Potholder From Old Newspapers




This is a potholder / trivet / thing-to-put-hot-things-on made entirely from old newspaper, glue, and a little string.


1) 8 half-size sheets of newspaper or 4 full size sheets
I used the advertisement section for the colors; extra is good to have for covering your work surface.

2) scissors

3) glue
You need something that will dry clear and is easy to apply. I used Scotch brand scrap-booking glue, which came in a tube with two applicator tips, one small and pointed, one round and fabric for smearing. I found this fabric side to be the most helpful for applying thin coats of glue.

4) needle (& thimble)
The eye of the needle needs to be big enough for whatever string you choose, but otherwise the needle should be as small as possible to keep from making huge holes in your final product. You may also want a thimble to protect your fingers while pushing the needle through the paper rolls.

5) thread or string
I used #20 red hemp cord, which I had on hand, but probably picked up in the beading section of a craft store at some point. Other good options would be cotton twine or sturdy button thread (probably doubled). This is mostly an aesthetic choice.

Step 1: Prepping the Newspaper

Cut each half-size newspaper in half, so that you have 16 strips of newspaper, each approximately 6 inches wide.

Fold each strip in thirds lengthwise. Just this first time, you don't need to glue down the flaps. As you fold, you are choosing which colors will end up on the outside - whichever colors are in the center on the outside (you are folding away from the outside) will be the color of the rolled paper unit.

Then fold each strip in thirds lengthwise again and glue in place. It helps to fold first to get the creases straight, then unfold, apply glue, and press together. Using a fingernail to get your creases really crisp at this step makes the final fold easier.

Repeat the folding in thirds and gluing one more time, so that you have long strips of folded newspaper about a quarter of an inch wide. This is possibly the most difficult step, since you are folding several layers of gluey newspaper together. Don't expect to get past this step without sticky fingers...

Step 2: Roll the Paper Strips Into Final Shape

Now you get to construct the units that will make up your final potholder.

First take a look at the colors of your strip, and decide which end you want to have on the outside of the unit and which you want on the inside. Starting with the inside end, pinch an inch or so and roll it up tightly. It's important for the first rolled-over piece to be as small as possible, or you will end up with a rectangular unit instead of a square when you're finished. (There's nothing wrong with rectangles if that's what you're shooting for, but if you want to end up with a square then unevenly-sized rectangles will be tricky to fit together to make a square.)

Unroll that inch or so and apply glue to a small section of the strip. Re-roll the inch and keep going until you get to an unglued portion. Then glue the next 6 inches or so and keep rolling. Repeat until you reach the end of the strip.

As you roll, do your best to make regular square corners. Some squishing and pushing around is definitely involved here, but the sooner you get it square the easier it will be to keep it that way until the whole strip is rolled. Perfect corners are not as important as straight sides.

Do all 16 strips like this, and then arrange them however you like to make a nice pattern for the final potholder. Leave them until the glue is completely dry and the units are hard little squares, probably several hours at least (I left mine overnight).

Step 3: Sew the Units Together

To sew your pieces together, you'll need 24 6-inch-long pieces of string. Cut them a little longer if you like to have more extra to work with when tying knots.

Thread the needle, no knotting is necessary. Push it through the edge of one paper unit, between the two outermost layers of the paper roll and at the center of one side of the square. Pull it through so that you have an inch or two of string left hanging out the opposite side of the square.

Then in the same way push the needle back down through the edge of the next unit in your array. When you turn the two squares upside down and remove the needle, you now have two loose ends of string coming out of two adjacent paper units. Pull them tight together and tie a simple overhand knot. (See the second picture in this step.) The side of the units with this knot will end up being the back side of the final product.

Holding onto the loose ends of string, flip the connected units over again. Wrap the ends of string around the single string that's there already, just crossing them past each other.

Finally, flip over to the back side again and tie the ends of the string together tightly into a square knot. Trim any excess string.

Repeat to connect the rest of the paper units together. I found it easiest to first make four strips of four units each, and then connect these. Just make sure you're keeping the knots consistently all on one side of the units, so that you end up with a smooth front side.

You now have a sturdy and heat-resistant potholder! Of course, you could use those paper units to make just about anything you want...use just 4 units for a coaster, 96 for a placemat, or a whole bunch to create a pixelated image and hang it on the wall.



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12 Discussions


10 years ago on Introduction

You mentioned using this as a coaster, does it hold up well after use? I'm not sure about the paper being water resistant like it is heat resistant.

3 replies

Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

Good question. I haven't actually put one into use as a drinks coaster - I do have one sitting under a vase of flowers, and it doesn't seem to mind a few drips every now and then. But I also question its water resistance, unless you were to seal it with varnish or something similar. Might make a good base if you glued a piece of cork to the top side to absorb water? Let us know if you try it and what you learn!


Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

My plan is to coat it in a layer of nail polish before I tie the squares together. I am also using the nail polish as a sealant for the paper beads I'm making.


Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

You can use a glossy paper such as that of magazines which is more water resistant than most papers. Generally grocery store ads are a bit glossy as well, although not as much as magazines. And if you must use newspaper and want to use as coasters you will have to seal your crafty creation with a spray sealer. Happy Crafting!


9 years ago on Introduction

Hey I know this is a late reaction. I'm making some of these too, and now I have the pieces I want to make them together, why did you do that all with needle and thread? It seems easier with just glue. Is there a special reason for it?
By the way I can't find as colourful newspaper (advert)pages as you did. Maybe the Dutch adverts have less colour.
I like the project very much, thanks for sharing!


10 years ago on Introduction

I have seen these as coasters and picture frames. Very good!


10 years ago on Introduction

i found these at global infusion, a shop here in gr mi which sells only fair trade items. they were made by someone in ...ghana...? they are so very striking looking, finely crafted and almost enigmatic, with the print randomness. these are made mostly of regular black and white print paper with occasional touches of colon in one or another spiral. cool to see people hare are making them too. i gave the fair trade ones as gifts. not one of us have ever used them as trivits...they are on our walls. maybe i will actually use it, thanks to the reassurances of eliajn!


10 years ago on Introduction

This is a really cool idea. Like Doctor What said, if only you got this in sooner.

Doctor What

10 years ago on Introduction

If you would have posted this yesterday, it would have been perfect for the 1929 contest! Dang! Pretty cool! But I'm not sure exactly how well it would, well, not catch fire.

1 reply
eliajnDoctor What

Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

Shoot! Didn't know about the contest. Oh well... As for the catching of fire, compressed paper is surprisingly resistant to such things. Paper alone has a pretty high flash point (about 450 deg F / 232 deg C), so even if you take something right out of the oven it's not likely to ignite. Since it's also impregnated with glue and very tightly compressed, it's even more heat-safe. All very nice in theory, but I've also been using one of these for nearly a year with not even a singe mark. Thanks for mentioning it, however, as others might have similar concerns!


10 years ago on Introduction

It's so nice and colourful, and a great use of old newspapers. Nice instructable!