April 23, 2018
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Potholder project from past has modern application

By Rosemary Herbert

My attic runneth over — with junk and treasures. During recent forays into the over-full space, I came across a piece of my girlhood in the form of a plastic square edged with small, regular teeth. Picking it up, I smiled and exclaimed, “My old potholder frame!” Better yet, I found nearby a plastic bag full of colorful cotton loops left over from potholder projects past.

I have to say, I’m certain it was not just an onslaught of procrastination over attic cleaning that led me to feel it was imperative to make a new potholder immediately with loom and loops. Rather, it was an attack of nostalgia.

It was a walk down Memory Lane when I closed the door on the attic and went downstairs to spread out my stash of potholder loops on the kitchen table, just the way I always did when I was a girl. Sorting them by color, I remembered keenly kitchen tables past, spread with potholder loops and a plate of my grandmother’s Toll House cookies. Often, my friend Susan would also be sitting across the table from me, earnestly sorting her loops by color, too.

I recalled how we even became potholder entrepreneurs with some success one summer when we realized that the campers in various state parks where our families went tent-camping might make great customers for our hand-woven wares.

“People remember to pack their pots and pans, but probably not potholders, too,” we reasoned. And our reasoning proved to be sound. After we had woven dozens of potholders and carried them from campsite to campsite, our thirty-five-cent-a-piece products brought in some serious profits, at least when you consider that with loop supply funded by our parents, our entire enterprise cost us nothing but our time.

Missing Susan as I waxed nostalgic over my latest potholder project, I determined that this particular potholder would just have to be hers. Following a weaving pattern that I remembered she favored, I fashioned the perfect potholder and finished off the edges as Susan herself had taught me to do.

At the same time, I recalled how a number of family and friends have asked me not to exchange Christmas gifts with them this year for the first time ever. This is due to the fact that money is short for all of us, and no one seems to have leisure to undertake time-consuming crafts projects. While I would like to feel good about this sensible idea, I have to admit, it has only caused me to feel sad.

And so the home-made potholder becomes something more than just a good excuse to take a break from cleaning the attic. It takes on more importance than simply inspiring a stroll down Memory Lane. And it is not just a test of weaving and finishing skills.

In the end, the simple potholder — made with found materials and costing nothing more than my time — becomes the perfect Christmas gift. Modest, humble and homely — but made with love and endowed with the coziest of memories — it is a gift that anyone can accept. All the recipient need give in return is the smile that such a present cannot fail to engender.

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