The interests and abilities of all the grandchildren who spend summers at Cousin Camp change over the years. The potholder craze was three years ago.
When Emily and Laura came for that summer we gave them a potholder loom apiece and provided plenty of loopers to ply their craft. It was summer and Jan took them to guild meetings or guild picnics, where two little girls sitting quietly and working on potholders for the duration was a novelty. Of course potholders were sold on the spot, and soon Emily was brave enough to ask Aunt Janices’ quilting customers “Do you want to buy a potholder?”
One afternoon our friend Linda and her daughter Cara stopped on their way to a show, and potholders were quickly sold. Cara immediately offered them a corner of the It’s a Linda booth at the ShakerWoods Festival a few weeks in the future, if Grandma would provide them transportation.
Not that long retired from the weaving business themselves, Grandma and Aunt Janice explained the seriousness of having enough stock to meet customer expectations, and suggested they devote two or three hours a day, apiece, to making potholders. An hour in the morning, the afternoon and the evening would be good; if they wanted to go to a professional show and sell their product, they needed to give it serious preparation.
Grandma and Aunt Janice keep them supplied with loopers and told them all the money they made would go straight into their bank accounts. They were little troupers; heads bent over those looms most hot afternoons that summer. They were so serious about making money that Grandma and Aunt Janice sometimes helped by finishing off the edges while little fingers started a new potholder.
I had them make signs to advertise. Emily’s sign said Potholders for Sale. All Cotton. $1.00. Laura’s sign said Potholders for Sail. $1.00. Linda gave them a little table in front of the buggy wheel rug she was weaving for demonstration.
The girls had a basket of finished potholders and a basket of loopers to demonstrate making potholders on their looms. Demonstrating your craft is a requirement of the Shaker Woods Festival.
Laura was seven that summer and Emily ten. I helped them set up their area and settle in making potholders before I went behind the booth where I could watch. Linda’s booth is not close to the gate; it took the crowd a while to work back.
Emily made a few more potholders, but Laura sat frozen, loom on her lap, watching. I wondered if she was too overwhelmed by the noise and motion of the crowd going by. Then I heard her.
“These are potholders.” “We made them.” “They’re just a dollar.” “Do you want to buy one?” “We made them.”
They sold all their potholders by mid afternoon and came home tired, and with four hundred dollars for their bank accounts. We went back the next day with the few more potholders they made before bedtime. When those were gone, they put up a Sold Out sign on their table and wandered the fair to spend what they made that day.
Linda called us the next day. The booth had won the Best Demonstration award, a plaque and a hundred dollar prize. The plaque is hanging in their room, and Aunt Linda gave them the prize money for their bank accounts.