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10/30/09: "Fireproof" Quilting


This month I quilted 5 pairs of potholders as a present for Annemarie’s birthday, because believe me we needed some! The potholders were a great vehicle for me to learn more about quilting and to finally be able to use my specialty presser feet that I recently bought from Ebay. See the shop where I purchased them. I bought two presser feet, a low-shank walking foot (aka even feed presser foot) and a darning foot (an open toe, plastic version).

What’s a walking foot and what is it used for? If you have ever done quilting before or sewn a seam that had more than two layers of fabric, you would have noticed that the bottom layer (the one that is touching the feed dogs) goes considerably faster than the top layer. I noticed this very well when I was quilting last December. I was quilting a diamond pattern and I was having puckers and pleats form whenever I stitched across. This pleating is caused by uneven fabric feeding. This is where the walking foot comes in. The walking foot has little teeth on the bottom so when you attach it to your machine you have, in a nutshell, two sets of feed dogs, one on either side of you fabric. I noticed great performance when I was quilting these potholders. I did one pair in a diamond pattern (specifically to try out this presser foot) and I didn’t have any pleating whatsoever.

And what is a darning foot? A darning foot is used for free-motion quilting, or as I like to say, quilting with a pencil. When you use this foot you lower the feed dogs (or, as I have to do, cover the feed dogs with a “darning plate”), and move the fabric with your hands to make stitch lines in any direction you want. Forward, backwards, right, left, circles, anywhere you want that needle to go. I like to imagine the needle as a stationary pencil and the fabric as the paper.

The walking foot I purchased

And the Open Toe Free Motion Quilting Foot (aka Embroidery Foot)

I didn’t follow a pattern to make these potholders so I’ll write directions here for a potholder with simple quilting lines:


  • Two 8″ squares of ‘fashion’ fabric *
  • One 8″ square of Insul-Bright Mylar/Poly Batting (this is a very special type of batting, it is actually used in fireman’s gloves. I bought it from It can really stand up to hot pans and pots and even those occasions when you touch the hot oven coil. I’ve done that often! Don’t have it? You can just use another layer of cotton batting cut to 8 1/2″ square)
  • One 8 1/2″ square of cotton quilt batting (I used Warm and Natural)
  • 45″ of double fold bias tape (I made my own using leftover fashion fabric, but by all means you can buy ready-made from the store)

1. Layer the fabric and batting in this order: fashion fabric wrong side up, Insul-Bright batting, cotton batting, and then finally, the fashion fabric right side up.
2. Pin all four corners, making sure that the edges are even. Baste 1/2″ away from the edges on all sides.
3. Take tailor chalk and make a straight line 2″ away from one side. Make another line 4″ away from first line. Rotate potholder 90 degrees and make two more lines, first being 2″ away from one side, then the second 4″ away from first line. You now have guide lines for quilting.
4. Attach the walking foot to the sewing machine. Stitch across lines drawn.
5. After quilting, attach double fold bias tape. Remove basting. Make a small tube of fabric and sew to one corner of potholder to be used as a hanger.

This is how I made the fabric loop to hang the potholder:
I cut out a strip of fabric 1 1/2″ in width. I folded it half lengthwise and pressed it with the iron. I made a 1/4″ seam along the long side of the strip and I sewed one end close. I cut away the seam allowances at the two corners on one end of the tube. To turn to tube right side out, I used a fabric tube turner that is similar to the one seen here. I then cut it down to size and sewed it to the potholder’s corner.

* Or in other words, the outer, public fabric. I like to use the term “fashion fabric” because I’ve heard Nancy Zieman, from Sewing with Nancy, use this term often.

You can really see from this diamond design potholder how well the walking foot works. It is flat and smooth on both sides.

This is the fabric loop made with leftover fabric.

This green plaid potholder and the blue one below were quilted with the darning foot.

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