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Where are the charming “pan-handlers?”

By Staff | Feb 19, 2010

Take a moment someday and watch the Home and Garden channel.

Next, tune in to This Old House with redheaded, Kevin O’Connor. Then sit down and take in a few cooking shows such as the one hosted by Sara Molton. Before you get out of your chintz covered chair, go ahead and watch Martha Stewart as well. As these TV celebrities remodel, cook, and create in these enormous, fabulous kitchens, you have to wonder why anyone would want to dine out with a kitchen like this! With elements such as double ovens, marble counter tops, bay windows sporting pots of herbs, chrome appliances, pots of every desire – and let us not forget mahogany cabinetry with indirect lighting – it would be a dream come true!

Who in their right mind would not want to have a kitchen like this? Yours truly has lived in five utilitarian kitchens so far, not one of them has had double ovens, double sinks or even double Velveeta cheese holders. Martha Stewart even has a ribbon cupboard! They may have cooked up the great dream kitchen, however, they all are missing one very important main ingredient.

Where are the homemade pot holders? You know the ones which are crocheted or hand stitched. Can you recall the crocheted grape cluster? In the center are crocheted grapes which are the hot pad and hanging along side are two green leaves as potholders. Some of these were too pretty to use. However, they make impressive dcor accents. Oh, the women who designed these decorative, yet very practical, potholders could have easily whipped through Harvard and Yale. Appliqud pots, pans, butterflies, and baskets of flowers are still a favorite of mine.

My brother Tom made enough money selling loomed potholders to buy a bike. He fashioned these in every color combination possible and played to the seasons with inspiring force – orange and black for Halloween and red and white for Valentine’s Day. I do believe if he had marketed the local school colors, he could have bought a car!

In our Underwood kitchen resided a trio of lovely crocheted roses done by my Grandma Repnow. These square potholders featured a center yellow rose and were surrounded by lavender and white. In her vengeance with her crochet needle, she created a matching hot trivet which was round, covered in tinfoil first, and then crocheted.

My first apartment in Minot was adorned with several sets of potholders created by Arlette Payne-Peterson, formerly of Underwood. Arlette was the queen of holder making. In her court of fabrics resided every pattern imaginable. Upon looking at the construction of these gems, you knew this woman had a passion for the too-hot-to-handle! Large, square, and well stuffed, they were sewn with a X. In the corner, a plastic ring was attached for hanging. It was her sense of adventure in fabrics that has allowed me to preserve a pair which features a Victorian couple courting.

The potholders resided on a long hanging rod in the cozy pink kitchen of my landlady, Mrs. Martineau in Turners Falls, Massachusetts. These fruit designs showed a cluster of peaches so luscious they made my mouth water. It was easy to see the embroidery that had been done with three threads of stranded cotton. What a joy to see French knots, satin stitch and blanket stitch cheering up the three shades of fabric. Pink, peach, and orange circles were appliqud along with deep green leaves. Hands that could create beauty such as this were truly amazing. In a busy kitchen, these colorful textiles were used and often displayed. I would be willing to bet on a busy day a hurried cook would be comforted simply by the sight of these potholders. Just seeing their beauty would reassure that a calm will come.

Recently I received a charming potholder from LaNeta Pieterick. It features a face of a blue-eyed boy with blonde hair and the name Charles on it. Its work is intricate and well done. She shared that it had once belonged to a relative who excelled at handiwork. Often at rummage sales will be a lone beautifully done potholder. Recently I purchased an aqua and white star potholder and added it to my growing collection. Yes, they are nice in pairs, however, they can certainly stand on their own as well. In our day of marketing maybe we should consider opening a home for the unsung hero – handcrafted potholders – here in Rugby.

One room would be bestowed for single potholders.What a tasteful showcase it could be featuring the handiwork of our Pierce County heritage and beyond. As visitors admire the works of art, memories of favorite meals at home will come to mind. Life often seems to center around food. It’s a metaphor for every kind of nourishment, including an appreciation of the stitched-in-love pan handlers of our kitchens.

Thinking back on the creators of these potholders, they had much to do. Yet they found time to create these beautiful works of art. It was probably after a long day’s work that many creators sat down to stitch a bit before retiring for the evening. Now as many of these potholders are passed down to the next generations, we have to pause and think – what element of simple fulfillment will I pass on to the next generation?

I share with you this week a recipe from my mother-in-law, Delores Thompson of Ray. It comes from the Ray Lutheran Church Cookbook and was submitted by Mrs. Norman Simpson. Place this in a great casserole, and make sure when you are ushering it to the table, you use a favorite pair of your crocheted or stitched potholders.

Repnow is a Rugby resident.

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