In the meantime, our president, Callie Lavoie, asked if I would be willing to write up some instructions for members to facilitate the block construction. People are always asking me for helpful hints and instead of making you scroll through old posts to find the information you need, I thought this might be the perfect opportunity to post my crazy method all in one place.
First – you have to read (or scroll though) my intro:
The Potholder Quilt Method by Wendy Caton Reed
I saw my first “potholder” quilt in 1985 at the Maine State Museum in Augusta. It seemed a perfect method to use when undertaking a project made by a number of different quilters. I have since found out via our statewide documentation (Maine Quilt Heritage) and through the careful research of Quilt Historian, Pamela Weeks that this was indeed a very popular method of quiltmaking in the 19th century, especially in Maine and a few other New England states.
I have seen photographs of potholder quilts in numerous publications over the years, but at present, the only book I know of dedicated to the history of this method is “Civil War Quilts” by Pamela Weeks and Don Beld. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in quilts made for Civil War soldiers and for learning more on this wonderful construction method of quiltmaking.
The American Quilt StudyGroup (Lincoln, NE) published an article on Potholder Quilts by Pamela Weeks in their annual publication, “Uncoverings” in 2010. This can be found on their website; .
I have made a number of potholder quilts with blocks as small as 3” and as large as 16”. It is method that works well with piecing or applique or a combination of both. I have outlined some tips that will help you enjoy your “potholder” quiltmaking journey!
1) As with any quilt, the size of your block will be determined by your desired overall quilt dimension. However, you must remember that your ¼” binding will be a factor in that measurement. For this Maine Bicentennial project, we are making 8” blocks, which means after quilting and binding your finished block will actually measure 8 ½” due to the binding all around.
2) You may choose any batting that suits you and even mix machine and hand quilting, as long as it is roughly the same weight and thickness throughout. For this project we recommend a lightweight cotton or low loft wool batting.
3) After your block is quilted, it is time for trimming. This is the most crucial part of this method. No matter what size you determine your finished block to be – they must all be the exact same size or they will not fit properly when stitching them together. In this case our blocks will be trimmed to 8 ½”.
4) A nice even binding is equally important. I recommend a single, straight (not folded or bias) binding cut to 1 ¼” by the perimeter of your block, plus 4” (example; if your block is 8 1/2” finished – you will need to cut your binding strip 38” long [34” + 4”]). Cut your binding selvage to selvage to allow a bit more “give” in your fabric strip. Simply start stitching your strip down (using ¼” seam allowance) leaving a 2” tail piece .
5) And now you are ready to stitch the blocks together. I use what I call a “modified ladder stitch”. Using a single thread, bury your knot under your binding and bring the needle up to the top of your mitered corner. Take a couple of stabilizing stitches, then with your thread on the edge facing you, cross directly over, turn your needle perpendicular, taking a bit of fabric, then turn your needle back toward you in one sweeping stitch.
Once you get the hang of it, it moves pretty quickly. The smaller the stitches, the stronger the seam will be! These are very simplified instructions, but I do hope they will answer some of your burning questions.
If you are still awake – go cut some fabric and have fun!!