Brown Betty…or not?

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Last week I bought what appears to be a vintage “Brown Betty” teapot. I’ve wanted one of these teapots ever since I became aware of them a couple of years ago through watching favorite British programs like Foyle’s War. Brown Betty history aside, I like the look of them and the claim that a Brown Betty makes the best pot of tea due to the shape of the pot and the red clay from which it’s made. Regrettably, there is no maker’s mark on the bottom of my pot so I’m in the dark on the history of this particular pot. So, I’m throwing this out into the world wide web hoping someone may know something or, at least, be able to direct me to someone who knows something about vintage Brown Betty teapots.

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Here she is, the Brown Betty I found at a local Salvation Army thrift store. But what have I really got here? For starters, the pot holds a little over 4 cups of liquid which is, actually, one liter. It is dark brown and has a slightly opalescent sheen.

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The words MADE IN ENGLAND are embossed in the lid but covered with such thick glaze they are difficult to read. Unglazed clay is easily seen here. Is it red clay, terracotta, or what?

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There is no discernible maker’s mark on the bottom. The bottom is not smooth but has bumps and depressions and what appear to be water stains.

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Another view of the bottom of my mystery pot.

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The lid has a mushroom shaped handle with a vent hole. There are “imperfections” around the base of the handle but they have been glazed over. I put imperfection in quotes because I’ve read they may have been put there deliberately, perhaps to give the appearance of age.

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There are five strainer holes in the body before the spout. I don’t know if this is significant but there it is.

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So, what have I got here? A vintage Brown Betty, a Brown Betty “type”, or modern knock-off?

I will not be heartbroken if this turns out to be one of the many “types” that were made to copy the original Brown Betty. It’s still a pretty little pot and, thankfully, I didn’t pay an arm and a leg for it. I’m looking forward to using it! I did want to put the info out there in case someone knows more about it, and thank you in advance!

A Delightful Hen Moves On

In March 2009 I purchased three barred Plymouth Rock chicks. They were named Eggetha, Henrietta, and Edna. chicks11 chicks13 They quickly grew into lovely and very spoiled hens. As far as they were concerned we were all part of one big flock. 3chickens In February 2011, little Eggetha contracted avian herpes and died. She was definitely the cuddliest of the three and, as we were soon to discover, the brains of the trio, capably leading the other hens in and out of various exploits, but Edna quickly stepped up to become top of the pecking order.Henrietta1 Edna is the hen you see pictured in my blog banner. She’s also featured on my Etsy store banner. Edna knew her name and a couple of silly tricks and was the most adventurous and, we thought, the hardiest of our three hens. She was the one who ate a black widow and survived. She was the one who ate moldy bits of a decaying railroad tie and survived. She dodged the avian herpes that took her sister, Eggetha. Edna was also eager to try new foods like yoghurt…

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…and mashed potatoes with scratch. People have commented about the fine china but it was Thanksgiving after all. IMG_4758

Edna and Henrietta enjoyed “free ranging” in the yard but often spent their mornings visiting in the Whimsy Garden. IMG_4702 It was January of 2015 when I noticed Edna favoring one foot. She had a rather large “bumble” there so I took her to the vet to have it removed. While her foot healed we kept her in a dog crate near the sliding glass door leading outside so she could keep watch over Henrietta and the little sparrows that sneaked food from her feeder. Edna4 Unfortunately, and not due to anything but old age, Edna developed complications which increasingly took a toll on her health. Early this past April after a full and productive life, Edna drew her last breath. She is buried in the raspberry patch, her favorite spot in the garden. For some time before these events I’d been toying with the idea of making greeting cards using pictures of Edna. She was such a photogenic chicken! Her passing gave me the impetus I needed to get started on the project. I took three of my favorite photos of Edna and created a set of all-purpose greeting cards featuring pictures of Edna in her prime. More information about the construction of these cards can be found at my Etsy shop. These are the photos I used: Edna2 Edna1Edna3Pretty, isn’t she? 🙂 I hope others receive as much enjoyment from these cards as I received from Edna herself.

How I Make A Tea Cozy

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Today I want to show you how to make a tea cozy. Several people have complimented me on my “style” and, truth be told, my first thought was, “What is this style of which you speak, dear complimentary people?” So, I took a close look at the tea cozies made by other crafters and compared them to my own. There are all different kinds of tea cozies out there: crocheted, knitted, felted, and those made with cloth like mine. It didn’t take long to see that most cloth tea cozies were made from a single piece of fabric while I often made cozies from two pieces. I laughingly call this style “wainscoting”.

To make one of my wainscoted tea cozies I start with my cozy pattern. I made this one myself after measuring my large Old Country Roses teapot. I drew a dome shape on newsprint craft paper including a 1/2 inch seam allowance and marked center lines and cutting lines for the bottom half of the dome. I used newsprint because it’s easy to stick pins through and is supple but doesn’t tear too easily. Paper cozy pattern

For me the most time-consuming part of the tea cozy making process is rifling through my fabric stash and choosing colors and patterns that appeal to me at the moment but which also work together. Once I pick something, I check to be sure I have enough of each fabric to make both sides of the cozy, then I cut out the pieces.Fabric stash

I stitch the top and bottom pieces together and press the seam down. I double-check to make sure the cozy is the right size by placing it on the pattern once more, then I add the batting. The batting layer has its own paper pattern piece and is cut just slightly smaller than the fabric layer to reduce bulk in the seams. I used to cut the batting the same size and trim the excess after sewing it in, but I find it’s easier to simply cut the batting smaller in the first place. (There’s less waste too although I save my batting scraps. I’m hoping to use them to make homemade paper but that’s a story for another day.) I use a 1/2 inch seam for the finished cozy so I sew the batting in using a 3/8 inch seam. Once the batting is sewn in place I add quilting, embroidery, or bead work to secure the batting and embellish the cozy. Thankfully, the batting I use is a high quality 100% cotton batting and doesn’t need a lot of securing. And with the wainscoted look, I usually don’t add any kind of quilting because the seam holding the trim in place is enough to hold the batting in place too.Batting

Next, I go to my trim box and pick out ribbons and lace and other trims and lay them on the cozy until I arrive at a pleasing look. Too many choices...

Because this is a pink, girly kind of cozy, I decide I want to add lace. I baste the lace to the cozy first so when I add the ribbon it will cover the seam. I added lace...

Adding ribbon trim is something I enjoy but it’s challenging for me in several ways. For one thing, I’m not the best at finding colors that work and play well with others. I may have several colors I think work equally well so I lay them side by side and compare and pray inspiration will strike. Sometimes I call in family members to help pick which color is most complimentary. Choosing trim

Once I’ve chosen the ribbon, I carefully line it up at the raw edges, measuring from the bottom of the work, so everything lines up nicely when I stitch the two halves together. Lining up the ribbon

Stitching 1/4 inch ribbon to the cozy has little margin for error. I have to line it up under my sewing machine needle and make sure I stitch in a straight line and on the very edge of the ribbon. A tiny movement to the right and the line of stitching will miss the ribbon. A movement to the left will leave an obvious and unattractive line of stitching in the middle of the ribbon. I try very hard not to rush because I want to do this right the first time but I also try to be disciplined about picking out a line of stitching if it’s not as perfect as I can make it. I use the longer basting stitch length to avoid puckering. Longer stitches are also easier to pick out if that becomes necessary.Careful stitching

After the ribbon is stitched in place, I center and attach the handle to one side of the cozy with two lines of stitching for strength. I don’t expect there will be a lot of force exerted on the handle but I do want it to be sturdy. I make sure the handle is facing down, into the work. This way it will be facing up when the cozy is turned right side out.Centering the handle Two lines of stitching hold the handle in place

With right sides together I line up the ribbon carefully then pin the two sides together. I put the pins close on either side of the ribbon to hold it firmly in place. A little slippage and it won’t line up and it won’t look nice. I also pin close to the either side of the handle so the fabric won’t bunch up. Lining things up before pinning Securely pinned and ready for stitiching

After stitching the two sides together, I check the seams to make sure everything is aligned. If it looks good, I clip the curves and turn the cozy right side out. If for some reason I want or need to add any other embellishments this is my last chance before I add the lining.Everything is all lined up. I may proceed. Clipping the seam so it makes a nice smooth arc.

Most of the time I add embellishments like ribbon roses, bows, beads, buttons, or whatever pleases me before the two sides are sewn together. The cozy is easier to work on when it’s still flat. And I had intended to keep this cozy simple with just the lace and ribbon trim, but after I stitched the two sides together and took at look at the cozy right side out, it became obvious my ribbon trim was a little crooked in one place, annoyingly crooked, and I really felt I had to do something about that. Argh! It's crooked!

This isn’t a huge disaster so I didn’t feel a need to rip out the seams and do them over. It just means I have to get creative and disguise the less than perfect line. I pondered whether to use buttons but finally decided to add a bow and ribbon rose. It turned out lovely! And if I hadn’t told my secret here I’m pretty sure no one would’ve noticed, but it’s all part of the fun of making tea cozies. Should I add buttons? Nah. A ribbon bow and tiny rose cover imperfections

I’m almost done! It’s time to add the lining. Earlier, I placed different colored fabrics under the cozy and looked at it as if it’s the lining to get an idea what the finished cozy would look like. If a color works for me I cut out and stitch a lining using the cozy pattern. This gives me an idea of what it will look like.

I slip the cozy, right side out, into the lining which is inside out, line up the side seams, pin them, and stitch cozy and lining together. Using the sleeve arm on my sewing machine makes this easy. Right side out goes inside inside out

Next, I use a seam ripper to make a 2 to 3 inch opening in the lining seam. Opening the lining to turn the work

I pull the work through the opening and turn the entire project right side out. It takes a little tugging and I have to be careful not to damage embellishments. If necessary, I’ll make the opening larger so I can easily pull the cozy right side out. On the other hand, I figure if the cozy can’t take a little abuse it’s not going to last long in someone’s kitchen! So, this is sort of the final quality control test.Turning the work right side out

I stitch up the opening in the lining by hand or by machine; it doesn’t matter although I intend to start doing it by hand every time because the seam is smoother that way, it just takes longer. I push the lining up into the cozy and carefully iron the bottom edge, making sure the lining is completely inside the cozy with none showing around the edge. I pin all this in place and run a 1/4 inch line of stitching around the bottom.The lining before it's stitched up and pushed inside. Getting ready to press the bottom edge before stitching

For a finishing touch I folded the fabric handle over and added a button. I smooth the cozy with a quick iron and I’m done! One cute “Owls and Lace” tea cozy is ready to list on Etsy.
Owls and Lace Tea Cozy

Taking Tea in Canada

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This summer my family and I drove up to Canada. From California we traveled up Highway 101 through vast forests and along beautiful coastlines. Most of the scenery was familiar to us — we’d come this way before — but never all the way up into Canada. Our plan was to spend a couple of days in Vancouver and then take the ferry to Victoria. There we would enjoy Afternoon Tea at both the Butchart Gardens and the White Heather Tea Room.

Generally, as part of vacation planning, I do some cursory research about the places I’d like to go. I like to know the history of the area. I want to know what’s unique about the place and what to especially look for. I like learning how to fully value the experience. And, because I can be a consummate contrarian, I usually try to avoid popular “tourist spots” if I can opting, rather, to go for the lesser known attractions of a place — those that are near and dear to the hearts of the locals but haven’t necessarily gained worldwide attention.Tea at the Empress T-shirt

So, I’d been told and I’d read that I must take Afternoon Tea at the Empress in Victoria. This sounded great to me until I read further. For starters, The Afternoon Tea at the Empress was $60 per person. Okay, I was willing to splurge for this once-in-a-lifetime “must”. But then, as I read more reviews, and especially those by locals, I was convinced that the Empress, while impressive, was not the best value for my money materially speaking. According to reviews, their tea sandwiches were no better than those at the Butchart Gardens and (their name kept popping up) the White Heather Tea Room. The Butchart Gardens also had the additional enticement of “a savory house-made sausage roll with imported mustard” that I thought my husband would prefer over cucumber sandwiches. Plus, since my hubby is not a tea drinker, I was happy to see that coffee was also available. At any rate, when the time came, we only popped our heads into the tea room at the Empress, I snapped a photo, and we left to explore Miniature World around the corner.

Having said all that, Afternoon Tea at the Butchart Gardens was lovely. It was a beautiful, clear day and we were seated outside overlooking the Italian Garden. I ordered the 100th Anniversary black tea and my daughter got the herbal Rose Congou. Both were excellent. We shared a 3-tiered tray yet despite what many folks might think about the delicate nature of tea sandwiches, we left quite full.

In fact, we couldn’t finish everything. We left a sandwich or two behind so that we could polish off the dessert items. My husband ordered a hamburger which he declared was very good and tasted the bite or two of dessert we were willing to share. I would definitely recommend this tea as a special splurge. Between the cost of admission to the gardens and the cost of the food, one couldn’t do this very often.

The following day we visited Craigdarroch Castle and then went directly to the White Heather Tea Room. This tea room is small and cozy, unassuming and full of charm. The servers are cheerful and the food — outstanding! Better than the Butchart Gardens in my humble opinion. The White Heather Tea Room certainly lived up to all the glowing reviews. This time I got the Queen Mary black tea while my daughter went with a special blend called “Mad Hatter”. We split “The Big Muckle Giant Tea For Two” and, again, couldn’t finish it all. The sandwiches were especially fresh without a hint of staleness that sometimes happens when sandwiches have been made in advance. My husband got a ham and cheese sandwich made with herbed focaccia bread. He’d never had focaccia bread before and was absolutely delighted when he took the first aromatic bite.

I think my favorite surprise was the “cheese krispie”. This dainty (no bigger than a fifty-cent piece) cracker with piped cheese spread and a sprinkling of slivered almonds looked almost silly at first. I thought, “Yeah, this is what we get with afternoon tea. Itsy bitsy bites that barely amount to anything.” Silly me, I popped the entire thing in my mouth. What happened next was exquisite. I only wished I had nibbled the cracker to prolong the experience. The “krispie” was light and flaky but full of rich cheddar flavor. The topping was creamy sharp cheddar and something else so delicious I can’t find the words to describe it. No, seriously, I really can’t. Suffice to say, I regretted my hasty assessment of the small savory and my rash decision to eat it all in one bite. Alas, there were only two to be had and my daughter had already eaten the other one.

To conclude, we had a wonderful time. The tea was choice, the food was excellent, and the people were exceptionally friendly even though the United States was currently tromping the Canadians in Olympic soccer. I would definitely go back to Victoria again and maybe, just maybe, I’ll save my pennies and spring to take tea at the Empress. 

Fourth of July Treat

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Today I’m posting something a little bit different. It’s a recipe! I’d seen something like this several times on the internet but there were no detailed instructions attached. Since mine turned out so beautifully, I want to share how I did it.

This dessert is a simple twist on the classic Ribbon Salad. It can be made using tall 10 oz. cups or the shorter 9 oz. tumblers which is what I did. I used Chinet “Cut Crystal” plastic tumblers. I put the cups in a cupcake pan not only to keep them level after I filled them, but also to make it easier to move them in and out of the refrigerator.

You may use blue or red for the first layer, it really doesn’t matter. I used blue because I knew I’d be topping the dessert with blueberries so that the layers alternated blue, white, red, white, blue. If I wanted to top it with say, strawberries, raspberries, cherries, or some other red fruit, I might have started with a red layer so it alternated red, white, blue, white, red. Do whatever appeals to your color sense.

So, having said all that, on to the recipe! This entire process will take several hours, so start in the morning if you want it ready by dinner, or start later and plan for the final layer to set overnight.

Ingredients:
1 (6 oz.) package of “Berry Blue” Jell-O
2 (6 oz.) packages of cherry Jell-O
1 (3 oz.) package of lemon Jell-O
1/2 cup miniature marshmallows
1 (8 oz.) package of cream cheese, softened
1 cup mayonnaise
1 (8 oz.) can of crushed pineapple, undrained
Whipped cream or whipped cream topping
Water

Using a medium size bowl or large measuring pitcher, follow the package directions for making “Berry Blue” Jell-O. (Dissolve gelatin in 2 cups of boiling water, then add 2 cups of cold water.) Using a measuring cup with a handle, ladle 1/4 cup of Jell-O into each cup to make the first layer. Refrigerate until firmly set, between 2 to 4 hours.

After the first layer is set, make the second “white” layer mixture. In a medium bowl, dissolve the lemon Jell-O in 1 cup of boiling water, then add the mini-marshmallows and stir until they are completely melted. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese and mayonnaise together until smooth. Gradually beat in the lemon Jell-O mixture. Stir in the crushed pineapple (undrained). Using a measuring cup with a handle, ladle 1/4 cup of this mixture over the first layer. Refrigerate until firmly set, about 2 to 4 hours.

When the second layer is set, make the third layer. This time make twice as much Jell-O so that the third layer will be the same height as the first layer. Think basic geometry — since the cup is wider at the top, the volume is greater for the top layer. Anyway, follow the package directions for the cherry Jell-O. (In this case, dissolve 2 packages of gelatin in 4 cups of boiling water, then add 4 cups of cold water or enough ice to make 8 cups of gelatin.) Make sure this mixture is tepid before layering it on top. Using a measuring cup with a handle, ladle a scant 1/2 cup over the second layer. Refrigerate until firmly set, 4 hours or overnight.

Final layer! Add a generous dollop of whipped cream (I used Cool Whip but homemade whipped cream would be awesome), or make an entire layer of whipped cream. Sprinkle with blueberries or other fruit. Serve. This recipe made 23 individual desserts.

Note: The amounts may not come out even. I used up all of the lemon-pineapple layer and there was blue and red Jell-O left over. No worries. Just pour it into another cup and eat it later.

Tips for success:

The most common “oops” that can happen with this dessert is that the layers are not firmly set enough and/or the mixture for the next layer is too hot. In either case what you get is the layer underneath being dissolved by the layer being added, and when that happens you don’t get layers at all but a mixed up mess. Now, don’t panic and don’t throw it out. It still tastes the same, but it doesn’t look pretty. So make sure each layer is firmly set before adding the next. And make sure the mixture is only lukewarm or cooler. Remember, we started with boiling water, so the mixture has to cool down considerably before it can be safely added.

Another tip I’d like to pass on is that ladling or spooning is very different from pouring when building up layers in a dish like this. The force of the stream of liquid being poured can often make a hole in the layer to which it’s being added. Taking the time to measure the amounts and carefully ladle it will result in nice, well-defined layers.

Finally, it’s okay to get creative with this recipe. It really can lend itself to all kinds of combinations of colors and flavors, even the number of layers! Have fun! Enjoy!

Rediscovering a love of embroidering

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After several weeks of piecing, embroidering, and beading I finally finished, what I consider, a very ambitious project — my first real honest-to-goodness crazy quilt block. Of course, I turned it into a tea cozy. I’m pretty happy with the end result even though, to adhere strictly to crazy quilt “rules”, I should have embroidered every single seam. I left a couple of them unembellished mostly because I was running out of ideas. What that means is that I need to get educated!

I’ve always loved the look and feel of embroidery. I’ve tried my hand at cross-stitch and samplers in the past, but it was when I took on the task of embroidering a set of seven kitchen towels for my daughter’s trousseau that I rediscovered how much I enjoy this particular type of needlework. And a crazy quilt block offers total freedom when it comes to creativity, so I added beads and appliqués, ribbon and lace to my heart’s content.

Sadly, my repetoire of embroidery stitches is still very small. At the start I knew how to do a running stitch, back stitich, blanket stitch, lazy daisy stitch, satin stitch, and very bad French knots. When I say I need to get educated I mean I need to learn more stitches! And there are dozens of them. Thankfully, there are many excellent tutorial sites online and I spent a good deal of time studying them. It didn’t take long to improve on what I already knew. Adding the variation of weaving other colors into the stitches and…wow — I was really looking forward to my next project!

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The next project, interestingly enough, turned out to be something simpler than the crazy quilt cozy. I dug out some fabric that I’d used to make a cute little dress for my daughter back in the day. The print was of cats wearing bows and drinking tea. Charming! Each vingette of kittens had a frame around it. I decided to put simple embroidery around each frame. Once again I struggled to come up with unique stitches. So, more education! I now understand, more than ever, why our great-grandmothers were given samplers to embroider as girls. It was a practical way to learn basic stitches and then build on them. Most stitches are not merely decorative but had practical household application, so samplers were an important part of a girl’s homemaking education. I’ll add that I’m sure it taught patience and perseverance as well…hehe! 🙂

My tea cozy shop has been, to this point, an evolving “business”. I’ve been slowly homing in on what I’d really like to make. As I’ve taken the time to slow down a little and add more decorative touches like beads and embroidery I’m discovering that this is what I’d really like to do. It means I’ll be making fewer tea cozies but those cozies will be more embellished and, hopefully, more beautiful and desirable.

My crafting philosophy is this: I want each tea cozy to be one that I’m reluctant to sell and give away. I want to make things that I like so much, I want to keep them, but the practical part of me has to say, “No”. Each of these embroidered tea cozies have been the kind I’d like gracing my own table and that means I’m succeeding in my goals. And when I see a little something that I’d like to tweak after the fact, I tweak it on the next cozy. Working this way, I should be making “perfect” tea cozies soon! 😀

For your information:

The Crazy Quilt tea cozy may be viewed here.  And the Catnip Tea Party cozy is here.

Photographing my work

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When I decided to start up my Etsy shop I was thinking more in terms of eBay. I’d bought and sold on eBay quite a bit before becoming disenchanted with several changes they made to the selling process a couple of years ago. At any rate, to my way of thinking, it was only important to take an accurate picture of the item for sale, not necessarily a pretty picture or an enticing picture. So, I started out by waiting for a sunny day, taking my tea cozies outside, and getting a few shots that would give a prospective buyer a basic idea of how it looked. I mean, a tea cozy is a tea cozy, right? Many things can be easily assumed about a tea cozy without having to demonstrate it in a photo. All I needed to make clear was what it looked like. My first tea cozy pictures looked like this:

I thought it looked pretty good. It was clear but, as I looked at photos of goods done by other sellers, I knew it really lacked…something. I just wasn’t sure what.

I don’t claim to have any kind of talent for taking pictures. I’m usually happy if the objects or people in photos are centered and in focus. But there is something to be said for using a little “art” to make something as attractive as possible. To that end I decided to quit taking pictures outside in bright sunlight and, draping a tablecloth over a chair, created a little “studio” near a bright window instead. Here’s what I came up with:

I was much happier with this second attempt. I’m still trying to perfect my little studio — trying to find objects that enhance the picture as well as show perspective and depth. I’m also trying to find a place to take pictures that isn’t usually occupied by my cats so that fur and stray hairs aren’t a major concern. I’ve had to reshoot more than one photo because fur, not seen by me with the naked eye, was conspicuous in close-ups. And I still need to practice taking close-ups that give detail but also are pleasing to look at. For example, I like this:

I like the detail in focus with it receding out of focus…but I’m not able to do this consistently, so I need to keep trying!

I still haven’t sold anything at Tea Hens but I’m not discouraged. Several of my items have been added to people’s favorites lists and I’m grateful for that. I continue to build inventory although, due to a spate of graduation and wedding parties, I’ve slowed down a little. I’ve also decided to take more time and do more handwork on the cozies to add unique touches and more pretty details. I want to distinguish my cozies from what I’ve already seen is out there. There is plenty of room at this table for more!

You can see the pictured tea cozy in my shop here: https://www.etsy.com/listing/98715405/tea-time-blueberry-cozy

About the hens…

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In March of 2009 I purchased three barred Plymouth Rock chicks. I named them Eggetha, Henrietta, and Edna. Thankfully, all three turned out to be hens but, sadly, little Eggetha succumbed to disease early in 2011. Henrietta and Edna are still living happily in my backyard. That’s Edna in my header image.

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I like animals in general. I don’t really consider myself a “cat person” or a “chicken person”, although they are my two favorite species for pets. In addition to cats and chickens I’ve had delightful dogs, rabbits, goats, ducks, and parakeets as pets throughout my childhood. My family visits the zoo on a regular basis and we check up on our favorites there — the lions, river otters, and ring-tailed lemurs. We attend the County Fair every year and marvel at the livestock. We used to go to Marine World frequently to see the dolphins and killer whales, the cheetahs, and a fruit bat named Burma. And then there are excursions to the ocean to see harbor seals and sea lions, starfish, seagulls, and pelicans. Wherever we go, we look for critters. We especially like to spot them in the wild but have been known to bring the wild into our living room. As a birthday present for my husband one year, when he came home from work, he was greeted by a serval sitting on the coffee table!

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Animals have brought me and my family much joy over the years. I think they make wonderful companions, and chickens especially, in my opinion, are pets worth having. My Plymouth Rocks have an easy-going, friendly nature. They don’t mind being handled and will sit in my lap without fussing for a long time. They provide my family with eggs, fertilizer, all-natural pest control, and sometimes they drop lovely feathers for crafts…although I won’t be using their feathers on any of my tea cozies. 🙂

The name Tea Hens came to me as I was playing with a variety of names for my Etsy shop. It has a nice ring to it, being a play on the words “pea hens”. I did think of Tea Cats, in honor of our two cats, but since the phrase “Coffee Cats” is kind of common, I didn’t want to confuse people. I started out by making some chicken-shaped tea cozies but I do intend to make some cat-shaped cozies as well. Right now I’m really just trying to build inventory and haphazardly making whatever strikes my fancy. Read “creative process” in “haphazard”.

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As for inspiration, I can’t say that my chickens or cats “inspire” me. They are, however, a source of much appreciated relaxation in between sewing projects. I like nothing better than to pull up a chair on the patio and watch my hens putter around the yard. There is something very restful about watching a hen going about her God-given business of scratching and pecking. In my humble opinion, chickens are a real blessing.

Fabric

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I finished this tea cozy yesterday and I’m pretty happy with it. I love the colors: jade, mulberry, and gold. They aren’t normally colors I’d choose for anything but they went together so well in this printed fabric that I couldn’t resist. Still, I had to throw a little lavender ribbon in there for contrast.

This cozy is also a delight to me because the fabric is made in Japan. In the past couple of years I’ve been trying to be more conscious of what I’m buying and, in particular, the country of origin for the goods I buy. There are two reasons for this. One, if at all possible I’d like to buy local or buy American. I am an American and so I like the idea of supporting my own national economy. Two, there are, sadly, some countries I’d rather not support either because they are known for human rights violations or environmentally unsafe practices. I try to get as much information as I can about products before I buy or avoid them, so this isn’t some knee-jerk reaction to scary stories on the 6 o’clock news. 

Anyway, having said all that, I’ve been trying to avoid products, particularly food and animal products, made in China. A quick perusal of the bolts of fabric at my local Joann’s showed that most of it was made in China and some in Pakistan and India. Many of the notions and almost all of the craft items are made in China as well. Most of the yarn, however, is made in the USA. Having done this bit of cursory research, I was looking for another place to buy fabric and decided to check the bolts at Beverley’s across town. I was amazed and delighted to find that most of their fabric was made in the USA, Japan, and many other countries aside from China. It was while marveling over this fact that I found the fabric shown in the picture.

Now, I know that anyone could probably find fault with just about any country and claim that they don’t deserve our business. Somewhere, somebody is doing something objectionable, I’m sure of it! I want to make it clear that I don’t avoid all products made in China, and there’s probably nothing wrong with their fabric industry, I just prefer to support the fabric industry of other countries. I know that Japan doesn’t have a good record with say, hunting whales, dolphins, and sharks. I won’t buy food or animal products from Japan, but their fabric…yes, I’ll buy that. It’s just a personal choice. I don’t expect anyone to follow my example, but I did want to mention it.

If you want to see more of the cozy shown above, please visit my Etsy shop: http://www.etsy.com/shop/TeaHens

Welcome to Tea Hens!

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A couple of weeks ago I started up an Etsy shop after being inspired and encouraged by a couple of young friends. And now here I am with a WordPress blog to feature items from my shop!

P.S. The picture up there is a detail shot of a tea wallet that I made for my youngest daughter. She liked the fancy button. I like the blueberry print.

P.P.S. I’ll write more about the “hens” part of Tea Hens another time, I promise.