Saturday, May 22, 2010

Sewing Potholders

I have been sewing for the first time since December. Nothing very profound, just potholders. See the image above. Several years ago I went through a phase where I was piecing various sized blocks using multiple patterns and fabrics. So here I am now with a stack of blocks that range from 6 inches up to 15 inches in size that do not go together. I think at the time I was thinking of making a top with just the 6 inch blocks and some sashing. Well I have been thinking about what I can do to use some of these blocks in a more immediate fashion. With the 6 inch blocks I though that adding some border sashing would bring them up to 8 inches square a good size for a potholder. On a trip to Joanns a couple of weeks ago I purchased a yard of Insul-Bright, an insulating product to use in this project.

Above is my second attempt at making potholders, the first one turned out OK, but wasn't quite as nice as I wanted so I made some process changes making this one. There are still a few things I would do differently, but basically here is the process I used to make my potholder which does actually work.

First I selected the block I was going to use then I selected the fabric to use as the border, backing and binding for the finish potholder. Next I cut the strips for the border and the binding, 1.5 inches wide. My fabric was wide enough (a bit over 18 inches) so I cut 2 strips for borders and 3 strips to sew together for the binding. I could have made the binding strips on the bias but decided I didn't want to get involved with that process, the simpler the better, was my motto for this project.

After cutting the strips I made the binding, sewing the strips together and then ironing them as you would iron bias tape, both edges folded to the middle. I ironed the strip in half first to have a middle to fold to then folded and ironed the edges. Spray starch helps with this, but isn't necessary.  Below are photos showing this process.

Next I pieced out the the 6 inch block adding the border strips to make an 8 inch square. First I trimmed my pieced block using a rotary ruler and cutter, then I add border strips to the top and the bottom of the block. After ironing and trimming the edges I sewed the two side strips to the square. Again I ironed the seams and trimmed the edges. I could have cut my strips to be exactly the size I needed but with this small size I didn't think it necessary. Then I cut a square of my backing fabric. I wanted some excess here so I cut my square about 10 inches in size, though it could probably be 9 inches without a problem. Then I cut squares of the same size out of cotton batting and Insul-bright. Next I layered all the fabrics on cutting board to create my sandwich - backing fabric, Insul-bright (put the shiny side down on top of the backing fabric), then the batting and last but not least my block on top. I then safety pinned it all together. I first put the pins out toward the corners but when I went to quilt the unit I realized that I should have placed them a bit more toward the center so I could quilt around the center block without moving the pins, a note for next time. Below is a photo of the sandwich layers and the pinned block.

Next I quilted the layers together. I quilted around the block then from corner to corner on the diagonal, but the amount of quilting will vary depending on the block used for the center. I didn't want too much quilting, just enough to hold all the layers together. This next part I am still working on the best method to use. I trimmed the quilted sandwich and then stitched around the outside of the potholder, first with straight stitching then with a zigzag stitch but I am thinking that I should do the straight stitch sewing before I trim the block to stabilize the edges before trimming. Then do the zigzag stitch around all the edges.The photo below shows the potholder ready for trimming and a close up of a corner of the potholder with just the stabilizing stitching on the right side and the zigzag stitching on the top.

After the quilting and stabilizing are finished I added the binding. I use a modified version of Sharon Schamber's method of gluing down her binding. If you want to watch her video's go here. I am using Roxanne's glue, but you can use Elmers White School glue like she does.

I cut the edge of the binding flush with one corner of the potholder, then glue down the bottom first then the top along one entire edge. When I get to the corner I open out the fabric and push down to form the wings seen in the last photo above, then I glue down the wings to form the corner fold and continue on gluing down the rest of that edge. For the last corner I glue straight to the corner and cut the binding off flush to the potholder leaving enough to fold back under about 1/4 of an inch.  Then I go back to the sewing machine and using a narrower zigzag stitch I stitch down the binding all the way around the potholder. On this potholder I had to go over a section on the bottom that hadn't gotten caught up in the stitches, I need to be a bit more careful with how I glue down the binding to make sure it stays even on both sides.  Picture below shows how I finished the corner (folding under the binding about a 1/4 inch) and the process of zigzagging the border down.

The last step is to add the loop to hang the potholder by. I used a 3 inch leftover bit of prepared binding, ironing it in half and then stitching it closed. I applied it to the start/ending corner of the potholder using zigzag stitches, but I am thinking about doing it by hand, it would be neater though I am not sure it would be strong enough.

The last photos above show the loop from the top and from the bottom, where it was sewn on.

Well that is how I am sewing potholders - subject to change and modifications as I make a few more, but pretty much it. The glue makes the edges a bit stiff but I think a good washing should take care of that. Any comments, questions or suggestion are welcome.