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Saturday, October 27, 2012

Basic Potholder Instructions

Basic Potholder

Today's tutorial is for making a basic utilitarian potholder.  We use these on a daily basis in our house, saving the decorative ones for special occasions.  


I used 3 - 71/2"  squares of thick terry cloth toweling that I cut from an old towel, shown in the picture.  You could substitute wash cloths of similar size.  
For the binding I used a piece I had leftover from a quilt that started out at 2 1/4" wide and was pressed in half, but you can purchase binding, or make your own to match (I will post a tutorial on making binding in the future but there are probably lots of them out there on the internet if you search for them).  The binding needs to be fairly wide to wrap around all those layers.
 Thread to match
Having a stiletto, or similar tool, handy will make life much easier.  The wooden stick shown in the picture is a cheap bamboo skewer, it would work fine.    

Secure the three layers together.  I used a safety pin in the center because I was not really concerned about this one being perfect.  If you want all the corners to line up perfectly, then you should pin them each individually before you start.  Lay the binding strip on top of the three layers, lining up the raw edges and starting right at the top corner.  Don't worry about the raw edge of the binding at the top, it will be covered up later anyway.       

Sew the binding down, about 3/8" from the edge, making sure you catch all four layers all the way down the side. When you get about 3/8" from the bottom of the seam, stop.  Take a stitch or two backwards, and then forwards again to secure the end. 

Take the potholder completely out of the machine and lay it down flat on the table.  Fold the binding strip off to the right making a 45 degree angle, as shown below.  Finger press this fold down.

Now flip the strip straight back to the left over the top, making sure to keep the fold in place underneath.  Start stitching about 3/8" from the corner, securing with a couple stitches back and forth, but try not to sew through the fold underneath, just right up next to it, not through it.   Continuing sewing and repeat the same steps with the next two corners. 

When you get back to the beginning, fold the edge you started with underneath before sewing the binding straight off the edge of the potholder and continue sewingalong the edge of the binding strip for another 4 or 5 inches.  Remove from the machine and cut the binding strip where you stopped stitching. 

You should now have something looking rather like this.

Fold the binding strip back away from the corner and trim the three layers of terry cloth close to the stitching at all four corners.  You can trim the edges of the terry all the way around to make a nice smooth fit, but I didn't.  These are for using, they don't need to be perfect.

Now flip the whole thing upside down.  Turn each of the corners up, they should fold out pretty easily, if you managed to not sew through the fold like I said. 

That extra piece of binding sticking out the corner is going to be our hanging loop.  Fold the raw edge up along the stitching line and use your fingers to crease it there as shown above.

Now fold the top of the binding down, matching the two folded edges and enclosing the raw edge inside, finger crease along the top fold.  You could put a pin in to hold the edges together if you want to, but again, I didn't do that.

Now open out the end of the binding and fold the raw edge at the top to the inside and refold the binding around it.

 Start sewing along the short end, then turn and go down the length of the binding until you reach the edge on the potholder, then sew right on up over the top.  Make sure you pull the binding all the way around the edge of all the layers, enclosing everything inside.  Sew down the side to within a couple inches of the first corner.

When you get near the corner, stop.  Put the needle down into the fabric to hold it securely.  Fold the binding out at a 45 degree angle from the corner as shown above, then fold straight back up and over to form a perfectly mitered corner.  See how easy that was!  Took me years to figure that out!

This is where the stiletto comes on VERY handy.  Use the point to hold the fold in place as you sew up to it.  When you reach the corner, take one stitch onto the second side before pivoting the corner, keeping the needle down in the fabric as you turn the corner.  Continue sewing down the side and repeat for the next two corners.

When you get back to the beginning again, fold the extra binding back over the top of the corner and stitch securely in place to finish.

Now, Go Bake something and enjoy your new potholder!   

***** Remember - These are made with an old towel - they are NOT flame retardant!  Do not allow them to touch the element or flame in the oven!  They can, and will, burn if used improperly.  Again, use a little common sense please. **************


  1. I really like how you did the corners. If you don't mind me asking, which machine do you use?

  2. I thought the corners were the most important part to show - they took me so many years to figure out! I sewed these on my mechanical Janome sewing machine. I have several different machines, and I will do a post about sewing machines in general in a few days.