Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Crochet: Betcha don't have potholders like these!

OK, just one more potholder post - I promise! After finishing with yesterday's post I remembered some potholders my mom had. Then it occurred to me I probably had them somewhere. I dug around in all the likely places (NOT the kitchen) and found them! My mom had pinned a note to them indicating that they had been made by her Great Aunt Emma and given to my mom at her bridal shower. I wish I could say more so you'd have to scroll down to see the photo... because they really should be revealed with a big TA-DA...

Yup - they're his and hers and they've got openings at the top and legholes just like the garments they're modeled after. They're a little two-dimensional, but that's sort of a requirement for potholders. I don't think these potholders have ever done duty in the kitchen, though with those handy loops perhaps I should hang them on the fridge just as a conversation starter!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Crochet: Old Fashioned Potholders

If you're looking for a last-minute homemade holiday gift for someone who likes to cook, how about some potholders? I grew up with potholders like this - they'd been crocheted for years by various women in my mother's family. I think some of the potholders we used (and possibly some of the ones I still use) may have even been made by my great-grandmother. The older potholders are typically yellow and white or red and white, but once my sister and I started making them we naturally gravitated to all kinds of colors and even those garish variegated threads.

I made the pair above for Bob two Christmases ago and they pretty much follow the pattern of their predecessors - a dark center with a good-sized white middle enclosed by a dark border. I was running out of blue so I introduced a third color in the one on the right, but that's probably as heretical as using variegated thread :) The older ones in my possession have the remnants of little picots at each corner of the border, but I never figured out how to do those and frankly was never inclined - it's a potholder after all!

I think I learned to crochet by making these potholders. It was either my mother or Auntie Bee that showed me how, though it's not a pattern that's written down (until now) or memorized. I don't know about the earlier potholder-makers in my family, but I can't make one without having a completed one to look at. I've never felt that I made the middles quite right, since I always end up with a little larger (often lopsided) hole in the middle, but I think these instructions will set you in the right direction and then you can refine them to your liking. Switch colors as you like - it's your potholder!

I'll apologize in advance about this pattern - I'm not well acquainted with crochet patterns, so this may not be very clear. Please feel free to email me if you have any questions!

The potholder is made of two identical pieces (though the color patterns need not be the same) that are joined by one more round that is worked through both pieces. I use a size 7 steel crochet hook with regular (size 10) cotton crochet thread.

Chain 7 (or less - I was just thinking that maybe there's a sneaky way to do this on just a loop of thread so you could pull it tight and close up that little hole in the middle) and join to form a loop.

I usually join each round by pulling a loop through and then chaining two.

Round 1 - work 10 single crochet (sc) in the loop and join.

Round 2 - work 2 double crochet (dc) in each sc (20 dc total) and join.

Round 3 - work 2 dc in each dc (actually it's really in the spaces between the dc) (40 dc total) and join.

Round 4 - in this round you establish the "corners" of the potholder where all the remaining increases will occur. Work 4 dc in the space between the first two pairs of dc and then 2 dc in each of the next 3 spaces. Repeat this four more times and join.

Rounds 5 - 11 (you can do more or less depending on the size potholder you want) - continue in the same way as round 4, always working 4 dc at each corner and 2 dc in the spaces.

** Update 8/16/08 - I just made a couple potholders by following the pattern as I wrote it here and realized that 11 rounds is a little small. I'd recommend 12 to 13 rounds for each piece and then join with another round as described below. **

When done, join, cut the thread and pull it through. Weave cut thread ends into the wrong side of the potholder to secure them and hide them. Work the other piece of the potholder in the same way, but don't cut the thread.

To join the two pieces, put the wrong sides together and work one more round in the established pattern. For this round you'll need to work through both sides, being careful that they are lined up correctly. When done, join, pull the thread through and weave in the end.

I think these potholders improve with age - they tend to tighten up and flatten out. They're not as big or thick as some potholders, but I think they're just right!

A few years ago I was browsing in a little antique shop in Greenwich Village and found some very similar potholders for just $2.00 each! Of course I bought all three. The increases are done differently and they have six sides rather than five. I haven't attempted to figure out the pattern yet, but hope to someday. I'll close with pictures of them (they're light green and white) and of some of my older potholders (the rust and white one is one I made a few years back, but the others are much older). If I'd planned better, I would have washed them before taking the picture - sorry!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Finally...What's Next

I'm so sorry... I fully intended to write about my plans for after Mondays with Maida two weeks ago. But between Thanksgiving and being rather lazy, it just didn't happen. Part of the problem may be that I'm not feeling quite ready to get started on it, so let's consider this just a little sneak peek to tide you over until the "official" announcement - OK?

I've been thinking for several months that I'd like to examine American regional cuisine by looking at one state at a time and trying to figure out what foods are typical of each state. I started looking around some on-line and reading a little and quickly came to the conclusion that in order to get a grasp on the nature of a particular state's cuisine, I would also have to learn something of its agriculture and history. Throw in there an interest in food festivals, state fairs, and a wish to include food blogs, and you might begin to see my problem... maybe scope creep?

I obviously still need to sort out some details, but here's the general plan... I will focus on one state per month starting first with the states where I have lived and then moving on to those I have visited and finally on to those that are completely new to me. I'm calling the project "State by State" (and if you're familiar with Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird, you'll know why). I plan to end each month with a post that is sort of a reference for the state, including a directory of food blogs based in that particular state, books I used, etc.

I'm going to start in February with Maryland. After that will come Massachusetts, North Carolina, Vermont, and New York. After that? We'll see :)

Between now and then I'm going to enjoy the Christmas season and I'm planning to take Zarah up on her invitation to "join the madness" as she calls it. I won't be posting daily as she is, but I would like to do a few seasonal posts. Then in January I hope to finally do a little redecorating around here: switch to a new Blogger template so I can take full advantage of tags, etc., and get a new look.

So that's what's coming - guess I'd better get busy :)