Pot holders are so essential to the home kitchen that many of us don’t even pay them much mind—until they’re missing. Integral to working in the oven and on the stove, pot holders have almost blended into the background of the kitchen, while also becoming something of a pop culture icon outside of it.
Aside from their obvious function of protecting our hands from searing handles, racks, and pans, pot holders have also become decorative textiles, evolving from their classic, colorful checkerboard patterns and now ranging in shape and design from elegant and natural to funky and kitchsy to “brilliantly quirky” (or, more accurately, chic and modern).
The pot holder loom kit became popular with housewives, Home Ec. Classes, and summer camps in the ‘50s and ‘60s, when textile factories began packaging them up with “fabric loop” odds and ends and selling them as craft kits. You can still find them today. Pot holders are great sewing, weaving, and embroidery projects for beginners.
These days, they’ve diversified a bit from the classic square. Of course there’s the oven mitt, which fits over your hand like a big, comfy mitten and comes in equally as entertaining iterations, such as the shark bite, lobster claw, and sports fan varieties. I prefer oven mitts for handling heavy pots and reaching deep into an oven, as they’re thicker and have broader coverage.
You can now also find a plethora of silicone pot holders, which abandon the Americana tradition of woven cloth but are flexible, durable and get the job done. They can be simple and unassuming or silly and fun. Check out this guy—a silicone Pac-Man that bites onto the end of your hot handle. Too darn cute.
Whether you get retro with it and weave your own from stretchy loops or opt for something so cute you could accessorize with it, make sure you keep your pot holders close. I keep mine on magnetic hooks stuck onto the vent hood above my stove, so I don’t have to fuss with opening drawers or looking through cabinets. In the heat of the moment, nothing’s worse than singing your skin through a tattered dishcloth or grabbing for a burning hot pot handle.