Friday, September 22, 2017

In Which My Husband Sets My Oven Mitts On Fire, and I Have to Make New Ones, and Then He LAUGHS at Me! A Tutorial

Okay, I didn't HAVE to make new ones.  Sensible people just go to the store and BUY oven mitts.  I checked Williams Sonoma and Sur la Table, though, and neither of them had any cute, kitschy oven mitts that I could get excited about.  And yes, I DO need to feel excited about oven mitts in order to buy them.

Laughing So Hard, His Face is as Red as the Oven Mitts
Apparently my oven mitts are hysterically funny, just because the thumbs are a bit too small for Bernie's giant hands.  This is because I took too wide of a seam allowance, and I COULD easily fix them by ripping out the seams and resewing them, but I don't particularly feel like it now that my efforts have been ridiculed.  They fit Anders' hands perfectly; maybe I should teach HIM to cook for us?

My old oven mitts were from Williams Sonoma, purchased way back when they were featuring the color "saffron" and they were selling pot holders, Le Creuset cookware, aprons, towels, and everything else in that color, which complements my kitchen nicely.  What happened to my oven mitts is that Bernie was cooking something where you brown meat on the stove, then put the pan in the oven to sear the meat, and then it comes back to the stove for the remainder of cooking -- with a searing hot metal handle that one tends to forget is hot.  So he stuck an oven mitt on the handle of the skillet, and then when he turned up the burner flame the oven mitt ignited.  And we've had these oven mitts for a LONG time anways, at least 10 years, so it's time for them to go.

Sad Little Saffron Oven Mitts, Soon to be Retired
I turned the damaged oven mitts inside out to inspect them, and discovered that they were 100% cotton (according to the care label), and consisted of an outer layer of cotton twill, a thin layer of cotton batting, and a layer of terry cloth, all quilted together.  

At the Seam Allowance, I Can See the Layers of the Old Oven Mitt
I decided to use the old pot holders as a pattern for my new ones.  

Inside Out Old Oven Mitt
Looking at the photo above, I can see why my oven mitts ended up too small at the top.  I cut my mitts out to match the raw edges of the old mitt and then sewed my mitt with a consistent seam allowance all the way around, but it looks like the Williams Sonoma elves trimmed the seam allowances at the fingertip and thumb curves to reduce bulk before turning them right side out.  So I COULD just rip out the seam and resew the pot holders with a narrower seam allowance and then they'd be fine, and maybe I will do that...  Later.  Someday.  When I get around to it.  (Not going to happen).  

And now, for the tutorial, in case you feel the urge to make your very own custom oven mitts!

My Fabrics After Prewashing
So I chose a Waverly cotton home dec print remnant from the clearance section at Jo-Ann's, cotton batting scraps, a lime green cotton terry cloth, and I added a layer of Insul-Brite between the cotton batting and the terry cloth, for added insulation.  I needed about 1/2 yard of each.  I also bought a package of extra wide double-fold bias tape and two spools of all-purpose polyester thread, one to match the paisley print and the other to matchin the binding.  Of course the Waverly home dec fabric was labeled Dry Clean Only, but I prewashed it along with the terry cloth anyway, in hot water so they would shrink.  Food gets on oven mitts, oven mitts need to get washed, and they need to shrink BEFORE I wash them.  Now, you can absolutely use quilting weight cotton for your oven mitts and pot holders, and if you do, you'll have a much better assortment of colors and prints to choose from.  I chose the home dec twill because I wanted a beefier, more rugged outer layer that would last longer, like the Williams Sonoma ones I had before.  

Cotton Twill Print, Thin Cotton Batting, Insul-Brite Batting, Terry Cloth
After laundering my fabrics, I layered my terry cloth, the Insul-Brite insulated batting, the thin cotton quilt batting, and the paisley print fabric right side up on top.  Four layers in this quilt sandwich, and there was no way I could get safety pins through all that thickness to secure the layers, so I spray basted them with 505 Spray and Fix temporary adhesive spray.  You do NOT want to skip this step -- even with a walking foot, the layers will scoot around under your presser foot and your terry cloth will end up all bunched and mangled if you don't glue baste all four layers together before quilting!  I know this because I was lazy, and tried it.  Fail!

505 Spray and Fix Temporary Fabric Adhesive
I suppose I could have quilted my oven mitt fabric on my longarm machine, but it was such a small quilt sandwich that I decided to just quilt it up on my domestic machine with my walking foot.  I really could have done any quilting design; the purpose is just to hold the layers together so they function as one fabric.  I decided the boring grid quilting would look best with my curvy paisley print, plus it was pretty fast to execute.

Walking Foot with Guide Bar for Evenly Spaced Lines
I quilted this on my Bernina 750 QE sewing machine with Walking Foot #50.  This foot has a little guide bar that I can attach for quilting evenly spaced rows without marking, so I just had to mark the first straight line with chalk and then spaced all of the others off of previous lines of quilting.

I'm using a size 90/14 Jeans needle for every step of this project, and that's important.  You can go up to a 90/14 Jeans needle or even a 100/16 or 110/18 Jeans needle, but please don't try to sew through all these layers with a dull 80/12 Universal needle that has been in your machine for a year.  Even if it's a brand new Universal needle, those are made with a slight ballpoint to the tip so they can be used for either wovens or for knits. For this project, you really need a strong needle with a SHARP point to penetrate this thick quilt sandwich made of home dec twill, terry, and two layers of batting, and still produce nice stitches -- and that's exactly what a Jeans needle is designed to do.

Schmetz 90/14 Jeans Needles
I quilted my potholder fabric with a 40 weight variegated King Tut cotton machine quilting thread that I had in my stash, using a coordinating solid 50/3 weight cotton thread in my bobbin.  

King Tut Variegated Machine Quilting Thread
Another important tip is that you want to reduce your presser foot pressure, if your machine allows you to do so (the Activa and 3 Series Bernina machines do NOT have adjustable presser foot pressure, but the rest of the models in the current lineup do, and so do my vintage Singer Featherweight machines).  I had to reduce the presser foot pressure drastically on my machine to get this ridiculously thick quilt sandwich to feed through the machine properly.  When I started trying to quilt with the presser foot pressure at the default setting of 50, the presser foot was smashing down so hard on the quilt sandwich that the feed dogs couldn't move the quilt sandwich through the machine properly, and I got itty bitty stitches no matter what stitch length I'd set the machine to sew.  I ended up lowering my presser foot pressure all the way down to 20 -- where the presser foot doesn't touch the bed of the machine in the down position without the quilt sandwich in between -- and that setting worked perfectly for this project.  I used a stitch length of 3.0 for quilting as well as for construction.

Quilting In Progress
As you can see, I quilted the first straight line down the lengthwise center of the quilt sandwich first.  Then I quilted all of the lines to the right of that line until I reached the edge, turned the sandwich around, and quilted all the lines from the center out to the opposite edge.

Diamond Cross Hatched Quilting Completed
Because I was working quickly and not aiming for perfection, I decided to quilt the crosshatching lines on a 45 degree angle rather than perpendicular to the vertical quilting lines.  If I had tried to quilt a grid of squares my imperfections would be more obvious, because some of my squares would be more rectangular.  A diamond grid camouflages those inconsistencies better.  After marking the first 45 degree angle line through the center of the quilt sandwich, I quilted out to the edges the same way I did with the vertical lines.

Quilting Completed!
...and voila!  Doesn't the diamond quilting look cool on the terry cloth side of the quilt sandwich?  Now my four disparate layers function as one thick, sturdy fabric, and I'm ready to cut out my oven mitts!

Terry Lining Side Up
Here's a view of the edge of the quilt sandwich, showing how ridiculously thick this is:

Edge View of Quilted Layers
See why I needed to reduce my presser foot pressure?  

Ready to Cut Out My Oven Mitts!
Since I was making two oven mitts, I needed to cut out two pairs of opposite mittens.  I folded my quilt sandwich in half, right sides together, and used my old oven mitts as templates to trace around and then cut out with my heavy duty Gingher tailor's shears.  My regular dressmaker's shears were not strong enough to cut through this easily.  Having gone to the trouble of quilting all of this together, I decided to cut out a small square potholder and a long, skinny pot handle cover from my scraps.  These would also be good for practicing the binding application later.

Mitts Cut Out
Ta da!

New Oven Mitt, Cut Out Right Sides Together
Notice the deep clip at the inside of the thumb.  The original oven mitts were clipped almost to the stitching line there.  Now, studying the old oven mitts again, I see that the bottom edges of the Williams Sonoma mitts were bound prior to stitching the mitt together along the sides, so the binding would not have to be wrapped around the huge log that is the seam allowance:

Binding Sewn First, Prior to Stitching the Side Seam
(The fancy Williams Sonoma elves must have sewn their binding continuously from one half of the mitt to the other, like chain piecing, to have that nice finished edge on the inside, but I didn't feel like exerting myself that degree, so I bound the edge of each half of my oven mitt separately).  So I sewed my binding on next:

Attaching the Extra Wide Double Fold Bias Binding
Packaged bias binding is folded so that one half of the bias tape is slightly narrower than the other.  You want the narrower edge on the TOP of your project.  I opened up that narrower edge of the binding and lined the raw binding edge up with the raw edge of my oven mitt.  I'm using presser foot 1D now, with Dual Feed engaged on my sewing machine.  If you don't have dual feed on your machine, you may want to use your walking foot again.  Presser foot pressure is still reduced to 20, and my stitch length is 3.0.  I'm stitching right along that first fold line on my bias binding.

Binding Wraps Around to the Back
Next, the binding gets wrapped around to the back side of the piece, and because the wider half of the binding is on the back side, the folded edge reaches just past the stitching line from sewing the binding down on the right side.   I used Wonder Clips to secure the binding prior to stitching, easing the curves and coaxing out any wrinkles as I went along.  I would not have been able to get regular sewing pins bent through these thick layers without distortion.  (If you decide to make your own binding rather than using the prepackaged kind, make sure you cut it on the bias.  If you cut it on the straight of grain, it won't be able to bend smoothly around the curved edges of your oven mitt!)

See the Little "Valley" of the Stitches Along the Edge?
As long as your binding covers that previous stitching line when you wrap it around to the back, you can be assured that it will be caught in the stitching when you sew along that same stitching line from the right side.  Like so:

Secure the Binding from the Wrong Side, Making Sure You Cover the Stitching Line

...Then Flip It Over to Stitch In the Ditch
How cute is that?!  Now I stitch in the ditch right next to the fold of my binding, and these stitches secure the back side of the binding pretty invisibly from the right side.  My needle is sewing into the red print fabric, but the needle is rubbing against the edge of the yellow binding.  I forgot to take a picture of this step, but I did switch to an open toed presser foot (#20D) that gave me better visibility of exactly where my needle was landing.  And here is what the finished binding looks like, front and back:

Right Side.  See Those Stitches Right Up Next to the Binding?

Wrong Side Secured
This is why I used yellow thread to sew down the binding instead of red thread that would have camouflaged with the print fabric.  The yellow thread is barely noticeable on the right side, so close to the yellow fabric, but the read thread would have looked really ugly on the backing side of the binding!  It's not perfect, but it's good enough for a utilitarian project like this one.  

Sewing the Seams: Now We Have EIGHT Layers!

...So I've Reduced Presser Foot Pressure All the Way Down to 10!
I sewed my pot handle sleeve together first, to experiment with machine settings.  Now there were EIGHT layers to deal with, and I was stuffing twice as much under my presser foot as I was during the quilting and binding steps.  So I reduced my presser foot pressure all the way down to 10 -- remember that 50 is the default setting for regular sewing!  I'm using Straight Stitch #1 on my Bernina, with the default tension of 5.0 which is perfect for my polyester all purpose thread.  I did increase my stitch length to 3.0 after snapping this picture.  (Oh, and the exclamation mark is outlined in yellow because I have told my machine that I have a straight stitch plate on my machine -- that prevents me from forgetting, selecting a zigzag stitch, and breaking my needle).

With these machine settings, it was really easy to sew around the edges of the pot handle sleeve and oven mitts (although I wish I'd taken a smaller seam allowance so they would have finished a little bigger!).  I clipped the thumb and finger curves (whoops -- I guess I CAN'T resew them with a narrower seam allowance, since I snipped all through there already).  I turned them inside out, and voila!

Finished Potholder, Oven Mitts, and Pot Handle Sleeve in the Morning Sun
They may be a little small for Chef Bernie's liking, but I think they are pretty darned cute.  Much more cheerful than anything Williams Sonoma is selling this season!

Small Potholder is Just the Right Size for the Tea Kettle Handle
The little square potholder that I cut from my scraps is just the right size for grabbing the whistling tea kettle when the water boils.  It will get used a lot, and it will look super cute on my counter top.

Chef Bernie, Cute But Dangerous!
As for my husband, the Arsonist Chef, he's forgiven.  I'm very lucky that he enjoys cooking for us -- that translates into more quilting time for me!

If you end up making your own pot holders or oven mitts from my tutorial, please send me a picture.  I'd love to see them!

I'm linking up with:


Karen - Quilts...etc. said...

thanks for the lesson! yes forgive Bernie you are lucky he cooks anything - mine has never learned to do more than pop something in the microwave he won't even learn to barbecue! said...

We both lucky that our husbands do the cooking in the house and it may be time for me to make new oven mitts. Knowing how things happen in my house, as soon as they're made, bad cooking karma is going to happen. Love your tutorial.

mboykin said...

Nice job, Rebecca Grace! Good tips in your tutorial as well!

Preeti said...

Mitts - Lovely and useful. Husband - Cute and dangerous. You - Talented and Funny.
Best of all worlds!!!

grammajudyb said...

Great detailed tutorial. Love the presser foot pressure suggestions. It always seems to be a trial and error event for me.

Elliza said...

I'm making some new hot mitts and stumbled across this post. I second Preeti's above comments. Couldn't have said it better. Thanks for the tips and laugh this morning.