DIYdiy projects

DIY Project: Sashiko Sampler Potholders

by Natalie Stopka

These sweet potholders are a great way to experiment with simple stitches and dashing color combinations. Sashiko is a decorative running stitch used in Japan to reinforce fabrics while forming tessellating geometric patterns. Following that tradition we will use the oldest stitch in the book to quilt a vibrant and utilitarian collection of potholders – and the perfect hostess gifts!

A note about materials: It is imperative that only natural fibers are used for this project – synthetics will burn. That means cotton or linen fabric, cotton batting, cotton embroidery thread, and even cotton machine quilting thread to bind the edges. Traditional sashiko needles are very long (2 1/2”) with a sharp point and small eye. You can purchase genuine needles or simply substitute the longest sewing needle you’ve got. –Natalie

The full how-to continues after the jump!

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-low loft cotton batting
-linen or cotton fabric
-safety pins
-sashiko thread, or embroidery floss sashiko needle, or long needle
-vanishing fabric marker or chalk pencil
-straight pins
-cotton sewing thread
-iron and board
-optional: tear-away stabilizer, permanent marker, thimble, sewing machine


Begin by finding your lovely patterns! Check out Pinterest for inspiration. Simple geometric designs can be drawn directly on the fabric with a vanishing fabric marker, or complex patterns can be traced onto tear-away stabilizer with a permanent marker. This paper- like sheet is pinned to the surface of the fabric, sewn through, and torn off when the embroidery is complete.

Pre-wash your fabric. Cut two pieces of fabric and one piece of batting to about 8” square. Lay the batting between the fabric and pin the layers in place with a few safety pins. Draw out your pattern or affix the stabilizer.

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To begin the embroidery, hide your knot between the fabric and batting. Following the pattern, sew a running stitch with large and (more or less) even stitches through all three layers of fabric and batting. Put several stitches onto the long needle before pushing it through the fabric, using a thimble if necessary. Divide each line segment of the pattern into an even number of stitches to keep your spacing uniform across the pattern, and keep the tension a little loose to prevent puckering in the wash.

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When the sashiko embroidery is complete, bind the edges of the potholder. Cut a few long strips of fabric about 1 3/4” wide (these do not need to be on the bias). Join two strips together if necessary to reach around the edge of the potholder. Pin the binding strip along the edge of the potholder on whichever side you deem the back, 1/8” from the edge. The raw edges will be parallel, with the binding strip laying over the embroidered pattern. Leave two tails where the ends of the binding strip will be joined.

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Sew the binding strip around the edge of the potholder 1/4” from the edge, using a sewing machine if you like. At each corner there will be a triangular flap of fabric – simply sew to the corner, lift the presser foot and flip the triangle from the next edge to the sewn edge, lower the presser foot and continue. When you reach the side where the binding strip will be joined, pin the seam and join the ends before attaching the binding strip to the potholder.

To add the fabric loop: Cut a piece of fabric 1” wide by 3” long. Fold the long sides to the center and press, then fold in half lengthwise and press again (just like bias tape). Sew down the length of this and make it into a loop. Snip a few stitches at the center of one side of the potholder and slip the ends of the loop between the binding strip and the potholder, with the loop pointing towards the center of the potholder. Re-sew the seam, securing the loop in place.

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Trim the edge of the potholder (and loop ends) flush with the edge of the binding strip, 1/8” from the seam. Invert the binding strip so it wraps around the edge of the potholder to the front. Press the back with a warm iron, then turn front-side up. Fold the outer edge of the binding strip to meet the edge of the potholder and press. Fold this crisp new seam onto the front of the potholder covering the edge. Press again, working your way around the sides. When you reach each corner you will create a little triangle; fold the next side over this to make the mitered corner. Sew the binding strip into place, securing the edges of the potholder.

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Gray Line Linen

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  • I love this!! I really like to embroider, but there aren’t a lot of cool (“fresh”) ideas out there for embroidery. Thanks for sharing this one!

  • And if you’re lazy like me, make napkins! No quilting or mitered corners necessary.

  • These are beautiful! I was wondering, though, if the cotton batting is enough to protect against the heat of pots, or if something more would be needed, like an insulated-type product.

    Thanks again for this great idea!

  • Good point about the insulated batting. I would definitely use it if you can (I speak from experience with a prior pot holder project). Can’t wait to make these!

  • Nice; reminds me of potholders an old beau’s mom gave me that she made from blue jeans that got too holey.

  • Recommend a layer of felted (i.e. accidentally shrunk in the wash) wool sweater in there between the cotton batting layers- it will do the trick !

  • Thank you for this great idea and nice tutorial! A better batting choice, since it is more heat resistant, is 100 % wool batting. Old, felted sweaters work fine.

  • Heads up, the Pinterest link is broken! It would be supremely helpful to have the patterns pictures available as a PDF download. Can you make that available?

  • I made a bunch of pot holders with recycled old bath towels and wash cloths as “batting”.
    They work fine but get pretty thick and a little hard to get through with a needle. Actual batting is softer and had more air.

  • thank u very much! i’ve been lookg for a potholder project that is beautiful, inspirational, simple….and, able to hand stitch too, w the correct material! it’s also great for stress relief and confidence building… sweet.
    thank you very much!