Curated article on the hand woven pot holder and its history. Includes videos showing how to get accustomed to a basic potholder loom kit, potholder loops and lace edged variations, and other pot holder loom details:
By Sergey Brinchok
A pot holder is used to protect a non-fireproof surface against a hot kitchen crockery or used to hold hot pots to avoid burning the hands. They are an item that many of us take for granted in the kitchen until we cannot find them when needed. Some holders are largely decorative, but most are made of dense fabrics having a heat protective layer. Felted wool or other natural textiles can work very well to protect hands or tables also. Weaving holders is a popular craft with a rich history.
The birth of the first holder dates back to time immemorial when man first discovered fire and realized that if touched with bare hands, it could cause severe burns to the skin. Initially, animal hides were brought to use as simple pot holders to transfer hot earthen pots from the kitchen to the eating place. Decades later, the animal hides were replaced by rags and torn out clothing materials for serving.
Pioneers of the early ages discovered that quilting blocks could be used as handy and much more presentable holders. By the 1920s, the rags were replaced by flimsy textiles made with knitted lace, making them very similar to the flapper dresses of that era. In the 1930s, pot holders were crocheted and designed whimsically with animals, faces, flowers, fruits, leaves and even cars. Soon after, by the 1940s, towels, tablecloths, curtains, canisters and aprons also evolved in to the matching set with them. Now, the women were spending more and more time thinking of decorative ideas about their everyday kitchen items.
Replicating the idea of protecting the hands against burns, aprons were also introduced into the kitchen world in the 1950s. Women enthusiastically knitted, crocheted, decorated, quilted, embroidered, and sewed stunningly creative, but sometimes quirky, pot holders and aprons. They were found to follow directions found in women magazines during that era. However, many created their own designs. In course of time, holders began to evolve with speed and many new and safer textiles were introduced. They were even decorated for various holidays and seasons. Around the mid 1960s, handfuls of holders were found in every kitchen and linen closet.
However, these handy cloth-made holders lost their charm in the following years by considerable amounts. Safety with burns was implemented in almost all kitchen equipments especially in pressure cookers, hot pans and tea pots, making pot holders unnecessary in cooking safety. Instead, nowadays, silicone is being used for all sorts of kitchen implements, including pot holders because a silicone holder provides excellent protection for the counter or hand, can be stored in a small amount of space and cleaned in the dishwasher. But, in recent years, pot holders have become very popular with antique collectors. They are acquiring all vintage aprons and hot pot holders, framing them and selling for huge prices. They are unique mostly because of their handmade creativity and design. They no more are a set of overlooked kitchen items as they make a re-appearance as memoirs of the past of kitchens, adding a nostalgic feeling, plus a touch of whimsy to kitchens everywhere.
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