Weaving Potholders From Loops – Lessons Learned From a Potholder

My daughter-in-law is battling thyroid cancer. Because my youngest grandson Jake is not dealing with it very well, I went to spend some time with him while his mother was away. As I sought to occupy him with activities that would keep his mind focused on more pleasant thoughts, I planned a trip to a local hobby store. He likes creative endeavors, and there he could feast his imagination on the myriad of projects designed to awaken the artist in anyone.

As I browsed the aisles, I spotted….Wow! cotton loops to make potholders! How long had it been since I had seen these in a store? As I looked closer, I also found the loom for sale. The loops were sold in a pound bag for $5.00 and the loom was about $7…much more expensive than when I was a child. Unlike my old metal loom, the new model was made of plastic.

I was very tempted to purchase a bag of loops with the possibility of finding my old loom, especially since the potholders that my boys and I had made years ago were getting rather shabby and threadbare from years of constant use.

When I returned home, I asked my husband if he knew where my loom was. Quite surprisingly, he did. He had seen it in his storage room in an old Charles Chips can (remember those?) while he was searching for another “lost” item. After more than 20 years of hiding, the loom was finally retrieved. Also tucked away in the Charles Chips treasure chest were several bags of loops, ranging from 47 cents to 57 cents each, and two crochet needles.

As I sorted through the contents of the Charles Chips can, memories from the days of my childhood came flooding back–those days when I was home alone during the summer while my mother and father were away at work. Life was quiet and uncomplicated for me on the family farm, and I had to entertain myself by sewing, drawing, reading, listening to the radio or my 45’s or velcro products even by weaving potholders. Ever so subtly, long hidden in the catacombs of my brain, the process for creating this timeless craft slowly began to surface, and I began to recall the steps I have mastered so long ago.

Before the weaving could begin, there had to be a plan involving colors, pattern, and materials. Colors had to be matched and coordinated into the desired pattern, and there had to be enough loops of each color to complete the task. If, after many potholders were completed, there were only odd loop colors left, a random-patterned potholder involving less planning could be made from the “scraps.” These potholders lacked the aesthetic appeal of those which had definite colors and pattern, but in those days nothing was wasted.

Once these preliminary steps were completed, the base loops were attached to the loom in the order of the selected colors. Then the actual weaving process began. Using the long metal hook, the first loop was carefully threaded through the base loops using a slight up and down motion to navigate the spaces between each loop. This process was repeated until the loom was filled with color and the entire design was complete.

To finish the project took more skill and agility that the tasks before it. Until I was old enough to master this technique, my mother would lend a hand at this point and complete the potholder. This step required that each loop be removed from the loom separately and pulled through the adjoining loop, making sure that each loop did not stray from its original woven path. This was a simple process when finishing the first two sides, but the process became much more difficult when the weaving was only attached to the loom on two remaining sides. At this point, all remaining loops had a tendency to slide off causing the weaving to unravel. Employing creative handiwork using the palm and forearm of the hand wielding the crochet needle kept the remaining loops in place until they could be fastened. Once this process was complete and all loops had been pulled through each other securely, the last loop was stretched and a knot tied about an inch below the end, forming a loop from which the potholder could be proudly displayed.

The best part came when it was time to decide what to do with this latest creation-keep it for yourself, stash is away in a hope chest, or give it to someone special as a gift. The most satisfying option was to give it to someone who would “ooh” and “aah” over it and hang it proudly in her kitchen.

Since I am an older and wiser woman today, reflecting on this childhood memory makes me realize that this simple craft led me to many understandings about life–life lessons woven into those the lowly potholders many years ago.

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