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Simple pleasures — making potholders

Do you ever think back to things you did when you were a child and wish you could do them again?

Well, in many cases, there is no reason that you can’t (unless maybe the activity you have in mind involves being smaller or more flexible than you are today).

Some time ago, I remembered something that I used to do on a regular basis. In fact, there were periods of time when I performed this particular activity almost constantly — I would spend at least a portion of every day “working” at it.

I loved to make potholders.

I know that sounds a little strange, but I felt that I was doing an important “job” by making these little items for my mom, my grandma and some of my aunts. In fact, I got started doing it because my Aunt Ruth Compston of Wellston, Ohio, got me a little potholder-making kit as a Christmas gift.

I believe it was called “Loop & Loom,” and it consisted of a small plastic frame with pegs or “teeth” all the way around it, numerous colorful cloth loops and a hook that resembled a crochet hook.

To make a potholder, or some other similar craft, you would simply hook the loops across the frame in whatever pattern you wanted to achieve, then weave loops in between them in the other direction. The hook was quite handy for pulling the second set of loops through the first set as you would weave them together.

These kits became an annual holiday tradition for me and Aunt Ruth, because I used them so much. On Christmas night, I would open my gift, then soon sit down on the braided rug in her second living room to start weaving. I almost always managed to make a potholder for her before we left for the night.

I believe all if this came to mind as I was going through a box of my late grandmother’s belongings. Nancy Lambert was born in 1899 and lived in Jackson, Ohio. She collected a number of textiles, including handmade quilts and lots of lacy doilies, embroidered towels and pillowcases and more. As I was looking through some of these items, I came across a small stack of woven potholders. I’m not sure I am the one who made them, but I think they were probably some of the many that I gifted to her.

It got me to thinking about how relaxing I found that activity. Then I started to wonder what I could actually use some of those items for. They really aren’t the best potholders ­ they are on the small side, and I already had numerous store-bought potholders and heat-safe gloves.

Then it occurred to me that I needed some new coasters to put under drinking glasses and coffee cups. So, instead of buying a set, I bought a weaving kit.

So far, I have made about a dozen of these little cloth squares. They are nice and absorbent, and they do a good job of protecting the furniture. They also turn out very well when tossed in the washing machine for cleaning.

I realize that not everyone would enjoy such as simple activity. It could actually be difficult for anyone with arthritis or any other hand or wrist condition, and it might seem tedious if you are not the patient type. My point here is not to persuade anyone to make potholders (although the kits and refill packages of the loops are readily available online and in the toy departments of some stores).

Instead, I hope to get you thinking back about things you enjoyed doing in the past.

All signs point to the rest of 2020 being a challenging time for us here in the Ohio Valley as well as throughout the nation and around the globe. It does not appear that the new coronavirus is going to go away anytime soon, although that i what everyone would like to see happen.

As we wait for a vaccine to protect us or for herd immunity to develop to the point that it is no longer a serious threat, we must find ways to pass time at home, to reduce stress and anxiety and to keep our minds and bodies occupied. Maybe thinking back to hobbies and favorite pastimes you had as a child or teen will help you come up with ideas about how you can pass some time or distract yourself from all the pressure and worries of life these days.

Maybe gardening or tending to houseplants relaxes you. Perhaps you used to knit or crochet. Or, some of you may have tinkered with automobiles or small engines or electronics just because you enjoyed it, not because something needed to be repaired to be useful to your daily life.

The next time you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, take a few minutes to consider some things you could do to relieve those feelings. Would reading a book make you feel better? How about painting a picture? Or, maybe taking some photographs of birds, bees, flowers or the passing scene?

Whatever it is that makes you feel happy and calm, you should do it — at least once in a while. Obviously, if eating chocolate is your thing, you should do that in moderation unless you have a much better metabolism than I do.

We all need to find ways to cope with the unusual situation we are in. Ranting about wearing a mask in public will only cause you and everyone around you to feel stressed. Stay at home instead, if you can, and you won’t need to wear one.

I recommend that we all find some old familiar pastimes to being us comfort, and that we let out creativity flow. That can make you feel more positive and satisfied, even if it only amounts to stringing loops on a frame in a certain order.

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