Magento CommerceHandweavers Guild of America

Potholder Looms

Looking for portable weaving projects led me back to an old friend, a potholder loom. These are available inexpensively at craft stores and come with a bag of loopers for traditional potholder weaving, but my bag of loopers is unopened, as I have been exploring weaving with todays funky yarns. Part of the success for these projects is using textured variegated yarns that blend together, filling in the spaces, and offering color variations in the squares. One skein of multicolored medium-weight textured novelty yarn (98% acrylic and 2% polyester, 185 yards [169 meters], 6 ounces [170 grams]), is enough to weave and join sixteen seven-inch squares. Many different projects are possible by joining the seven-inch squares together in various layouts.

1. Start by holding the potholder loom (PL) so that it looks like a diamond. Think of the corners as compass points, with north (N) at the top. Take the end of the yarn from the center of the skein. This is always possible, although sometimes easier than other times. If more yarn than you need comes out, wrap it around the skein. It will be used up quickly. Pulling from the center prevents the skein from rolling around and adds to the portability of the project. Once you have located the yarn end from the center of the skein, place it around 4 or 5 pegs to the left of the north corner of the PL (photo 1).

2. Be sure to have the yarn on the outside of the top left peg. Carry the yarn across to the top right peg. Take the yarn straight down to the south corner (S), to the bottom right peg nearest S. Take the yarn around this peg and left across to the bottom left peg nearest S. Complete the circuit by taking the yarn straight up to the top, around the first peg left of N. Using the long crochet hook provided, insert the hook from the right under the first vertical pass of the yarn to the left side, hook the yarn going around the first left peg and bring the yarn back under the vertical yarn and around the second right peg from N (photo 2).

3. Still working the yarn from the skein, gently pull enough yarn to reach and take around the bottom second peg right S. Take the yarn across and around the second peg to the left S, you will see that the yarn has woven itself back to the left (photo 3).

4. Continue the circuit by taking the yarn back up to the top, second peg left of N (photo 4).

5. Continue weaving from left to right at the top over and under the previously woven rows until all the pegs have been rounded (photo 5).

6. Weaving will progress downward from the top and upward from the bottom, gradually filling in the loom. For the last pass, now in the center, weaving West (W) to East (E), weave the yarn through the center. You will have 2 yarns woven in the same row. Pull a loop a couple of inches longer than the row woven out to the right side corner E. Cut and pull back the un-needed yarn still attached to the skein and weave in the short remaining end of the woven row (photo 6).

7. Your diagonal diamond will look a little a strange, with spaces in the N-S direction and in the E-W direction (photo 7).

8. With your fingers, gently move the weaving so spaces are nearly the same in all directions. Now you are ready to remove the weaving from the loom (photo 8).

Gently work the yarn from the pegs all the way around. You need to go back and weave in the beginning tail so that it is secure. To keep the beginning and end yarns from fraying, use a small dab of white glue or fabric stabilizer.

9. Once you learn the technique, it is quite fast and fun. Lay the finished squares out on a flat surface and decide what layout looks best. It is nice to have the color variations all mixed up and not next to each other. The number of squares woven will determine your finished product. A small blanket takes thirty squares (photo 9).

A sleeveless adult vest takes thirty-two squares (photo 10). Leave the center squares unattached for a center opening and join the sides (photo 11)

Crocheted loops can be added for buttonholes and closures or you can spread the woven yarn enough to pass small buttons through. An alternative would be to join the squares, sew side seams, and leave only a neck opening. Use a large-eyed needle threaded with yarn, and loosely slip-stitch the squares together. For a nicer edge, loosely crochet a slip-stitch around all the edges.

For a more felted look, try lightly steaming the squares before laying them out and joining them together with a slip-stitch. Be very careful, as synthetic yarns often shrink a lot once heat is added. Do not let the moderate temperature iron touch the yarn as it may shrink more than you expect! Once steamed, the original 7-inch square will be about 6 inches. 

There are lots of project possibilities. How about a scarf, or a childs sweater or hat? What can you come up with? Try it and send in your images to HGA <hga@weave-spindye.org>, using 72 dpi resolution, and 4 inches by 6 inches in size.

Nancy Peck has been a weaver for over thirty years. A fiber artist specializing in designing and weaving fabrics for garments and household items, she is involved in leadership positions in various fiber organizations.

All photographs by the author.

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