Depending when and where you live, you may call this a pan holder like they did in the Fifties. You might call it a potholder, a trivet, a hot dish mat, or something else. No matter what you call it, it’s adorable and it’s pretty easy to make.
Creating from old patterns is a lot of fun. With a little time and effort you can have something just like Grandma or Great-grandma had. However, it does take some tweaking. Sometimes needle sizes are different. Often fabrics are no longer made. And usually, yarns must be substituted because the yarns a particular pattern calls for is long out of production.
Take rug yarn, for instance. Rug yarn used to be made from wool or cotton. No fillers, nothing but wool or cotton. Now the closest thing we can find to old fashioned rug yarn is chunky weight knitting yarn, and it doesn’t have the same texture, weight, or strength that rug yarn of the 1930s – 1950s had. Plus, it’s very rarely made from anything but acrylic.
WARNING: You CANNOT use acrylic, nylon, or any type of polyester yarn when making potholders. Acrylic yarn is plastic. Nylon yarn is plastic. When plastic melts, it can cause nasty burns. ONLY 100% cotton or 100% wool can be used for kitchen pads that need to protect from heat.
You can make a table hot dish mat from acrylic yarn as long as you never, ever grab it when you need to pull a hot pan from the oven, or to tame a hot pot handle on the stove. I have ONE table pad that I made from acrylic yarn and a 1970s pattern. It’s dorky, in seafoam green and white, and I love it. But it’s never used as a potholder to hold anything hot. It goes on the table and then I reach for the potholders that I’ve knitted from 100% cotton. Someday, when I have the time, I’ll replace that dorky 1970s acrylic table mat with a nice set of 100% cotton table mats using a 1930s or 1940s pattern. Then I’ll tell you all about it so you can make them, too.
The Quick Knit 1950s Potholder
This potholder knits a little strangely because you are using one “strand” of yarn (I’ll get to that in a minute) to produce a thick, cushioned protector for your hand.
Note: You may want to make two of these. Often cooks reached for two pan holders at a time, and used them double to protect against one handle in the oven, especially if they were thin and made from fabric. I tested this finished potholder in a 420 degree oven and it protected my hand well. You may feel comfortable using one, or more at ease when using two together.
The pattern called for 1950s rug yarn, of course. Rug yarn like this is unfortunately no longer made. I substituted the yarn and increased the size of the knitting needles a bit, and it worked really well.
Instead of rug yarn I used two strands of Lily Sugar ‘n Cream cotton worsted yarn, held together as if they were one strand. This is a bit stiffer than rug yarn. It is less pliable. But it does construct a nice thick hotpad.
You will Need
One pair size 7 (4.5 mm) knitting needles, preferably aluminum or steel. Plastic or wood needles can break when you knit with two strands of cotton worsted weight yarn, but you’re welcome to try if that’s what you have and what you enjoy using.
One size G (4 – 4.25 mm) crochet hook for the loop (optional).
Making the Item
In order to use today’s worsted cotton yarn instead of rug yarn, you need to knit with two strands. The easiest way to do this is to 1) either buy two balls of yarn if you plan to make several small things, or 2) find the center of the ball of yarn and pull from both the center and the outside of the ball at the same time, using two strands. One strand comes from the center of the ball, and the other strand comes from the end wrapped around the outside of the ball.
This pattern uses a familiar stitch in an unfamiliar way. You will be working yarn-overs, but instead of passing the yarn over the needle as you usually do, this pattern requires you to bring the yarn all the way around the needle: between the stitches, up, and over. If you knit Continental style (also called picking the yarn), it looks like this:
And if you knit English style (also known as throwing the yarn) it looks like this:
The completed potholder measures about six inches (15 mm) square. The knitting is pretty tight with doubled yarn and the small knitting needle size. If you knit more loosely, your potholder will be larger – and it may not offer as much protection as a tightly knitted one.
sl: Slip 1 stitch while holding the yarn in the front as if you are going to purl.
YO: Yarn over. In this pattern only, the yarn will be in front of the needles since your last stitch was either a purl stitch or a slipped stitch with the yarn in front of your work. You pass the yarn from the front to the back and then up and around, as you see in the photos above. This makes the potholder extra thick. If you don’t wrap the yarn this way, the potholder will NOT be thick enough to protect your hand. The thickest part of this piece should be nearly 3/8-inch, or 1 centimeter.
( ): When you see something in parentheses, you do that thing over and over as many times as the instructions say. It may say twice, or three times, or 6 times.
[ ]: Extra instructions or reminders you might find helpful.
Cast on 26 stitches. (change to 26 sts)
Row 1: P 1, sl 1, and repeat across the row. [Remember to slip the stitches with the yarn in front, as if you are purling.]
Row 2: P each stitch across.
Row 3: Sl 1, P 1, and repeat across the row.
Row 4: P each stitch across.
Row 5: (P 1, sl 1) twice, K 18, (P 1, sl 1) twice.
Row 6: P 4, (YO, sl 1, P 1) 9 times, then P 4. [Remember to make the YO as the instructions and photos above.]
Row 7: (Sl 1, P1) twice, (sl 1, YO, P2 together) 9 times, (sl 1, P 1) twice. [The two stitches that you purl together will be a normal stitch and one of the yarn overs.]
Row 8: P 5, (sl the YO, P 2) 8 times, sl 1, P 5.
Row 9: (P1, sl 1) twice, (P2 together, sl 1, YO) 9 times, (P1, sl 1) twice.
Row 10: P4, (sl the YO, P2) 8 times, sl 1, P 6.
Repeat rows 7 through 10 seven times.
Row 39: (Sl 1, P 1) twice, (K 1, K 2 together) 6 times, (sl 1, P 1) twice.
Row 40: P each stitch.
Row 41: P 1, sl 1, repeat across row.
Row 42: P each stitch.
Row 43: Sl 1, P 1, repeat across row.
Bind off in purl stitch.
If you want a ring to hang it from:
After binding off the final stitch, using the crochet hook, chain 10 stitches.
Join the stitches together to form a ring at the corner of the potholder.
Finish off and hide the ends.
Now you have your very own 1950s potholder! Use it to decorate your kitchen or to protect your hands from hot pans.