Monday, 6 October 2014

My Favourite Tea Cosy

I've said before on this blog that I don't need a tea cosy as I don't drink tea. Even so, I do have a favourite tea cosy.  She is in the collection of the Knitting & Crochet Guild, and she is definitely she, not it - she is a china half doll, with the cosy forming her skirt.  Admittedly, she would look much less elegant with a teapot under her skirt - a handle and spout sticking out at the sides would not really suit her.  

She has recently featured in the second edition of The Unofficial Downton Abbey Knits, a special issue of Piecework, published by  Interweave Press.  We were sent a copy for the collection, because it has a photo of our tea cosy.  (It may not otherwise be available in the U.K.)  Susan Strawn, who writes regularly for Piecework, has designed a tea cozy (American spelling) for the new Downton Abbey edition.  It's intended as the  personal cozy of Mrs Patmore, the cook, to use when she has a minute to sit down and enjoy a break from cooking.

Tea Cozy for Cook, designed by Susan Strawn, in The Unofficial Downton Abbey Knits

Susan visited the collection at Lee Mills last summer, and saw our tea cosy lady then.  She had just bought a similar cosy herself, in the Shetlands, with a china half-doll and corrugated skirt, and the two tea cosies together inspired her to design another.

The pleated effect, with two colours of yarn, and the yarn not in use being pulled tightly across the back of the fabric, is commonly used in tea cosies, and is a good way to insulate the tea pot.  And as our lady shows, you don't need to use two colours - you can equally well use two strands of the same colour to make the pleats.  

China half-dolls were very popular in the 1930s to 1950s, and used on all kinds of things (including a telephone cover).  I have seen them used in several tea cosy patterns.  Patons & Baldwins' Helps to Knitters leaflet 4/531 from the 1930s has two tea cosies with china half-dolls, and two matching egg cosies.    

Helps to Knitters 4/531

The example in P&B leaflet C-1069 (from the 1950s) is elegant, with a very wide skirt and underskirt completely covering the tea pot - there are no gaps in the skirt for the spout and handle.

P&B C-1069
 But I think that our tea cosy's embroidered rosebuds are exceptionally charming.  It's good to see  them adopted for Mrs Patmore's tea cosy.  


  1. That is the sort of tea-cosy I could imagine a big house cook, house-keeper or nanny having, spot on.

    I'd also not thought of having a similarly made pot holder, that would be a good thick material. Mind you the one time I made one of those cosies I pulled the strands *so* tight and it was such hard knitting.

    1. I think the earliest use I've seen for the 2-colour pleated idea is in a kettle holder, i.e. something you tied round the handle of a kettle to insulate it and protect your hand. So a pot holder is a straightforward development of that. I've never tried knitting one though.

  2. I've seen these china dolls without their knitted skirts in antique shops and flea markets so its lovely to see these two in their full knitted glory.

    I keep meaning to knit a 'proper' tea cosy, but for some reason can't get the tension right on my stranding which puts me off somewhat. However, when I see great patterns such as these it inspires me again to have another go.

    1. My mum had a china half doll - don't know what happened to it. I think they were very popular at one time, and they do look very good on a tea cosy. But I don't need one.....


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