March is National Craft Month and seems like the ideal time to share the story of my potholder loom. It was the first opportunity I had to create using textiles.
I’ve had this loom for more than 50 years. When I was a child, I spent a lot of time with my teenage cousin. He and his girlfriend took me along with them many times and babysat for me often. Several years later, they would be married and I would be their flower girl. I received my loom for Easter while visiting his girlfriend’s parents when I was 5 years old. I was thrilled to receive it and treasured it from the beginning.
My mom and her sisters crocheted, knit, and sewed and I was about to carry on the tradition and discover my lifelong passion. I can’t say I actually remember being taught to make a potholder on the loom but I’m sure my mother sat with me and helped me master the over, under technique with the loops and the hooks on the loom. And then the “casting off” of the loops, one at a time, using my fingers to secure each loop though the center of the last. This was before I learned to use a crochet hook. As I got a little older, mom would teach me to sew and my aunt would teach me to knit. I tried crochet but couldn’t master it. But my earliest memory is the pure joy and excitement of creating a square mat, mixing and matching the different color loops to create fun patterns. I’d choose several colors to combine; I practiced my math skills by making sure that the colored pattern would be even. I spent many hours at the kitchen table or in my room creating potholders for my mom, aunts, and grandparents. I sold them to our neighbors and friends. It was my first realization that my passion could be profitable.
My loom made its first move with me when I was 9. My parents were thrilled to move us to a brand new home in a town with excellent schools. I wasn’t so sure. I didn’t know anyone and the kids at school weren’t very nice to the “new girl”. But I had my loom and we had a new kitchen and so I made potholders. Those times past, I adjusted to my new school and made friends. I learned to love my new home and town. Busy, my loom went back into the container and sat safely on the shelf in my closet.
As a teenager, life was full of friends, school, and dating with all the drama a teenager encounters. I sewed most of my clothes during those years, I knit several blankets and a few scarves and I continued to use my loom to make potholders. My loom and a supply of colorful loops were kept safely in my bedroom closet. When I was alone, I’d turn to my loom. I’d sit and once again arrange the colors of the loops and weave several potholders. Then the loom would go safely back in its place in my closet. I was not very neat as a teenager but my loom and loops had a space in my closet and were always put away with care.
I moved to my first studio apartment in my 20’s and on my own for the first time, it was very Mary Tyler Moore Show. I’d spend time at home in the evening knitting and dreaming of my future. Occasionally, I’d surround myself with small piles of the blues, yellow, green, red, and white loops arranging patterns with the colors as I would weave a potholder. It was relaxing after a day at work and gave me a wonderful sense of accomplishment.
I married in 1977 and moved into my home. Of course, my loom came with me. I didn’t do much sewing or knitting during those years. I did hook a rug and do some cross stitch but being a wife and having a full time job took up most of my time. My loom stayed in the closet for several years. When it became obvious that my marriage was not going to last, I moved into a small rental with my three year old son and in an effort to re-focus my life, I began to knit again. Soon, the loom was out on the table and I was planning my future again as I made potholders. I returned to college and finished my undergraduate degree while working full time and raising my son. Life was hectic being a mom, student, and full time employee. I didn’t have much time for my needlework passions.
My son went off to college and then to live on his own. I made potholders for his first apartment in his favorite colors. His question to me was ‘Where do other people get potholders because you make all of ours?’ I laughed. Was it possible that he didn’t know that potholders could be purchased in a store? My parents moved to their retirement home and of course, they got new potholders.
In recent years, I’ve been able to devote more of my time and energy to my passion for all things hand made. I knit and sew daily, I’ve designed and had several knitting patterns published, I maintain this blog about my knitting and sewing experiences. I’ve taught many children and adults to both knit and sew. I’ve created a variety of household items and clothing. I’ve sold some and given many as gifts. I’ve knit gloves, hats, scarves, and sweaters for myself. I’ve made blankets and tote bags, pillows and drapes and countless other items. I began recreating doll clothes from vintage patterns and designing clothes for several different types of dolls. But still, I return to my potholder loom.
When I’m deciding what my next knitting project will be or when something is on my mind, I take out my loom with its supply of loops. I sit and arrange the colors, creating different patterns, enjoying the simplicity and satisfaction of a useful project completed. I have no idea how many potholders I’ve made through the years, but I still have the same feeling of contentment as I make each over and under motion and complete each mat.
Harrisville Designs has become my supplier of loops. The quality is excellent. Last year, I discovered the Pro Size Loom and loops.
This loom makes a much larger potholder. I’m now enjoying weaving on this loom too.
In honor of National Craft Month, I urge you to share your creative talents with others, especially children. The skills that they learn will be with throughout their lifetime bringing them the joy of accomplishment and the satisfaction of knowing “I made this”.