Handwoven Potholders – Not On Your Weaving To-Do List?

photo of 3 pieces of fabric handwoven fabric made with twill tape warp with fabric strips for weft.
Handwoven Potholders

They definitely weren’t on mine

And not because I don’t like potholders.
I do.
I like them a lot.
Some of my favorite fabrics are potholders.

Photo of 2 potholders made from remnants of handwoven fabric.
Handwoven fabric remnants.

Potholders make kitchen time less hazardous.
They protect me from flames, scorching heat, sticky boiling baking pan overflow and blistering steam.
I respect the work that potholders do.

I even have some that don’t “do” anything.
They just hang around.

Photo of handmade potholder, quilted with appliqued turkey
A cherished handmade gift from a friend.
Photo of a quilted nine-patch potholder
My own long ago quilting practice.






Maybe the reason potholders haven’t shown up on my to-do list is because of some terrible childhood craft experiences involving metal “toothed” frames and jersey loops.

Maybe it’s because when I started weaving, I never saw any directions for  “How To Weave A Potholder On Your 4-Harness Loom”.

Maybe it’s because I only think about using handwoven fabric for  potholders when I can’t think of anything else to do with it.

Maybe it’s because I have project prejudice.

A handwoven potholder is an afterthought

Or an “after weaving”, if you will.

As in, immediately after  – when I’ve finished weaving what I wanted to weave, but still have several inches of perfectly good warp left on the loom.

Sometimes long after – when a piece of handwoven fabric no longer suits its original purpose.

photo of frayed handwoven fabric, cotton, blue and white checks
After 30 years as a towel this handwoven cotton fabric has potholder potential.

The problem isn’t that I don’t like potholders.
The problem is – I’ve never considered potholders worthy of my weaving time.

Actually plan to weave potholders?

That thought never entered my mind.
Not until this came off the loom:

photo showing the off-loom length of fabric woven using twill tape for warp and fabric strips for weft.
Twill tape warp and fabric strip weft.

This is the result of a desperate need to weave and a willful, impulsive, impatient desire for immediate gratification.

So, yeah, it was a mistake.

But it was a mistake that led to some valuable, mind-altering information.

And it happened because I decided to warp my loom without making a plan.
I know better – but I went ahead and did it anyway.

Because sometimes a weaver just wants to have fun.
(And also – because I was being willful, impulsive and impatient).

What happened was:

  • I ran out of twill tape (warp) after measuring only 24 ends (69.5 inches long).
  • Those 24 ends in the 2.5 dpi rigid heddle allowed for slightly more than an 8-inch weaving width.
  • The fabric strips I chose for weft “told” me what I wanted to know after about 9 inches of weaving.
  • A bunch of different yarns I tried to use for hem sections “told” me they weren’t quite right after about an inch and a half.

And what came off the loom was colorful thick cloth – squares of colored fabric I liked  a lot – surrounded by a few inches of fabric that wasn’t what I wanted at all.

What can you do with squares of handwoven fabric?

If they’re too big for coasters or mug rugs.
And too small for table mats.
They might be just right for potholders.

Not particularly mind-blowing information?
Maybe not.
Probably not.  Not if you’re the kind of weaver who regularly, willingly, and happily weaves samples.
But I’m not that kind of weaver.  I don’t “do” samples.  Not if I can avoid it.
The whole idea of weaving samples makes me cringe.

Squares of fabric = weaving samples

And I regularly “pass” when I see projects that include the phrase “you need to make a sample”.

However – I’m quite willing and more than happy to spend time weaving fabric that works the same way as a sample.

And by “works” I mean – in addition to the experimentation, practice, and information gathering – the end result of my weaving time is a fabric I can use.

Fabric I can use is why I weave.

I want the cloth that comes off my loom to be present and accounted for.
Tucked away in a drawer waiting its turn to be out and about is fine.
Tucked away in a notebook as reference material – not so much.

When I weave I want to make something that has a place in my daily life – where it can be seen, touched and enjoyed.

So why ADD potholders to Your Weaving to-do list?

Because weaving a few 8″, 9″ or 10″ squares of fabric is a great way to “try out” spacing, color and texture.

Washing, drying and “finishing” those squares is a great way to figure out shrinkage and how best to care for a fabric.

And if the squares of fabric you decide to weave are either cotton or wool (or both) – you’ll end up with fabric you can use as potholders.

If  your handwoven squares are thin and drape-y, you can add a middle layer and backing.
If your handwoven squares are thick and bulky, you might be able to use them  ‘as is’.
And if none of your handwoven squares are exactly “square” you can even them up before binding the edges.

Everything you question, notice, practice and think about when designing, weaving and finishing your potholders is why making samples is worth your weaving time.

The recommendation to “weave a sample” is not supposed to act like a stop sign.

It’s supposed to help you be successful.  To let you know that there are tricky bits up ahead.
Things worth trying out.
Things that  you won’t know until you see (and weave them) for yourself.
Things that if you practice ahead of time – will make you feel more confident, comfortable, and competent when you weave a similar fabric on a larger scale.

If resistance is strong, knowing why something is worth your time and effort might not be enough to convince you to give it a try.
If you resist weaving samples, maybe it’s because you want the results of your effort to “be” something.
Something more than an attachment to a page in a notebook.
Something to have and to hold – or give away as a gift.
Bookmarks, mug rugs, greeting card inserts, towels, table mats, scarves – and now potholders – are all on my weaving to-do list.

Calling the things I weave “samples” still makes me cringe.  But when I change the way I think about them – turning them into practice pieces,  prototypes, and fabrics I can use – I’m much more willing to do the work.  And I’ll be sharing some of my favorite “practice projects” in future posts.

Lately I’ve been thinking about things to weave on a rigid heddle loom.  And wondering about using a series of narrow wool strips – pieced together – for a blanket.

But I don’t know (yet) which of the yarns in my stash I want to use.
I’m not sure how any of them will hold up in the wash or whether any of the colors I like will go together.
I’m curious to see if maybe some of the colors I absolutely hate might work.
I don’t know how close or how far apart to position the threads in order to end up with a weight and thickness I like.
And I’m not sure if it would be better to hand piece the strips before fulling the fabric or after.
I don’t even know if  I have enough yarn or if I’ll need to buy (or spin) more.

But I know what I can do to find out.

photo of handwoven wool fabric, 7 inches wide

I gotta go weave more fabric for potholders.

Joanne's blog signature, Pine Ledge Fiber Studio




What Do You Get When You Weave With Thick, Bulky Warp?

Thick, bulky fabric!

Like this:

photo showing the off-loom length of fabric woven using  twill tape for warp and fabric strips for weft.
Off-loom length of fabric made with twill tape warp – using fabric strips for weft.

And this:

photo showing off-loom length of handspun handwoven rug fabric
Off-loom length of fabric made with handspun yarns in warp and weft.

Both fabrics were woven on Ashford rigid heddle looms using the 2.5 dpi (dents per inch) heddle.

And FYI:

  • the measuring stick in these photos is 48″ long
  • it takes me a while to figure out how to get even edges
  • and yes, I use toilet paper for headings

The twill tape experiment came first – using a 16″ loom.

photo showing 16" RH loom set up with twill tape warp, using hand dyed fabric strips as weft.
Twill tape warp and hand dyed fabric weft on a 16″ rigid heddle loom.

Then I expanded a bit for the second experiment – using a 24″ loom.

Photo ofweft-faced fabric on a 24 inch rigid heddle loom using handspun yarn.
Handspun warp and weft on a 24″ rigid heddle loom.

The twill tape and fabric strips became these 3 pieces.

photo of 3 pieces of fabric handwoven fabric made with twill tape warp with fabric strips for weft.
Twill tape warp with fabric strips for weft.

Good examples of what can happen when you get overly excited about the middle of the weaving – and don’t pay attention to the beginning or the end (note the curved hems).  Next time –  I’ll be more careful with the hem sections.

They’re also good examples of what I like to call “prototypes” or, even better –  “handwoven samples you can use”.

photo of handwoven potholders 'holding' pot lids on the stove

So – from my first experiment using thick, bulky warp – I got potholders!  And a lot of information about what to do next time.

The second experiment remains unfinished. Super bulky warp yarns aren’t ideal for a folded woven hem.  And I’m not a big fan of fringe on the floor.

Photo of handspun handwoven twill fabric pinned to the edge of a handwoven rug to test it as a possible finishing technique. fabric
Handspun, handwoven wool binding pinned over the end of my rug-like fabric.

So after staring at it for a few days, (with a piece of leftover binding pinned to the edge) I decided to make more of the same dark brown, handspun/handwoven twill fabric that I used to bind the edges of this piece:

photo of multi-color wool rug, handspun and handwoven by Joanne Littler, Pine Ledge Fiber Studio, Fairfax, VT
Multicolored Rug, 41″ x 21″, handspun and handwoven by Joanne Littler, Pine Ledge Fiber Studio, Fairfax, VT

The yarn’s been spun.

Photo of dark brown yarn handspun by Joanne Littler
Dark brown handspun yarn for rug binding.

But I want it to be the first warp I put on and weave off when I’m ready to get back to weaving with a floor loom.  So that’s on “hold” for now.

In the meantime, there are a couple more things I want to try with that big, funky heddle.  And I’ve got lots more spinning to do.  Most of it related to my continuing quest to explore what it takes to make a good rug.

As much as I love the thick handspun fabric I wove on the RH loom – I think it’s best to describe it as being “rug-like” – and not what I would consider “good fabric for a rug”.  (More about that later).

The thing about it is, neither project needed to be anything.
Something else was going on.  Something more than any particular handwoven thing.

What I “got” when I wove with thick, bulky warp was (way) more than potholders and a rug. 

Working with those wide open spaces in the 2.5 dpi heddle helped me think about (and do) things differently.
Exactly what I’ve learned to expect from weaving.

I gotta go do my PT for knees.

Joanne's blog signature, Pine Ledge Fiber Studio