Tutorial: Potholder variation 1 – simple patchwork

 

 

I have this gorgeous cookbook called Simple to Spectacular, by Mark Bittman and Jean-Georges Vongerichten.  What I love about this book is its organisation.  For each section, there is one easy, basic recipe.  And then the book offers several variations based on the basic recipe, making it progressively more involved, interesting, and luxurious.  For example, there is a recipe for a simple boiled egg, and the luxury version has a sauce with caviars that makes the dish restaurant quality.  I love this concept, because this book shows you the very process of cooking – learning to cook is all about coming up with variations yourself, not blindly following a recipe every time you cook.  The books shows you how to think like a chef.  

So I thought of this book when I thought of starting a free sewing class.  Instead of showing people how to blindly follow a sewing pattern, wouldn’t it be great if I could inspire them to come up with their own variations on a basic pattern?  You just have to learn to think like a crafter. 

Okay, so back to potholders. How do you make a potholder go from simple to spectacular?  Some techniques include patchwork, quilting, and appliqué.  In this post, I’ll just demonstrate the very basics of patchwork.  There are hundreds of books on patchwork out there, with more tutorials on the internet than you can ever use.

Two-Patch Patchwork Potholders

Step 1: Prewash the fabrics:

If you are using different types of materials for one potholder (like linen and cotton canvas), it is best to prewash all fabrics before cutting them.  Each fabric may shrink at a different rate, so if you don’t prewash, chances are you’ll end up with a wobbly, uneven potholder when you wash it once.  Just wash the fabrics with or without a bit of soap in the washing machine, and press it flat with an iron when it is about 90% dried.  Prewashing is also a good idea when you are using brightly coloured fabrics, to be combined with white or cream coloured fabric.  You don’t want the bright colors to come off and stain the white fabric after the potholder is finished… 

Step 2: Make a pattern (or not) and cut the patchwork pieces

You can make a pattern for each piece, or do without a pattern.  

(a)  How to make a paper pattern

(1) Copy the potholder pattern (say, 8 1/2″ x 8 1/2″ including a 3/8″ seam allowance around the square – see my previous tutorial) on a piece of paper.  

(2) Draw a line where you want the patchwork piecing to happen.  For each piece, copy the shape, and add 1/4″ seam allowance where the two pieces will be sewn together.  (See picture below).  That’s it! Cut the two pattern pieces out.

 (b) Two-patch without a paper pattern

If you have a rotary cutter / mat / quilting ruler setup, calculating the size for each patchwork piece and cutting it is simple.  Even if you don’t have the setup, here’s one fun way of making a two-patch with no pattern.  

For each fabric you want to use, cut one shape 8 1/2″ x 9″.  So you have two pieces of fabric of different patterns.  Stack them together neatly.  Along the 9″ side, draw a vertical line where you want the piecing to happen, and cut along the line, with the two pieces of fabric together.  Switch one piece from fabric 1, with the same-shaped piece from fabric 2 — and patch them together.  Repeat for the backside of the potholder.  That’s it – you should have two pieces of two-patch squares at 8 1/2″ square.

If you can do this for a two patch, three-patch is just as easy, using the same concept.  If you want to use more patchwork pieces and don’t have the patience to work out a pattern first (like me), just roughly cut each piece, start piecing them together, and in the end trim the whole thing down to 81/2″ square.  

Step 3: Sew the two pieces together

(1) Lay out the fabric pieces in the finished position.  (See photo below at the top right.)

(2) Where the pieces will be sewn together, stack the pieces together, with the right sides of the fabrics inside.  Pin.  (See photo below at the top right.)

(3) Sew the two pieces together at about 1/4″ from the raw edges of the pieces.  (See photo below at bottom left)

(4) Press both seams to one side. (See photo below at bottom right).  

You are done! Make the potholder, following Step 2 of the tutorial onwards.  When you are quilting over the whole thing at the very end, you should quilt just near the patchworke seam.  It looks good that way, and it makes the joined seam more durable.

 

Spectacular potholders?

Patchwork variations are endless, so it’s up to you to come up with a spectacular creation!  I made this nine-patch potholder (I actually made a pattern for this) just to give you an idea.

Next week, I’ll write about appliqués.  

But I’d LOVE you to go make a patchwork potholder now.  And please take a photo of your spectacular creation, and post it to our Flickr group called “Zakka Sewing with Piggledee” here.  

 

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