We sewers are always looking for a new creative idea. When we discover something that works that is fun and can make our projects better, we love that kind of idea. I was making folded star hot pads the old fashioned way by drawing out my lines and measuring the center points, basting the points by hand, and felt it was time-consuming and tedious. There had to be a better way to make a folded star hot pad, so I challenged myself to figure it out.
There are things in life that have a ripple effect that move us from what we do a certain way to doing things differently forever. Take sliced bread. It was only 100 years ago that the first bread-slicing machine was invented by Otto Frederick Rohwedder of Davenport, Iowa. Within 18 years, the notion of packaging sliced bread was introduced nationwide by Wonder Bread. The entire bread market was changed by one little invention. I like to think Rohwedder invented this machine because he was tired of hand cutting his loaves of bread and needed to speed up production. Whatever his motivation, his idea changed the world.
My pattern will help everyone who wants to make a folded star hot pad. I can show you how to make it easier, better, and faster. The simple method I’ve come up with is based on a copyrighted printed interfacing template that is a ruler—a ruler that is the foundation of the hot pad itself. You do not have to measure the distance between each triangle to form the star points. You can machine sew the entire project after you position the points. You do not have to sew the star points to keep them in place until the end. You do not have to tear out the foundation. All of these shortcuts make the hot pad easy, accurate, fast to make, and a project that will be successful for almost everyone—even beginners.
It is so exciting when you have moments where “the light bulb turns on.” Many refer to these times as “Ah-ha moments.” I experienced this myself when developing the PlumEasy Folded Start Hot Pad. I get to experience this moment over and over again in my classes, as my students discovered how simple it was to make something that looked hard but turn out so easy!
During one class, a student’s star was not straight; points were crooked, and not symmetrical. Looking at it, I could see immediately that she had made the first layer of triangles crooked so that the rest of the layers accentuated the error. I told her that it was not a problem; we proceeded to pull it apart and glue it down again straight. All of the students were watching me and their reaction was stunned silence. It was an “Ah-ha” moment. They had no idea you could redo it if it wasn’t right. But since they were using washable glue that comes apart easily, they didn’t need to be afraid to start over if they made a mistake or even if they wanted to change the color of the fabric or the order of the layers.
So What Makes Our Method Different?
First, the template has a printed ruler that measures the distance between each circle on the grid. You lay the base of the triangle on a 90 or 45 degree line and align the tip of the triangle on the same line and it will be straight. Each of the 8 triangles sit on the same circle line, but move around the diameter of the circle like a pinwheel.
You do not have to measure the distance between each triangle to form the star points because each layer is placed on a separate circle of the template ruler. You can choose what circle line to use to give the hot pad narrow or wide spacing between layers, but by keeping individual layers on the same circle, they will be at an equal distance. The template has labels for each layer, indicating what circle works best for the specific layers. However, you can put them as close or as far apart as you desire…be free to audition your fabric and see what spacing you prefer.
You do not have to sew the star points to keep them in place. Once you are ready to lay out the star, you will glue baste the triangles with a washable glue stick. This keeps them from shifting so that when you are done laying out your hot pad, you can sew it without worrying about the fabric shifting.
You can machine sew the entire project after you position the points. You can sew the hot pad easily by opening the flaps of the top layer of the triangle and sewing straight across to the opposite side, opening the flaps on the other side, and keeping the stitching in between the folds of all layers. This is quick and it’s a snap to do if you’ve kept your points straight, made your triangles with a little space for stitching, and you use a walking foot.
You do not have to tear out the foundation. The foundation is non-woven interfacing and is left in place. Your hot pad is made of folded triangles, and you sew in the folds, right through the foundation.
To finish the hot pad, you adjust the layers and when you are happy with them, glue baste the top layer corners so they won’t move. Then turn it over and sew baste around the circle, then trim the excess template and fabric.
Once this is done, it is ready for top stitching the batting and backing in place. With your backing fabric, batting and hot pad top together, stitch 1/8” away from the edge of Layer 4, using your presser foot as a guide. This simple straight stitch quilts the hot pad together. If possible, use a walking foot.
The final steps are to add a little hanger to the back, and add a binding. The hanger makes it possible to dangle your hot pad on a hook in your kitchen. I highly recommend this but it is optional, of course.
The binding I recommend is a bit nontraditional. I use a single layer straight of grain strip of fabric 1.5” wide x WOF. I iron a ¼” hem on one whole side, and a 45 degree angle hem on one end.
I pin the strip very gently all the way around the hot pad being careful to not stretch it or force it. I pin it every ½”. Pin the binding all the way around to meet up with the 45° edge and go past that 1” then trim excess. Stitch the entire binding all the way around with a ¼” seam allowance. When you take out the pins, slip stitch the 45° edge closed so it is nearly invisible, then fold over edge all around, then sew by hand with an invisible stitch.
If you want to machine sew the binding, I would sew it to the back and flip it over to the front to top stitch.
Tips and Tricks
There are a few Do’s and Don’ts for a hot pad project.
Read the pattern instructions completely before starting. This will have your fabric requirements and many more sewing instructions. Note that the refill interfacing packs do not contain the pattern.
Select fabric that has high contrast and does not have too large a print. For the inner layers, only ½” shows so consider that when selecting fabric. Solids or tone-on-tone are great.
Cut your fabric accurately and fold/iron your triangles as perfectly as possible.
Trim frayed edges if they have hanging threads.
Spray starch the triangles if they will not stay flat or are puffy.
Leave a small space in each triangle fold for stitching.
Carefully folding and ironing the triangles is essential to make the hot pad go together well. This will save you a lot of frustration when you try to sew between the folds. If they are ironed so tight you cannot stitch in between, you will end up sewing down the folded edges.
This little step is hard to do because most of us want that sharp point on the triangle but you can iron it sharp after you’ve stitched in between the folds, before you get to the circle basting step, by gently pulling the triangle flaps together and pressing.
Notice the little straight pin in this picture? If you fold the fabric in half and put a pin in the center fold edge, press it into your ironing board, you can gently pull over the sides to create a perfect triangle with the perfect space in the middle for your seam.
Use a fresh washable glue stick and not a rubbery one that is dried out.
Consider the over/under position of the triangles and make them consistent.
Look at your hot pad before sewing it and make sure you are happy with it. You can tear it apart and glue it again if you made mistakes. It will go faster the second time.
If possible, use a walking foot.
Don’t stretch the binding strip at all, but pin it in place gently.
Don’t let your binding strip hang loose and sew it on as you go; pin it in place and it will not stretch. Sewing it on with it hanging loose will cause it to stretch as you try to ease a straight strip into a circular shape. If you sew it like that, the round hot pad will not lay flat.
Embellishments or Alternate Designs
Add rick-rack before binding
Mix up your fabrics, for example, try a rainbow effect
Try moving the spacing between layers to add or subtract for emphasis
Make the hot pad scrappy
Use crazy fabric on the back
And a couple last DO’s…
Buy extra foundation interfacing templates to make more hot pads. They are sold 3 in a pack at the store. Once you learn how to make these, you will get addicted and want to make them for everyone.
Be creative and make your hot pads surprising and fun. See some fun examples below or at PlumEasyPatterns.com’s gallery of pictures.
Bread has been around for 1000′s of years, but only 100 years ago someone figured out how to slice it. The folded star hot pad has been around for decades but we’ve figured out how to make it easy, fast, and better than ever. We hope you’ll give it a try!