Potholder considerations

My initial excitement over the hot pads and potholders swap, complete with shopping, daydreaming, and putting together potential color combinations, had to be reined in while I finished the never-ending Kiwassa. Goodness gracious, this was the shawl that never ends, it just went on and on, my friends! The target dimensions were 72″ across and 40″ from the top edge to the point. That’s a lot of knitting! It’s on the same scale as Mountainash! (Except, you know, not really – Mountainash was knit on US 2 needles; Kiwassa, on 5s. Ahem.) Fortunately, Kiwassa is blocking as I type this, and I’m allowing myself a sigh of relief!

So, I figure now is the perfect time to share with you some of the preliminary swatching I’ve been doing for the swap!

As someone who rarely enters the kitchen, the whole concept of hot pads and potholders is a little foreign to me. Here are some of my thoughts about them, undoubtedly flawed by to my lack of culinary experience:

  • The object in question should be relatively flat – ease of grabbing, and ease of resting – like the gorgeous scalloped hot pads Oiyi crocheted.
  • Yet I’m totally drawn to this frilly frou-frou one by Maryse.
  • To protect our fingers and table-tops, the potholder should be lined, like this wool one by Chawne. Note: lining materials not considered by yours truly when signing up for the swap.
  • Alternatively, the potholder can have two sides, at least one of which is nearly solid. Take a look at this gorgeous earth-tone potholder from colorandtexture, or this lovely vision in blue (and red) from helloyarn. Again, I didn’t consider crocheting two-ply potholders when I bought (what I thought was enough) yarn.

Halp! So many things to think about!

With all these ideas buzzing around in my head, it’s shocking that I even crocheted a stitch! Typically I’m paralyzed until the critically important issues are resolved. But, oh yes, I had the 72″ Kiwassa to help me get over the paralysis – something, anything, as a break from all that knitting!


The very first block I tried was the Tricolor Square (#35) from 200 Crochet Blocks. This is the very same block that Chawne crocheted!

The sample in the book and Chawne’s version lay nice and flat, while mine buckles and folds and generally misbehaves. I think 100% cotton is not the best choice for this type of pattern, perhaps? When I crochet “into the space”, the strands of cotton do not compress/compact at all, so the intended “fans” of stitches become “arches”. Doubt blocking will help much, unfortunately.


The second block is also from 200 Crochet Blocks, called Christmas Rose (#28).

I have to tell you that I loved crocheting this frou-frou-ness! It was so much fun! And it appears the background will lay nice and flat, even though there’s a “crochet into the space” element present. But back to one of my points above – is it practical? Can one grab the handle of a hot pot with a frou-frou potholder (let’s assume it has a solid backing)?

There’s one more block which I’m finding irresistible – motif #119 from Beyond the Square Crochet Motifs. It’s a pretty solid block which appears to be flat. The construction intrigues me! Looks like… short-rows or entrelac in knitting. I’ll let you know how it works out.

I’m putting up a picture of my crochet hooks because they are absolutely marvelous! (Use code EED101 for 40% off this set.) They fit my hands perfectly, and they are definitely easier to grip than the simple Boye hooks I was using before. I’ve been crocheting all my swatches with the 4 mm hook, and it seems to work very well for my Tahki Cotton Classic, a DK-weight yarn.


28 thoughts on “Potholder considerations

  1. Meredith

    Potholders need to be fairly flat and flexible, so you can grab hot things (pans, casserole dishes, oven racks, etc.) with them. Hot pads, on the other hand, can be much less flexible and much less flat, as long as you can stably set something down on them. Of course, potholders can always be used as hot pads, but I have hot pads that I would never use as potholders.

    It’s too bad your Tricolor square was coming out wonky – that’s a pretty pattern, and I really like the colors you chose. I wonder if it would behave better on a bigger needle?

  2. Sue F.

    You are inspiring me to pick up my dormant hooks; I love the Clover ones as well. I wonder if you used a slightly larger hook on the Tricolor square whether it might settle down?

    Beautiful work as always :o)

  3. Cindy (maxfun)

    Give the tricolor one a chance. That construction relies on the outside stitches to pull on the inside ones a bit to balance everything out. Chance are that once you finish the next round and then the edging, give it a soak and pin it out to dry, it will be nice and flat.

    Love the blue and gold together in the second motif!

  4. Bertha

    I just finished my first potholder and I lined it with some Kona cotton to protect against the holes, but even without any batting in there, it’s really thick and stiff and I am not sure it’s flexible enough to be practical…I think I am going to try again, this time crocheting a solid backing rather than using the same lacy block to see if that helps at all.

  5. katy

    Crochet sometimes does that and you might find that after you steam it well with iron it’ll straighten up for you. If not, then you could try and supplement the first round stitches with the shorter ones. For example, if you worked trebles, then work doubles instead of them; or you can add an extra chain stitch to lengthen the following round. Basically your circumference is shorter than it should be based on the length of the stitches (radius) of the pink round.

  6. Emilee

    I agree with Cindy – it will lay flat eventually. I’m using a different pattern, but mine were coming out warped until I blocked them.

  7. The Rotund

    Cindy is right on – and if that doesn’t do it, you might be crocheting with a tighter tension than the sample. You can always trying using a hook that is one size larger.

    Alternately, because this is cotton, you can iron it.

  8. Hillary

    The Tricolor Square was the first one that I tried too and my whole family thinks it’s the one I should do but I’m not sold. Mine laid flat but it came out too small. I’m trying to crochet looser.

  9. Danielle

    Did you ever finish the Tricolor Square one? I am working another block from the same book and it buckled a lot at the start too, until I had the rest of the rows done.

  10. Lori

    I love this post! With the prospect of moving into an apartment that is truly MINE for the first time, I’m drawn to all sorts of for-the-home patterns, and I fell in love with more than a few of these patterns (I may have to buy this magical “200 Crochet Blocks” book . . .)

    One thing I’m wondering, though — are you concerned at all about the inflamability of cotton? Wool is self-extinguishing, but in my experience cotton + fire = WOAH. (Yes, yes, a potholders SHOULDN’T be anywhere near an open flame . . . )

  11. Shamiran K

    Hey Kathy,

    I know you’re fairly new to crochet, so I thought I’d pass on a little trick I learned that might help them lie flat…

    Notice how big the hole is in the sample you crocheted and the one from the book…

    Make a loop (instead of chain “x” etc) for the beginning ‘hole’ that you single crochet into… crochet around the loop… Once you have a good row or two going, you can give that yarn a tug and it closes up nicely… weave in ends and it looks just like the book. 🙂

    It is very similar to the way you would close up a hat in knitting, you just do this at the beginning. 🙂

  12. Gisi

    Your granny squares are very pretty 🙂 – in fact much to pretty for potholders that are to be used. You should make them into a lined bag and show them off!

    Alright, so you do not cook too often… here is what you’ll want to look for in a potholder: simple, non slippery cotton yarn, NO holes whatsoever (your fingers and arms will be grateful for this), a voluminous pattern (always work in the back part of the stich and you will get wonderful ribs).

    But, then, you can always use a potholder as an adornment in you kitchen, right??

    Have fun crocheting and show us your maths!


  13. Diane

    I agree with Cindy — I’ve done a lot of blocks in which the outside rows give structure to the inside rows — it looks like you would “work into the space” in the next row, judging by the picture, and that would pull the second row taut.

  14. Jardee

    For potholders, you don’t want holes in them. At all. Of any size. This is a bad thing.

    For hotpads, holes are probably fine, if the material is thick enough to ensure that there is no contact between the counter and the hot item.

    But no holes at all for potholders! Your fingers and hands will thank you! And maybe the rest of your kitchen, since you’ll probably drop something hot when your fingers touch it by mistake, and it will end up all over the floor and walls.

  15. Zelda

    It seems to me that the ubiquitous instruction “pull up a loop” leaves a lot of room for variation. Unlike in knitting, where your loops are necessarily all needle-sized, in crochet it is possible to “draw up a loop” that just surrounds the hook and barely peeks through the fabric, or one that comes up even with the very top of the previous row, or one long enough for you to hold the crochet hook level above the previous row, even with the top of the current row. (Given that, when I get stitch gauge, I never get row gauge, I suspect I’m doing it all wrong.)

    Making the loops you draw up longer or shorter might balance the heights of your stitches and ease some of the pulling you see. I dunno.

  16. WendyBee

    Omigosh! The anguish of selecting a design! The actual stitching is a breeze compared to picking the design, and the yarn, the color combinations, and the hook. I am “anguishing” through the same process, myself….I think I may have finally made a decision. I’m currently swatching and hope to post soon. Can’t wait to see how yours come out…..Can you imagine how dramatic it will be when we all receive our packages? Oh the frenzy in the world of blogging! Pictures and potholders and posts, Oh MY!!

  17. ulrike

    Hi Kathy,

    I advice you to use 100 % cotton for potholders, because:

    – you can wash it at a very hot temperature to clean it

    – it stays cool on very hot pots (wool gets warm and thean starts to smell unpleasantly)

    – my potholders turn burned to black when they get too close to the flame (I have a gas oven), they don´t burn like hell. They are so easily made that it is not really worth to cry if you loose one in fire……oh, well….;-) )

    Try to avoid such big “holes” in order to protect your fingers from the heat.

    I still have my first crocheted potholder, made when I was 6 years old – and it is still in use!!

    Happy crocheting!

    Greetings from Berlin

  18. ulrike

    Hi Kathy,

    I advice you to use 100 % cotton for potholders, because:

    – you can wash it at a very hot temperature to clean it

    – it stays cool on very hot pots (wool gets warm and thean starts to smell unpleasantly)

    – my potholders turn burned to black when they get too close to the flame (I have a gas oven), they don´t burn like hell. They are so easily made that it is not really worth to cry if you loose one in fire……oh, well….;-) )

    Try to avoid such big “holes” in order to protect your fingers from the heat.

    I still have my first crocheted potholder, made when I was 6 years old – and it is still in use!!

    Happy crocheting!

    Greetings from Berlin

  19. Seanna Lea

    I haven’t even gotten to the buying the yarn stage for the potholder swap (though I’m considering going with the Cotton Classic that you are using for both affordability and massive color selection). I’m still mostly a crochet novice, but I think the extra rows really do make a difference on the few patterns I remember doing ages and ages ago.

  20. mari

    I can’t give you any advice about crochet, since my experience is solely one jury duty day of reading stitch and bitch crochet and making really sad granny squares and flowers. But I’m totally loving your explorations into crochet! I know whatever you make will be fantastic, as always!

  21. Agnes

    Very smart investment in the crochet hooks. I have one and love it. It is just so comfortable to use, so I seriously considered getting the whole set. However, since I don’t crochet that much … I just have to control myself. But that set of crochet hooks is a great buy.

  22. Suzanne (Yarnhog)

    My only requirement for potholders is that they protect my hands. I use insulated mitts that can’t slip or fall off while I’m reaching into the oven or grabbing a pot of boiling oil. I would never trust a crocheted anything between my hands and hot iron. However, with a thick backing, I’m sure they’d be lovely for use as trivets (hot pads) on the table.

  23. pamela wynne

    I’m doing some of the flower ones from the same book, and I tested one out today. The flower is actually kind of … grippy! If the flat side is in your palm, the flower in the center of the other side goes right around the edge of a cookie sheet or pan handle.

    btw, I’m backing mine with a very dense (read: no holes) square. I might throw a little quilt of insul-bright in between, but then you wouldn’t see the color from the other side showing through behind the flower. Sigh. Safety before beauty, I suppose.

  24. earthchick

    You are just doing so fantastic at this!! One of these days, I’m going to commit myself to learning, I swear. But in the mean time, I’m enjoying watching your process.

  25. Annepålandet

    I don’t think BLOCKING is a good idea for cotton items. Just IRON them with a hot iron – like you iron a shirt = flat! Works perfectly. Good luck! Love your color choices!

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