Gene’s Potholder Story

While Piglet has been weaving tabby potholders for decades, it was just over three years ago that she stumbled on the potential for more complex weaves, and drew me into the project of creating this collection of charts. Since then we’ve spent hundreds of hours weaving, and hundreds of hours making charts — a wonderful crafting collaboration.

Our decision to post these charts online for free was a natural outgrowth of our professional backgrounds in the open-source software world, and our immersion in various online enthusiast circles of open cultural production: our dream was that they would help other people on their own creative journeys.

Since then, word of our charts has spread by word of mouth within this little niche, and it’s been lovely knowing that a few thousand people come to every month to download patterns. However, there’s no way for us to know who actually ends up using those charts, and it’s hard to have a clear sense of how much influence our work has had.

So it was very touching when a couple of our friends told us about an article they’d found in the Spring 2024 issue of Handwoven Magazine, in which Lucy Morris writes about Gene, an older man whose dementia makes speaking difficult, and whose one expressive outlet is that he weaves hundreds and hundreds of potholders and gives them away.

The article shows him happily surrounded by stacks of his work — and every one of them seems to have been woven from our charts! 

It’s heart-warming to know that this thing we created is making a difference in the life of someone we’ve never met. Our thanks go out to Lucy for sharing this story, and to Gene for bringing so many of our charts to life.

Valentine’s Heart Potholders

With Valentine’s Day coming up next month, I wanted to round up a collection of charts featuring heart shapes. Most of these are shadow weave, but a few other techniques make an appearance towards the end.

Pulsating Heart

Super Hearts

Jumbo Hearts

It’s Raining Hearts (Hallelujah)

Sea of Hearts

Four of Hearts

Queen of Hearts

Box of Hearts

Lots o’ Hearts

Fish Scales

Three-Color Fish Scales

Two-One Basketweave Chevrons

Two-One Twill Pinstripe Chevrons

Tri-Color Two-One Twill Chevrons

Updated PDFs Available with New 2023 Charts

We’ve posted a lot of new charts over the last year, but haven’t gotten around to updating the combined PDFs that let you download the entire collection at once.

The turning of the year seemed like a good time to rectify that oversight, and so over the last week I’ve taken a pass through all of our files and published the results as a complete PDF of the 2023 edition.

There is a lot of new content, with 94 new designs bringing our collection up to 343 distinct patterns. More than half of those designs are available in multiple sizes, with 168 new pages giving us a grand total of 528 charts in this edition.

If you’ve already downloaded and printed the December 2022 edition, there’s a separate PDF just of the new charts added in 2023 so you can print those and add them to your existing collection.

Also new in this edition are separate files by weaving style. If you know you particularly like shadow weave, or you only want to work in twills, you can download separate files that contain only those types of charts.

You can further narrow your selection by loom size, as there are separate files for seven-inch (18-peg “traditional”) and ten-inch (27-peg “pro”) looms. All in all, we have almost two hundred charts for seven-inch looms, and just over three hundred charts for ten-inch looms.

We hope these charts are useful to you, and we look forward to seeing what you create!

On Credit for “Original” Designs

I wanted to follow up on a conversation that happened in a Facebook group earlier today about giving credit to the “original” creator of a design.

For the record, Piglet and I didn’t invent the pattern discussed in that case, and we don’t own it. If you weave potholders that look like that, you aren’t obligated to mention us or give us any credit.

People have been weaving things out of string for thousands of years, and they have been weaving potholders out of stretchy loops for nearly a hundred years. Given that history, I think it’s very likely that every technique we’ve explored has been tried before, and I am confident that if you could somehow go through all of the millions of potholders that have been woven over the last century, you would be able to find earlier examples that look a lot like nearly every design we’ve posted.

Continue reading “On Credit for “Original” Designs”

Starting Points for Extra Thickness

Someone recently asked for advice about making thicker potholders, and I thought I would share my recommendations here for easy reference.

Obviously the choice of materials makes a big difference. Opting for high-quality cotton loops or plush wool loops will produce fuller results than if you use thin poly loops or scraggly offcuts.

But the less-obvious factor is weaving structure, where there are a variety of techniques that yield thicker results:

  • Twills produce thicker results. Try Three-Three Houndstooth or Four-Four Twill Fletching.
  • Weaves with raised ribs have room for extra air space. Try Alternating Float Weave, Alladorf 60, or Liége Waffle.
  • Weaves with multiple layers are often twice as thick. Try Padded Basketweave, Three-Three Shift Twill, or Double-Faced Twill.

Charts for all of these are included in our collection.

Kings County Fiber Festival

New York metro-area folks — Piglet and I will be exhibiting at the Kings County Fiber Festival as part of our local living-history group, making and showing potholders based on weaving patterns found in historical textiles.

Next Saturday, October 7 from 10AM to 5PM, we’ll be in Brooklyn’s Washington Park, at the Old Stone House, on Third Street between 4th and 5th Avenues.

The park will be filled with more than fifty fiber-craft exhibitors and vendors, but we should be easy to find — just look around for the group of people who are all wearing medieval-style clothing.

If you’re in the area and enjoy handcrafts, the festival is worth a visit — and please do swing by our table and introduce yourself; we’d love to meet some of you folks in person!

Offset Twill Rainbows

Here’s a pair of examples that highlights the extent to which Three-Three Offset Twill weave brings the weft to the surface while hiding most of the warp.

Both of these examples are woven using the same pattern, but in one case the color is in the warp while in the other it’s in the weft — and when removed from the loom, the results are dramatically different.

Woven by Piglet in the autumn of 2022.

Potholder Weave Dimension Reference

I put together a little chart to help visualize the range of sizes produced by different weaving patterns.

The differences are striking: the long-float twills can be as small as 60% of the area of a plain-weave potholder (20% smaller in both height and width), but they make up for that by being up to twice as thick — or even more than that in the case of ribbed and waffled weaves.

This is definitely not an authoritative scientific survey — I just grabbed a ruler and took some rough measurements from a mix of recently-made samples fresh off the loom and well-worn ones that have been hanging in our kitchen for years.

There’s a lot of variation; in places where you see little black bars sticking out of the right edge, those show a range of smaller and larger measurements I took from different examples. There are multiple factors at play, but I suspect the biggest driver is the variation in loops — sometimes you’ll get a bag of loops that are stretchier or tighter than usual, and that impacts the size of the finished product.

These measurements are all from potholders woven with Harrisville (“Friendly Loom”) cotton loops, with no skipped pegs — if you’re using wool or poly loops, I’d expect the results to be different.