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