Hot Pads a Haute Collectible

I’ve been compiling information on the hot pad, a/k/a potholder, pan gripper, and handle hugger. Surprisingly, this little domestic helpmate has quite the extensive history.

From amongst the bins of booklets and instructional manuals that I’ve accumulated is this one from the 1940s, which advertises a two-page spread of GAY AND AMUSING TOWELS AND POT HOLDERS FOR THE KITCHEN. On the cover, below the word Needlework, you can see a towel and matching potholder, both embroidered “glasses.” The toweling makes sense, but on a hotpad? I figure this had to be the work of a male graphic artist.

The booklet isn’t dated, but the designs help to narrow the time frame (patriotic, so the war is still on) and the women illustrated have Betty Grable hair dos.

From a 1932 Nebraska Farmer (always knew there was a reason I bought a year’s worth of this publication!), oilcloth is the new and exciting choice for construction of hotpads and a matching holder. What’s difficult to see in this photo is the coordinating oilcloth covering for the salt box. Women of the era were often applying domestic artistry to the most mundane objects, however I think covering the salt with a washable cover pure genius. Makes me think of doing something similar for an olive oil jar.

I don’t have a date yet for this hotpad project, although from aprons, I know that tinted, stamped patterns were popular in the Twenties. This project was started but not completed – given the simplicity, it may have been used to teach a girl her embroidery stitches.
This photo of Virginia Downs, mother of Earl Downs, graces the introduction to The Kitchen Linens Book. It’s capitivated me from the second I first saw it, so detailed, it could be something out of a Smithsonian exhibit. Everything is within her reach – dishtoweling on the hanger, hot pads hanging from hooks above the stove. Everytime I examine this picture, I see something new.
Like vintage aprons, hot pads are a fun collectible because the variety in design and make-up is endless. I’d venture they’re so available because the time commitment (unlike constructing a quilt or knitting a sweater) is minimal, which led women to make a lot of hot pads. Unique storage is also fun to collect – like this little rolling pin with a crochet covering. The hooks were painted a bright yellow, which is an artistic touch if ever there was one! The little pin and pads are resting on a rectangle that’s of metal, which protected a counter surface from a hot pan or pot.

I’ve pitched a piece on hot pads to a perfectly suited national magazine, and so far haven’t heard word one. To me, an article on the history of the hot pad plus vibrant photograpy would make great reading. Just need to find the right home for it. And be patient.
Off on a bit of apron journeying to New Mexico!
Tie One On…an apron, of course!


  1. Love the hot pad blog. I just started crocheting and have made dozens of double thick crocheted potholders with cotton yarn. I have a few really old ones I’ve collected. I just love them. Now I am venturing into crocheting with crochet thread like my grandmother did. I have all of her crochet hooks.

  2. I love the hot pad blog also – I am so very interested in these and potholders of the day – thanks for a great blog. Crocheting is hot again right now and making some of these old time hot pads and pot holders is so very fun (if you can find the patterns)

  3. I so enjoyed this post and the photos. My grandmother used to have tons of these things at her house when I was little, all of them different, fun, and colorful. Thanks for stirring up my happy memories of Grammy’s kitchen!

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