Friday, July 26, 2019

Scrappy Quilted Kitchen Art Tutorial

Ever since I became a quilter 20+ years ago, my all-occasion favorite gift to make for friends and family are potholders kitchen art made from 4" squares of the most outrageous/tempting/weird food fabrics I can find. Here are two recent examples: 
These are pure psychotherapy, easy, fast, and they make me laugh. I use a double-layer of cotton batting,* in case people actually use them. A couple of weeks ago, after I made the two above, I changed the rules of my game, and 6 potholders later, wound up with something dramatically different:
The evolution was logical. I was making gifts for summer visits with friends and family. After the first two above, I dared to do something different - cut triangles instead of squares.
They came out about 12" high, and each contained 9 food triangles, plus a strip fabric on the lower level. Below, triangle potholder #2....
...and next is #3, with a citrus print on bottom that's also on the back of all three of them.
I leaned the three of them against each other, and accidentally reinvented the food pyramid! What if I sewed the edges together, stitched a fourth triangle to the bottom, and stuffed it? It would make a fine centerpiece for the wedding of a nutritionist to an Egyptian chef! Or, a useless but decorative pyramid-shaped throw pillow!
The primary problem with triangles as potholders, I then realized, is that the corners are narrow - with no hand/arm coverage. So I made this...
Eureka! It looked like a strawberry! So I made another one, this time not from food scraps, but red scraps.  (The bow/hangar is rainbow-colored rat tail.)  
To drive home the strawberry message, I put this print on back: 
I happen to be allergic to strawberries, so this was super-exciting. I embarked on another one - with the addition of three green prints to serve as leaves.
It's longer than the others, therefore better for hand/arm protection. But I feared it had lost that strawberry feeling, (apologies to the Righteous Brothers.)

For my last experiment, I used 13 triangles; two at the top are green. I think this is the most strawberry-ish of all, although it may be having an existential crisis, because I slipped in an apple-themed fabric.  
Want to make your own? The tutorial follows. My best advice: Sew triangles in horizontal rows, not concentric hexagons, because the latter gets very confusing, very fast. 

TUTORIAL: 13-Piece Strawberry Potholder/Kitchen Art
Cut 11 triangles from red scraps, plus two more from green scraps. Choose a variety of shades to create highlights and dark areas. 
An equilateral triangle acrylic rotary cutting template makes cutting easy and fast. There are many brands and price points; mine, below, is the “Equilateral 60 Degree Triangle by Darlene Zimmerman from EZ quilting by Wrights,” under $10.00 
I used the template line that measures 3.75” from tip to the center of the base (I marked it with painters' tape so I don't have to keep looking for it), but you can go to 4" if that's easier. 

Arrange the triangles.  
Sew together in horizontal rows. After you add each piece, press the seam allowance to one side. In the top row in the photo below, the seam allowances are all pressed to the right; in the middle row, they're pressed to the left...
...and on the bottom row, they're pressed to the right again. Here's the back:
Match tips and pin the top row face down onto the middle row, face up. Pin at each intersection, halfway across each triangle, and at both ends. 
Use a quarter inch seam allowance, and remove pins just before the presser foot reaches them. 

Open and press seam allowances upward, so the leaf tips are slightly elevated over the row below.
Add the bottom strip to the middle strip the same way. Press that horizontal seam allowance upward. 
Stack two layers of cotton batting - put the stitched unit on top and cut the batting a half-inch or so beyond it. 
Use your top unit, face down, to cut out backing fabric, face up.  Pin three layers together: Batting on bottom, backing (good side up) in the middle; and top, good side down. 
Create a loop - a 4.5" piece of ribbon, rattail, or fabric. Here, I started with a 4.5" x 1.25" piece of green fabric, folded both long edges inward to the center (good side out), pressed, then stitched along the open edge. 
Insert it loop down, into the top center, with just about a half-inch of the two ends, side by side, sticking upward. 
Stitch around with a quarter-inch seam allowance, starting at the bottom triangle, on the left, going up and around and ending at the far right of the bottom piece. 
Trim all the batting and backing fabric in the seam allowances to a scant quarter-inch, and cut flat across the corners to a quarter inch.
The gap, directly above, is the width of the base triangle. Press the top edge of the opening down flat.

If you now lift the backing fabric, you'll see a bit of batting sticking out under it. Carefully cut it away. I suggest you do it with scissors, not a rotary cutter....
It's cut away - because I used a rotary cutter, I accidentally cut into the backing fabric on the left edge - don't do that at home! 
Press the backing fabric over the back of the batting to create a nice crease.
Now both edges of the opening are neatly pressed back.
Reach into the opening, where the two good sides face each other, and gently, pull right sides out. 
Use a chopstick to extrude all the corners, and press well. 
You can use a glue stick to shut the opening; press with a hot iron to dry the glue. Topstitch all the way around the potholder, 1/8th inch from the edge. Straight stitch in the ditch along all the diagonal and horizontal lines (I used invisible monofilament thread). My last step was to add "v" shaped quilting to the leaves. 
The back: 
Have fun! Send pictures! For more ideas, click "potholder" in the word cloud on the right. My very different food fabric potholder and quilt pattern is here.

*A layer of Insul-Brite may be safer for potholders, and I sometimes use it, but I do find that the double layer of cotton batting plus fabric on both sides, works well for most situations...unless confronted with a searing-hot, heavy pan; in those cases I trust my giftees will use their heavy-duty oversized potholder gloves, and not this kitchen art!

UPDATE: Part 2 of this series, with apples replacing strawberries, is now posted here.