Necessity in the mother of invention

HOLY COW...look at all these pictures.  Starting at the top left and going right - photos A and B.  Bottom row starting on the left - photos C, D and E. 

As you can see, I spent yesterday morning (a very rainy morning) making  the inserts for the balsam hot pads.  When I first started making balsam gifts, I loved the idea of a balsam hot pad that would release this wonderful aroma when you place a hot pot on it.  I also wanted to make something both useful and attractive.  So, I started doing research.  The balsam hot pads I found were 8" squares with balsam inside with a loop on them.  The question that came to mind was, what does one do if one spills gravy on them, you can't wash them!  Also, they were VERY plain, all one fabric, NO patchwork...BORING!  So, I devised the idea of making the hot pad  with an opening in the back and putting inserts with the balsam in it that was removable so that the cover could be washed.  When I design something I design it the way I would want it to be and I am a VERY practical person. 

The way in which I now make the inserts is after years of experimentation.  There is a flange that is sewn along the outer end of the hot pads cover.  This gives it a nice finished look.  This allows for a 6-1/2 to 6 3/4" insert depending on the size of the cover.  I have found that cotton batting works the best.  It is folded in half and then a grid is drawn on it (photo A).  Next I zig zag 2 of the sides closed leaving one side open for filling,  I sew the three lines that are perpendicular to the fold creating 3 tubes.  Now it is time to fill up the insert with the needles (photo B).  The tool I use allows the needles to slide in nicely and also allows for filling the tube up from bottom to top completely.  This "tool" is one side of a plastic collapsible quilting frame and it is PERFECT for the job.  Photo C shows a stack of insert that are ready to sew closed.  Before I do that I always crush the balsam down and tap it around to make sure the tubes are uniformly filled.  Now it is time to zig zag them shut.  The final step is to complete the grid by sewing the lines that are perpendicular to the ones that were sewn to make the tubes.  At this point I am not only sewing through the batting but also the balsam. I always switch to a thicker jeans needles before I sew these last three lines of the grid.  It is a real test of a good sewing machine and mine does it VERY nicely!  I realized shortly into making balsam inserts that this gird was necessary so that the balsam would stay in place and not slide all around.  Photo D shows the finished inserts which are now ready to be inserted into the back of the cover - photo E.  The final photo is the front of the balsam hot pad.  It will be on it's way up to Maine for sale in a shop up there in Kennebunk called Mainely Quilts very soon.