Today, I'm sharing a little more about the three pot holders I created and some things that helped me during the process of making them.
Two of the most helpful tools I used on this project was a plastic ruler and clips (instead of pins).
Plastic Ruler - One option for cutting the required pieces of fabric is to make a template out of paper in the correct sizes, then you can easily use that template as a pattern piece. But, I've found when I'm creating shapes from measurements that I like to use a clear plastic ruler and mark lines directly onto the fabric. Using a ruler also helped me to make sure the selvage edge was in line with the grainline since I was cutting from that edge to save material. It wasn't straight at first, and I was able to see through the ruler that this was the case, and quickly straightened it out. Using a ruler is also preferred if you are using a rotary cutter; I didn't, but this can make cutting straight lines a quick process. A clear ruler also came in handy while cutting fabric for bias binding! My ruler measures 24" X 6.5," and I find this size to come in handy for a variety of projects.
Clips - Sometimes, I like to use clips instead of pins, especially with thicker projects if either the fabric is too bulky to be pinned, or in this case where pinning it scrunched the material and made it less taut in the end, which I found to be a problem while working on my first pot holder. Using clips was helpful, though I still preferred to use pins when attaching the binding. Clips especially came in handy during the quilting step because I was quickly able to add or remove them while sewing, and as fabric shifted.
Sewing Machine Feet
One of the most helpful things for this project was changing up the feet on my sewing machine. Most of the time, I use a clear plastic foot, which worked really well when it came to quilting the smaller pot holder since it allowed me to see the pattern lines in the fabric as I was stitching. But, when it came to sewing the straight lines that made up the quilting design of my other two pot holders, I found a walking foot to be extremely helpful. Unlike a regular sewing machine foot, the walking foot helps to grab and move the fabric as you sew, which aids in preventing the fabric from stretching or shifting as you work. It also came in handy when attaching the binding, making that step quick and painless. If a walking foot is not in your collection of sewing machine feet, I'd highly recommend it as a worthwhile investment. Just make sure to get the correct one for your machine, as they can vary from one to another!
Some of the fabrics I used included linen and others with linen-like textures and behaviors, which made the quilting step a little challenging. After I sewed up the first pod holder, I decided to try using fusible interfacing to help stabilize the fabric on both the front and back, and I was delighted with the results because there was less movement of the material, such as stretching out or shifting. Using interfacing made the pot holder slightly thicker and stiffer, but I actually really liked the feel of it, so I did this on my third pot holder as well. It also helped when it came to the tension, as my machine was being a little fussy about sewing through the Insul-Bright batting even with some adjustments.
Quilting the Fabric Pattern
One of my favorite parts about making these pot holders was realizing I could highlight the pattern design in the fabric I was using. The fabrics I chose were selected for their bright colors, unique textures, and distinct patterns. I love Carolyn Friedlander's Snake and Feathers prints; both remind me of the desert. For one of the larger pot holders, I used her Snake print in Eucalyptus, and it immediately made me think of cactus and of Joshua Tree where the pot holders for Issue No. 7 were photographed.
For the smaller pot holder, I used Carolyn's Feather print in Roasted Pecan, isn't that a delicious name? Because the pattern is so beautiful and distinct, I decided to try quilting along the lines that made up the feathers. It took me a few tries to get the tension and stitch length right on my sewing machine (smaller stitches worked best), but once I did, there wasn't any going back. This pattern is perfect for quilting because it's not too intricate, but just detailed enough that it created a beautiful texture. Don't tell the other two, but I think this one is my favorite!
I have never been one to finish my bindings well by sewing machine. As hard as I try, I can't ever seem to get the edge steady and even on the back side, though I love the crisp look that's produced when finishing it by machine. Even though I planned to finish the binding by hand, I decided to do a line of topstitching on the right side of the potholder where the binding is first attached, and then complete the binding by hand on the other side. I loved the way this turned out; you can see it on the two larger ones I made.
I saved the hand sewing on each of these three pot holders for last because the idea of planting myself outside in the early afternoon light seemed too lovely to pass up. These days, I'm especially grateful for projects that require me to sit down and slow down and let me work outside in the fresh air.
I used to feel that sewing or finishing things by hand was a bit of a chore, but the more it's been needed in my projects, the more I've come to enjoy it and consider it one of my favorite parts of the experience. Sewing by hand should be thought of as a time of restoration and connection; it shouldn't be merely something to rush through and get finished; it should be a joyous activity. I've come to believe that the more time I spend making an item, the dearer it becomes to me and, therefore, more valuable in the end. This sweet experience is one of the reasons I'm so passionate about making things—time spent making is time well spent.
There are so many options for creating unique and beautiful pot holders with the help of Carolyn's Friedlander's Pleated Pot Holder pattern, which can be found on pages 54-59 of Making No. 7 / DESERT. I hope you're inspired to make some of your own and have just as much fun in making yours as I did with mine! - Emily