Of Childish Things

Recently I rediscovered the joy of making fabric loop potholders. It was a thing when I was a kid, some people might remember having the little loom or making them in home ec class in school (not sure if that’s a class anyone takes anymore). That was where I first started, and was soon doing them at home, too.

I made them for my mom and grandma mostly, who always appreciated my efforts. Liking all the colors and patterns I could make, I remember it being one of the first creative, crafty things I ever tried.

Last year, after her aunt passed away, a friend invited me to the house to go through her aunt’s things and pick out a few items to remember her by. Her aunt had been my friend, too, and I felt really privileged to be able do that. She had been a very funny, smart, and independent woman, and I was so happy to have known her.

Among the things I picked out was a small box containing an old adjustable loom for making potholders. The moment I saw it I lit up, and was reminded of nice memories making them as a kid.

Judging by the age, the box looked to be from the 1950s or 1960s. There were a couple of small potholders still inside, as well as some pale cotton fabric loops. I don’t know if belonged to my friend’s aunt or one of her children. It seemed like kind of a funny thing to like and take as a memento, but it also felt like a happy connection to find.

The box sat for several months in my house. I kept looking at it, thinking, I should try that again one day. But though the loom was fine, there were no knitting tools in the box to go with it, so I would have to search those out.

When I moved back to Glens Falls earlier this year, the box with the loom was one of things I made sure to bring with me. A few weeks ago I finally set about searching for the tools online, and learned I could still get all kinds of supplies. Like the proverbial kid in a candy store, I felt giddy at my discovery (and probably overdid it a bit).

I found looms of different sizes were now available, as well as bags and boxes of fabric loops in all kinds of colors, and books of different designs and patterns to follow had even been written. Apparently they were still a thing, I was happy to see.

Thinking about the long winter months ahead and projects to do on snowy days, I ordered enough materials to get myself set for awhile. With Christmas coming up, I had the idea to make some for friends as a cute, kind of retro handmade gift. I can’t only make potholders for myself, I realized. Plus where’s the fun in that? A lot of the joy I remembered was in giving them away.

I made my first one pretty much according to the book pattern as a practice run. It was a bit awkward at first, relearning to string the loops on the loom, then use the tool to finish the edges. But I got the hang of it pretty quickly.

Once I was done, I was so proud and happy with the bright, colorful result. And I had really liked making it.

Tactile, precise, and repetitive, I found the whole process very meditative. It felt mentally soothing, weaving through the little loops over and over, focusing on that one activity to the exclusion of everything else. You have to be careful, because you can easily mess up the pattern with one missed stitch. So I have to focus closely, and pay attention.

It’s not often I can get my mind feel so quiet. Only with yoga and painting have I reached the same kind of Zen-like state. Even when I’m running, the calm comes after, but not during.

Of course, I felt a bit funny making the potholders at first. It’s kind of a childish thing, I thought, silly and small. But there is so much joy to be found in being silly sometimes, I know, in doing things just because you want to, with no other excuse needed. And I had so many new ideas for colors and designs I wanted to try. To me, anything that inspires that kind of creativity is never a a bad thing.

I posted my efforts on Facebook, thinking my friends would get a good laugh out of it, if nothing else, promising not to share each and every one I finished.

Instead I got so many positive responses, from people who remembered making them, too – men friends and women – and thought it was great I was doing it again. I even had a thought that it might be fun to have people over to make them, a small gathering, with friends and wine, laughing as we sit around with our loops and looms, reliving our childhoods together.

When that happens, then in addition to making me feel happy and creative, I will have brought other people together to hopefully feel the same. And that’s never a bad thing, either.

And all this came from picking out an old box that brought back fun childhood memories. You never know what or who will lead you down a fresh path, or back toward an old one. I think it’s always more interesting to follow where they go, even if it feels not very grown up. Maybe those are actually the best ones to try.