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Tutorial: How to Make a Quilted Hot Pad

Ten years ago, I was in a fabric store falling in love with a line of Mary Englebreit Christmas fabric. I made a quilt with it (the only quilt I’ve ever made with pre-cut fabrics) but I wanted to also give it to some people I loved. So I asked one of the salesclerks at the store what I could make other than an entire quilt to give to someone.

She suggested I make some hot pads, and I loved that idea, so I bought some yardage, too, and she gave me a pattern idea (a modified log cabin). I started working on them the second I got home that day. Except, Haley came home from school sick with the stomach flu, so I set up a little table in the hall and started cutting, taking breaks to be with her in the bathroom.

(Oh those years when no holiday could pass without at least one of my kids getting the stomach flu, and often more than one.)

In my memory I made 25 or so hot pads that November (I didn’t actually finish the quilt until the next December), but when I stop to think about it, I’m not sure. I know I gave one to my mom and my mother-in-law; when Beth passed away she had hers in a drawer and Kendell had me bring it home with the other stuff we inherited from her. I’m not sure what happened to my mom’s (maybe one of my nieces has it?) but I don’t know…did I really make a lot of them? Or just a few?

At any rate, that was my start of making hot pads. I have loved making them ever since. They are actually an integral part of my kitchen cleaning process, as I use them to set wet, hand-washed dishes on to dry. The ones I make now are much larger than those first ones I made, and I love the little pop of color and hominess they add to my kitchen.

Also, I love making them because they come together quickly; you can easily make one in just a couple of hours. And your options for making hot pads are only limited by your imagination and your piecing skills!

To make one, you need:

  • A pattern for the top block. It can be as hard or as easy as you like. I’ve made improve blocks, lob cabins, stars, patch work, squares with fussy-cut holiday fabrics, whatever.
  • A piece of fabric for the back. A fat quarter is great for this! This should be about 4" larger than your finished block if you want to self bind, or 2" longer if you’re making a separate binding.
  • A piece of cotton batting that is about 2" larger than your finished top block. (A thin batting is perfect here.) (This is a great use for your batting scraps!)
  • A piece of Insulbrite batting that is about 2" larger than your finished top block. Insulbrite is an insulated batting; it is what makes this a hot pad because it protects your counter from heat. They used to sell it at Joann but I haven’t found it there all year. So finally I just ordered a huge piece from fabric.com.
  • A piece of fabric for the binding if you choose to make a separate binding. The size of this depends on how big your finished hot pad will be and how wide you like to cut your binding.

Here are the basic steps; for more details see THIS blog post.

  1. Make the top block.
  2. Make a quilt sandwich: the backing fabric face down, then the Insulbrite, then the cotton batting. Smooth out the top square on the top.
  3. Iron once more to smooth out any crinkles.
  4. Pin and then quilt as you like.
  5. Square up. If you are going to use binding strips, you just cut through all four layers. If you’re going to do a self binding, trim the top three layers so they are square, and THEN square up the backing. (This can get tricky. Be careful to NOT cut the backing! Fold it underneath the square as you trim.)
  6. Wash and dry.

Two years ago, I made another round of hot pads at Christmas. This time I made thirty of them, for nieces and sisters and friends. I made one for my mom but that was the December she got sick so I don’t know if she ever used it. I had a few people who said, “ummm, thanks for this quilted…little square?” so now when I give them as gifts I include a little card I had printed that explains what it is and how to use it. (YOU CAN’T PUT INSULBRITE IN THE MICROWAVE! Very important!)

Some notes on binding:

I go back and forth on making a traditional binding (there are several ways to do this, but I make mine like THIS) or doing a self binding (like THIS), which means binding the quilt with the quilt backing. Self binding is easier, but you have to pay attention to how you quilt the hot pad because the ending of the quilting won’t be covered. Regular binding takes longer, but it’s also more durable and it’s fun to add another fabric into the mix. I’ve improved my binding skills a lot by binding hot pads, so that’s great, but depending on how small the pad is, it can get frustrating to bind traditionally because that last step when you join the ends in a diagonal seem is HARD to do with a tiny piece. (I almost ALWAYS self-bind anything smaller than 9", unless, like the one I made over the weekend as a gift, I accidentally cut the backing fabric on step 5.

I have several Christmas hot pads, but I still made another one this year. Christmas tree hotpad front
(I like having a Christmas-themed craft I work on during December.) I love the two fabric lines I used, Swell Christmas and Sweet Christmas. I think it is a fabric my mom would like, but I also like it, which is great because our tastes are really pretty different. It has a mod, 60’s feel and I confess, I love pink in Christmas designs. I used a the "Christmas Tree" block pattern from The Sewing Loft to make the tree, except I modified it because I wanted a rectangle instead of a square. Modifying it pushed me a little bit and I had to recut the plaid part of the tree THREE times, which left me short on the striped fabric on the top triangle, so then I had to piece it, and I’m a little bit bitter about it. (I even went back into the fabric store to get more of the stripe but they were out. Sadness.) I used washi tape to mark the lines for quilting, which I think I need to write a separate blog post about.

Christmas tree hotpad back

I quilted with droopy curvy lines inside the tree (sort-of like Christmas tree lights?), an outline of the tree, and then the background is a double line set at a 30 degree angle. I wish I would've outlined the tree twice before sewing the background lines, but: onward and upward!

This has been an emotionally difficult December so far, but my two quilting projects have nurtured me through so far. Plus it just makes me happy to see this on my counter!

Comments

Wendy

That is darling!!

Margot/NZ

I love your tutorials. Now that I've a crafting space to work in once more I think I might do some quilting again - these hot pads look just the thing to ease me back into some creating with fabric. Thanks for the info (and the inspiration - I have yours to look at if I get stuck)!

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