sewing tutorial: cast iron handle sleeve

Christmas has been good over here at my house. Family, food, piles of snow - that's really how it should be! And my gift to blogland is a sewing tutorial, albeit slightly belated.

There's got to be a better name out there for these things, but I haven't figured out what it is. Anyway, if you cook with a cast iron skillet, or any skillet without a heat-proof handle, you know how useful it is to have an insulated fabric sleeve that fits over that hot handle. Sure, you can buy them (and they're not expensive, even), but making your own is fast, easy and is even more economical if you use bits and scraps of fabric you have already.

The other day on a whim I decided to make a bunch of these handle covers as stocking stuffers. I used all fabric scraps leftover from other projects, most of them from several years ago.They came together so fast I am providing a tutorial here. The pictures are rather grainy because I took them late at night in the basement as I was making them, but I think they help with the instructions.

a scrap of paper for your pattern template
scrap of main fabric at least 6"x7"
scrap of lining fabric at least 6"x6"
scrap of batting, fleece or felted wool for insulation (I used insulated batting)
1" double wide bias tape 14" long, or enough fabric to make it (I made bias tape out of lining fabric)
basic sewing tools: scissors, thread, sewing machine, iron 

Make the pattern template:
Cut a rectangle 3"x7" out of a piece of paper, then round out the corners at one narrow end.

Cut out your fabric, lining and insulation:
Using your paper template, trace the pattern onto the main fabric, the lining fabric, and the insulation. Make the lining and insulation pieces about an inch shorter than the main fabric.
Cut out two of everything.

Make your bias tape (if you are using pre made bias tape, you can skip this step):
Cut a strip of fabric on the bias 14" long and just a hair under 2" wide. 
Fold each side towards the middle and press with a hot iron.
This is way easier if you have a bias maker, pictured below. You just pull one end of the bias strip through the narrow end of the tool and it does the folding for you, nice and even.

Layer your fabric:
Main fabric on the bottom, then insulation, then the lining.

Fold the main fabric up to the raw edges of the lining, then fold again to hide the raw edges and press into place.

Stitch this down.

Repeat these last two steps with the other pieces. Now you have both halves stacked and hemmed.

Stack both halves together with main fabric on the outsides, as pictured below.

You have a bunch of layers now, so to keep everything from slipping it's best to baste them all together. I did this by hand, but if you have a walking foot attachment for your machine that can handle all that thickness (mine can't!) you can do this by machine.

Sew on the bias tape:
Unfold your bias tape and match the raw edge of the bias tape to the raw edges of your basted fabric layers. I don't recommend pinning it down because by this point, everything is rather bulky and the pins just get in the way.
Leaving extra length hanging off the bottom edge, machine-stitch the bias tape all the way around the raw edges. Ease carefully around the curve.

Trim the raw edges of everything except the bias tape to 1/4".

Trim the ends of the bias tape so that about 1/2" extra is hanging off the hemmed edge.

Hand-stitch the bias tape down on the other side of the handle, folding the raw edge under and securing with several stitches.

And that's it! This project is fun because it takes so little fabric and goes so quickly. The hand-basting and hand-stitching at the end take longer than any of the other steps.


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