March 24, 2012

"Polly Put the Kettle On":19th Century Kettle-Holders

When you are cooking over an open fire, kettle-holders are of the utmost importance. Unlike modern pots, the handles of cast iron get very hot, even if it doesn't look it.

Today, what we call pot holders were called kettle-holders. Pot holders then were metal stands designed to hold pots off of the ground.  

It was common for kettle-holders to be made of wool squares, bound together at the edges with binding. Knitted kettle-holders also existed but were knitted with thinner yarn than we are used to today and "thicker" stitches. Similarly to holders today, kettle-holders generally had a loop in one corner for hanging.

Kettle-holders were small and easy embroidery projects and many feature designs or sayings such as the common "Polly put the pot on," or the abolitionist, "Any holder but a slave holder."

For examples of embroidery for kettle holders there are many "pot holder" quilts made during the Civil War. These quilts were not made from pot holders but the same type of technique was used to make each square and the binding between squares gives the appearance of pot holders.

Some Civil War "pot holder" Quilts:

-1864 Civil War Quilt
- Pot Holder Quilts
-Major Thoughts: Potholder Quilts

A later design featuring "Polly."
Another Knitted Pattern

I've got to get working on some of these. We always just use rags as they are the closest thing around but it's time that we stop dirtying our rags just to move pots. 


  1. Replies
    1. I thought so. I love the cute little saying, especially on something that has a pretty good chance of getting dirty.

  2. We could definitely use a few of these! :D

    1. We can sew some next time you are down. That way certain persons don't catch on fire. :D

    2. Hmm. I don't know what you're talking about. :P

    3. How's that burn hole in your sleeve? :D

  3. I was skyping with Zach the other day and he told me how much he enjoys reading this blog. You do really good research and are always interesting. It would be cool to see some pot holders if you get around to making them. :)

    1. Hey Jodi! I agree with Zach. Steph does an excellent job with this. I'm really proud of her for what she does with it. It's so impressive what she finds to share.

    2. Thanks Jodi, it really means a lot to me that you shared that.


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