Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Wobbly Pot Holders--Pleasures of a New Skill

After moving to the new house this past fall, I noticed my entire collection of potholders was pretty shabby. (I still have them--my Mom and I made them together, and I just can't seem to toss them....) However, Golden Apples has posted dozens of double knitting projects, including some truly inspiring double-knit cotton yarn potholders. I've been meaning to master double knitting, and in November, I hauled out some left-over cotton-wool blend yarn that I thought would have good insulating properties, and I turned to the Golden Apples' double knitting tutorial index to get going.

The directions were great, but the yarn was uncooperative. It had a history of unsatisfactory results, as the cardigans I made from it had all the droopy bagginess of cotton, coupled with wool's unfortunate tendency to pill. After a few false starts, I began to think of the true purpose of potholders--to give the novice fiber artist a vaguely useful first project. I thought of all the wobbly potholders knitted by little girls out of Grandma's yarn leftovers, and I realized I needed to be a novice at something once more.

I needed to crochet these potholders. My Great Aunt Cora taught me to crochet when I was 8, and in 1987, in a fit of February depression, I bought Maggie Righetti's Crocheting in Plain English and holed up in my Tacky Park garret until I'd used up all my leftover yarn on a cute hexagon motif afghan. (Easier on the liver than a drinking binge, and I used the afghan for years.) However, I had secret skill deficits--I couldn't crochet a plain square piece of fabric. I could crochet dandy button bands onto a knitted cardigan, and I could make motifs that started at the center, but I was helpless when a foundation chain was called for. What's more, my flat rectangles gained or lost stitches at the ends of rows, and I had no idea how it happened.

Clearly, I needed to take this obnoxious yarn and crochet square, flat potholders. I tried plain and fancy stitches, but I finally settled on single crochet, worked into the "back loop" only, which gives these cute little ridges, yet seems firm and thick enough to make a good potholder. With all the stitch testing, false starts, and lost stitches (Where did they go?) I began to wear out the yarn, so I just went ahead and finished the "rectangle," flawed though it was. Then I crocheted another rectangle, much like the first, perhaps a little less wobbly at the edges. I crocheted them together around the borders, which concealed some of the lost or gained stitches, and added a little shell border, which definitely looks better made in crochet thread than in this bulky pink yarn.

The next project will look better. I'm beginning to understand where to put the crochet hook at the beginnings and ends of rows. My place mats have the same number of stitches on every row, and their sides are almost parallel. It's really fun to explore something new. I love wobbly pot holders!


Reya Mellicker said...

Wow that is beautiful. Far nicer than the stained and funky potholders in this house.

Maybe I should learn how to knit!

Rebecca Clayton said...

Thanks, Reya. I really love knitting, and if you're thinking of making wearables, that's the way to go. Mittens, hats, socks, you don't have to be an artist or a technical genius to make satisfactory, comfy, fun results. Of course, if you are an artist or a fiber engineer, you can go to town, too.

Some people are dismayed that their first (or fiftieth) projects are not perfect, but I like my hands to learn new things, and I'm happy to have useable, imperfect results.

I say, "Go for it!"