Sunday, 10 August 2014

Mandala Mitts

Have you been bitten by the crochet mandala bug that's been going round this year? After resisting for ages because I kept thinking, "They're lovely, but what am I going to do with them?", eventually I had to have a go and, predictably, discovered how addictive they are to make. I promised myself I wouldn't go overboard. I'd just make one. Or two. One for Lucy of Attic 24's Yarndale yarn-bombing project ...

... and perhaps just one more, strawberry-themed one, as a summery teapot stand. End.

But of course one mandala led to another and another and another and before I knew it, there was not just "one or two" but a pile of six. OK, Mrs T, now what are you going to do with these?

I felt that there really must be a practical use for these colourful, crochet circles if only I could think of one. For a while I couldn't. And then I was in the supermarket one day and saw some plain, denim oven gloves for sale in the barbecue equipment section. A light bulb switched on! Why not make some plain, denim oven gloves and add mandalas to the glove bits for decoration and extra insulation? Bingo! And if I added a mandala to each side of each glove bit, I would use four mandalas in total! Happy Day!

Now as it happened, I'd been having one of my periodic clear-outs and an old pair of H's jeans, now much too short, was waiting to go to a charity shop. They were in quite good nick, the denim softened through laundering, but the fabric otherwise intact. So, instead of sending them to the charity shop, I cut them up. As in the pics below.

I ended up with one long panel for the outer part of the oven glove and two pocket size pieces for the inner part. A perfect, neutral, blue canvas for my hooky mandalas!

There would probably have been enough denim to cut lining pieces from the jeans as well but I wanted something a little more colourful for a lining so I went for a piece in my fabric box that seemed to echo the colours I'd used in the mandalas.

The pattern for the gloves is very simple. I drew a rectangle 30 inches by eight inches and rounded off the ends for the long piece. I then drew two eight inch squares for the pocket sections and rounded off two of the corners on one side of each, as you can see in the pic. This was to accommodate my mandalas which are 7 inches in diameter but happens to be pretty much standard oven glove dimensions.

You need to cut exactly the same pieces again in your chosen lining fabric and in some kind of wadding (cotton, quilting wadding is good or you could use an old towel). Polyester or acrylic wadding is not so good as it can't cope with extreme heat and isn't such a good insulator. You end up with three identical sets of pattern pieces, three long panels, (one in each fabric type) and six pocket section pieces, (two in each type of fabric). You also need some bias binding to bind the edges and to make a loop to hang the gloves up by. I chose a plain, inexpensive, navy blue bias binding, partly because I already had it in my sewing basket and partly because I wanted something plain and neutral that wouldn't distract from the hooky mandalas.

Once you've got all your pieces cut out, you need to sew the mandalas on to the denim panels. I tack (baste) them in position first, by hand, and then machine sew in a matching thread just inside the outermost row. Very easy. Don't position them too close to the edge of the fabric pieces or they'll get tangled up in the binding seam.

Then you need to start sandwiching your fabrics together. Careful pinning is essential at this stage and tacking (basting) as well is a good idea so that everything stays where it's meant to be.

Start with the pockets. Lay a lining piece, with the wrong side of the fabric facing you, down on the table. Lay over a corresponding quilting wadding piece and then place a mandala-ed denim pocket piece, right side up, on top. Line up a piece of bias binding against the straight edge and pin in place as in the pic.

Machine stitch along the fold line and then, if, (like me, ahem!) you didn't bother to tack it, stitch all the way round the pocket, beyond where the binding joins - this helps to hold everything in place during construction. Repeat with the other pocket piece.

Now fold over the bias binding so that the raw top edge of the pocket piece gets enclosed and pin the folded edge of the tape down. You might need to trim back the wadding and / or lining, if it's crept out at all. Hand stitch in place with hemming stitches.

Now sandwich up the long panel in exactly the same way as you did the pocket pieces. Lay the long lining piece, with the wrong side of the fabric facing you, down on the table, add the corresponding wadding piece on top, and finally add the denim panel, with the right (mandal-ed) side facing you, on the top. Pin and tack. And here, do not wing it and think you won't bother with the tacking. You're going to have too many layers that might decide to do their own thing otherwise.

Once tacked together, turn the whole piece over so that now you have the right side of the lining fabric facing you. Place each pocket section at either end with the denim (mandala-ed) side facing upwards.

Pin to secure the layers together in a few strategic places and turn the whole thing over again.

Still with me? Good!

Now get your bias binding and with the long denim panel facing you, line up the raw edge of the binding against the raw edge of the fabrics and pin all the way round.

Again, you may need to trim back the wadding to the edge of the denim if it's crept out of alignment, as it has here a bit.

Stitch all the way round along the fold line of the binding ie about a quarter of an inch in from the raw edge all the way round; that is to say through seven layers of fabric (binding, denim, wadding, lining, lining, wadding, denim) at the pocket ends, and through four layers of fabric (binding, denim, wadding, lining) in between the pocket sections. Make a hanging loop from a small piece of bias binding and stitch in place in the centre of the long panel between the pocket bits, as in the pic below.

Press. Turn the bias binding over the raw edge and pin the folded edge down on the lining side. Hand stitch the folded edge in place. Your mandala mitts are finito!

Bake a cake (or a sizzling tray of roast potatoes) and try them out!

This is Sue's gorgeous Plum Traybake cake that she posted the other day - you can find her recipe here. I've tweaked it a tiny bit, that is to say, I've swapped light, soft, brown muscovado sugar for the caster sugar, thinned the cake batter with some elderly, I mean, vintage!, damson gin rather than milk and baked it in a deep, round tin rather than a shallow rectangular one but otherwise it's as given. I recommend it. Perfect material on which to try out my new mandala mitts, at the end of the baking time.

And I am pleased to report that from an ergonomic perspective, the mitts are The Business. Good insulation without being like boxing gloves (or boats). Years ago I made a pair of oven gloves that featured appliqué vegetables - a carrot and a rather fetching green cabbage, that I was particularly proud of, on the ends. I was very pleased with my fledgling appliqué skills but the oven gloves have never been entirely satisfactory from a functional point of view. I made them using some thinnish, polyester, fleece wadding left over from a baby quilt for the padding and you have to be mighty careful not to burn yourself in use, as the wadding is really too thin and transmits the heat too easily. The beauty of this new mandala-ed version is that the mandalas add extra (heat-proof) padding in exactly the right places without making the mitts too bulky to manipulate, not just around cake tins straight out of the oven, but also on other perilous hot-spots, such as roasting hot baking trays and scorching cast iron casserole handles.

The mandalas are all Zelna Oliver's beautiful Sunny Flower Mini Mandala pattern made in Stylecraft Classique Cotton on a 4mm hook. Cotton is the best choice of yarn for mandalas for this purpose - won't burn or melt in the oven and it's easy to wash. A washable wool yarn would probably work fine too but do make sure it's machine washable as oven mitts that can't be washed easily get manky pretty quickly. Or they do in my house, but may be I am just a messy cook! The only real no-no for the mandalas is an acrylic yarn which isn't heat-proof and might melt!

You can use any mandala pattern you like but I'd recommend not choosing one that comes out bigger than 7 inches or so in diameter or you will have to make the mitts themselves significantly bigger and then there will be too much slop in them. Oven gloves need to be roomy enough to slip on and off easily but you don't need to have room for a party in them!

The idea would work equally well using any plain, reasonably tough, cotton fabric as a base, so you don't have to cut up a pair of old jeans if you haven't got any to hand, but for the mandalas to shine to best effect, something plain, darkish and neutral is what you are after.

And if you fancy the idea but don't want the faff of making the oven gloves from scratch, Waitrose are still selling the denim ones; (reduced, I saw a few days ago in my local branch, from £10 to £7.50, which is pretty bargainous). You won't be able to machine sew the mandalas on, if you use pre-made oven gloves, because you won't be able to access the areas of fabric freely with a sewing machine but nothing to stop you sewing them on by hand with small oversewing stitches in a matching thread. For sheer, frugal satisfaction though, there's nothing to beat cutting up something you'd have otherwise thrown out and making it into something that is not only pretty, but really useful.

What's more, I think they'd make a nice Christmas present for a cooking-minded friend or two, so that means I have the perfect excuse to make at least another four mandalas!

Tee hee!
I'll consider that further when I've sampled my cake!


Happy Sunday evening everyone!

E x


  1. Oh what a lovely post for a wet and windy Sunday evening Mrs TT! Colourful crochet, a clever recycling project and a yummy recipe! I love it all, thank you for sharing.
    Gill xx

  2. A great idea, what a beautiful pair of oven gloves and a great excuse to make more mandalla's because they would make great gifts too. :)

  3. What a brilliant idea!!! Great way to display and use your mandala's, great way to recycle a pair of old jeans, what could be better!! Oh yes, the cake!! I love the colours in the strawberries themed mandala, they go together perfectly. xx

  4. Elizabeth, you're a gem!!! Just this morning I earmarked a pair of my jeans for the charity pile as they no longer suited (in other words, they no longer fit and my days of holding my breath all day just to keep my zip up are well and truly over!) but I have this minute retrieved them and will embark on my very own Great Sewing Bee this weekend to make similar oven gloves! Will post on my blog when they are complete but if you never see such a post, please don't ask cos it will mean it went horribly horribly wrong and I won't want to talk about it!!!! Much love, x

  5. Hi Elizabeth, fab idea as always, and HOW MANY did you say you would make hehehe....addictive aren't they. Lol
    Great idea though
    Hugs x

  6. Super idée ! très ingénieux. elles sont très belles tes maniques ! bonne idée de cadeaux en perspective ! Bonne journée ! A bientôt ! xx

  7. These mandalas are lovely (oh! the colours !...) and the oven mitts are a brilliant idea ! Bravo !
    (By the way, I love the blue plate in the last pic...not mentionning the cake !)
    Love from France


  8. Wow they are fab, such a great idea for using the mandala's, the perfect remedy for a case of mandalitis, all I've done with mine is stand lamps on top of them.
    Clare xx

  9. All the things you make are so pretty, Elizabeth, I hope the mandalas survive the wash.

  10. As your blog is my only link to the world of crochet, I haven't come across this mandala craze. In truth, I read your title as Mandela Mitts, which conjured up a completely different image to that which followed. I don't think I'd want to use your pretty oven mitts after all that work but might pinch your idea to use an old pair of jeans to make plain oven mitts.

  11. Wonderful post, crochet, recycling and cake it doesn't get any better. I love the oven mitts such a fantastic idea.

  12. An excellent way to use your mandalas - imagine being able to use four at once! So far I've still resisted the mandala-making craze. But making some of these oven gloves would be great for presents.

  13. Sheer genius.Think I was at the back of the queue when talent was dished out lol.Love these gloves brill idea well done you.

  14. That is such a different use for Mandalas! The oven gloves look so snazzy now, you must smile every time you use them.
    Are you going to Yarndale? I'm going and I CAN'T WAIT!!!

  15. Wow! Super idea and so beautiful. Great job :D. Thanks for sharing!
    Greetings, Nata

  16. The mitts are absolutely darling. But I love the mandellas just as they are, too. How clever you are and what a good tutorial. Clever girl.

  17. Just jeanius! I have resisted the mandela craze so far but now, I may just have to give them a go!

  18. Hi, Elizabeth. I love your tutorial. I've got to get back to my sewing machine soon, but I have so many knitted works in progress in various project bags around the house that I can't start crocheting, too--at present, anyway. I do love looking at your work, though. Cake looks delicious, too.

  19. What a great idea and what a lovely work! I wish I had the patience for sewing. But my sewing skills are rudimental. I just have no nerves to cooperate with my sewing machine. But I love to crochet mandalas and I'm sure I will try your pattern, as well. Have a nice weekend. Viola

  20. Wow! What an amazing idea and tutorial, lovely photographs! I totally love it when someone combines different types of crafts in unusual ways! Just stunning! Pretty and practical in one!

    Thanks so much for sharing! I guess I'm too late for the lovely plum cake???!!
    (Just found your blog and will follow! I just started mine recently:, take a peek!)
    Ingrid xx

  21. Those are very nice -- you do such good work. Thanks for the excellent tutorial. I'd love to make a pair of those.

  22. great !
    Greetings from Poland :)

  23. Wonderful,very nice idea!!!
    Have a nice evening,greetings.:*


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