Potholder Tutorial – Basic Method


Today was our first day of zakka sewing class at my home, and it was so. much. fun.  I had fretted over how to teach three sewing beginners, but I needn’t have worried.  They were all such quick learners, and completed their lovely potholders well within the two-hour time frame.  And it didn’t hurt to have two other friends / helpers who were experienced sewers helping me out.  Thank you guys! 

So for those of you who would liked sew along with our little group in Sydney, here’s a tutorial for what we did today.  

Materials you need:

  • About 1/4 meter of medium-weight woven fabric (canvas or home dec weight)
  • A small piece of quilt wadding 
Step 1: Make a paper pattern and cut the pieces
If you have a rotary cutter and a mat, you don’t need a paper pattern.  Go ahead and cut TWO pieces of the pretty fabric, each at about 8 1/2 inches x 8 1/2 inches and ONE piece of wadding in the same size (I know, we live in metric Australia, but in the quilting world we still use imperial measurement, so I’m using inches here as well).
If you don’t have a rotary cutter, it helps to make a paper pattern first.  Here’s the easiest way — Take any A4-sized paper, and fold it over in a large triangle snap, matching the left short side onto the top long side.  Like this.  
Draw a line along the folded edge.  Cut along the line to make a square shape about 8 1/4″ x 8 1/4″.  Place the pattern over your fabric and wadding, trace around the pattern with a pen or pencil, and cut.  You now have three pieces of fabric and wadding in the same size.  For the hanging tab, cut another small piece of fabric, about 4″ x 1.5″.

Step 2: Make the hanging tab and baste it
Fold the tab into half along the long side and press with an iron.  Unfold, and fold each edge again towards the centre fold line.  Press.  Fold the whole thing over again, so you have a long, narrow strip of fabric with four layers of fabric folded in.  A picture is worth a thousand words.
Sew the folded tab together, very close to the open edge.  
Instead of making a tab like this, you can use any cotton tape, ready-made bias tape, a piece of ribbon, yarn, or anything similar in shape.  Now sew the tab onto a corner of one potholder fabric, about 1/4″ from the edge of the fabric, like this:
Make sure you sew over the tab back and forth a few times to ensure it’s securely attached.
Step 3: Stack the three potholder pieces and pin
Neatly stack the three pieces you’ve cut on top of each other in the following order, from the top: (1) fabric piece 1, with the wrong side showing on top; (2) fabric piece 2, with the right side showing on top; and (3) wadding.  Secure the three layers together with pins.
Step 4: Sew around the edges, leaving an opening for turning
You want to start sewing about 2/3 of a way along one side, at about 3/8″ from the edge of the fabric (or 1cm seam allowance).  Sew all the way around the square, and finish sewing about 1/3 of a way along the first side — like this drawing below.  You want to leave about 2.5″ of a seam unsewn, so that you can turn the potholder inside out.
Step 5: Turn the layers inside out and press
Through the open seam, turn the potholder inside out – so the wadding stays in the middle.  Make sure the corners are nicely shaped (use a pin or a chopstick to make a nice-looking corner).  Press into shape.  Now fold the raw edges along the turning opening inwards in the finished position, and press.  
Step 6 (nearly finished!):  Topstitch over the open seam and around the entire potholder
It is only slightly tricky.  You want to topstitch over the open seam pretty close to the edge, about 1/8″ from the edge, so the opening is actually sewn shut.  Then continue topstitching around the rest of the potholder.
Ta-da! All finished!
Step 7 (optional): Machine quilt over the finished potholder
Actually, there is one more fun optional step. Using a fairly large stitch length (around 3.5 to 4), sew over the potholder, freestyle, in any pattern you like. A few straight lines are cool.  Or you can do diagonal lines, or any combination.  It would give the potholder a lovely puffy, quilted look.  The stitching would secure the wadding inside as well.
Now that you can make a basic potholder, you can make a lot of other things using the same technique.  I will post more on variations and modifications soon.  

2 comments to Potholder Tutorial – Basic Method

  • Kaye Stender

    just joined this wonderful group. the potholders are very cute and tutorial very easy to understand.

    • fritter

      Hi Kaye. Thanks for joining our group! If you have any questions, please feel free to email me (asako@piggledee.com.au). Don’t forget to post your creations on Flickr, too. I’d love to see them!

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