Sunday, January 10, 2016

Tea Bag Tea Cozy - Part One

This story came my way, sadly, without any source. What I know is that a man named Michael Bowron, somewhere, sometime, won a tea story competition with this tale:

"My grandmother was an avid tea drinker and knitter. She would knit a tea cosey to fit the tea pot. My grandfather would use the warm tea cosey as a hat when he went to milk the cows. Needless to say, there was always a ready supply of tea cosies in the drawer." 

This story came to life for me in this illustration by Amaia Arrazola. 

Putting these together, the tea bag paper tea cozy I'd been wanting to make came to life.

Here is how I did it:

First I made a template for a standard tea pot using this tutorial. I cut a piece of unbleached muslin (calico in Australia) large enough to fit the template. I covered it with used, dried, emptied, and opened tea bag papers. Then I ironed the papers onto fusible paper, peeled the back off and ironed the papers to the fabric. 

Of course, the overlapping ends did not fuse, but that's okay. It was just to create a base. 

Next I sorted out the more interesting and unevenly stained tea bags and started cutting out squares. The squares were machine stitched together in strips of seven and then the strips were joined together. Because the template tapers, I used a strip of six and then five at both sides. This made the front of the cozy.

 The seams were finger-pressed open and laid atop the original paper/fabric piece and pinned in place along the edges.

The template was traced onto the back of the fabric. Stitching lines were also traced and then the patchwork and fabric panel were stitched together in between the lines to hold the whole tea cozy front together.

I trimmed along the template edge and the front was ready for embellishing.

I traced the outline of Amaia's illustration onto the tea bag paper front, leaving out the top hat since that was to be a knitted cap. At first I thought I would embroider all but the cap, which would be a piece of an actual knitted cap. But then I decided on a mix of applique and embroidery.

The hubby needed to look like someone who would wear a tea cozy to go milk the cows. Yes, he needed a red plaid shirt. I used the drawing to make a paper template and basted the fabric to it and stitched it to the panel using an invisible applique stitch along the edges. I removed the basting thread and the paper insert.

I appliqued the crafty lady's dress from a bit of burn-out velvet from a small purse I had and edged it with a bit of lace. Her hair is a wadded piece of a teal chiffon scarf. And the yarn is pulled from the cap that I used to make his knitted tea cozy beanie.

But those pictures along with how I finished the tea cozy will be in Part Two tomorrow.


  1. This is amazing, Allison. I LOVE the effect of the stained tea bags sewn together. Such a gorgeous patchwork! I love your way of embroidering, too. When are you going to create an online class on how you do it? I'd love so much to learn! :) Lisa

    1. I was really surprised at how beautiful the patchwork of tea bag paper was. I didn't expect it to have such a lovely marbled quality. Since I tend to do things only once, it never occurs to me to do a class on it. I'm not an expert and it always feels like dumb luck to me that it works out. But I am interested in doing more with tea bag papers. They look and feel lovely to work with.