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

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”

Clasp Weave: American Flag

When I bound off the French flag this morning, I stared at for long enough to realize… half of a traditional loop plus one full length traditional loop *also* equals one pro loop, which means, VOILA!!! US FLAG!

[Added by Matthew:] This example is woven on an oblong (18×27) loom, but you could use the same technique to make a square pro (27×28) potholder with more stripes.

Warp the lower eight pegs with alternating red and white pro loops. Warp the upper ten pegs with alternating red and white traditional loops, using a folded-over blue traditional loop threaded through the loose ends of each pair.

Weave the first eighteen rows with alternating red and white traditional loops woven in tabby plain weave to form stripes.

To weave the last ten rows, fold a red and blue traditional loop over each other and place them on the loom with one empty peg between them. Weave them into each side, with the blue loop weaving into the blue square and the red loop into the red and white stripes. Then place a white traditional on the empty pegs and weave it in, in between the split legs of the red and blue loops. Do the same with another white loop next to them, then repeat the process to the end of the loom.

Bind off as usual.

Clasp Weave: Tri-Color Flags

Flags, you say? *You* get a flag, and *YOU* get a flag! Everybody gets flags!

Tricolors, anyway. 😉

Matthew noted that the 7″ traditional loop is 2/3 the size of the 10″ pro loop. So… 3 traditional loops folded in half equal one pro loop. Therefore, we can use this ratio to create three colorblocks across the width of our potholder!

We wove the French flag with denim, white, and cayenne traditional loops.

(You could use this same technique to make a square pro-sized potholder with matching colors of traditional-size loops in one direction and pro loops in the other.)

The photos below show the process, starting with warping the loom with loops folded over and threaded through each other. I wove the center section first, as I always do, but you could also start from either end. Before transitioning from one section to the next, check the next section for twisted loops and untwist them so they all line up nicely.

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.