Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Sisterhood of Tea Cosies

Several readers have inquired about tea cosies.
Some of these readers are very dear and very cold and want to use them for hats.  That's fine, I guess, as long as you drink tea while wearing it.

I discovered tea cosies about twenty years ago when waiting for a plane in Heathrow Airport, London.  I had just enjoyed the most delicious, hot cup of tea there in the airport and then saw these rectangular, padded things made from black watch plaid (which I love). They looked like little, quilted muffs and so naturally I was intrigued.  I read the tag and the rest is history.

Tea cosies are the most useful of kitchen linens and are so easy to make. If I’m making a formal tea cosy out of linen or if I’ve spent a lot of effort to appliqué or quilt the front, then I make an inner, insulating cosy. This means the outer piece can be washed and ironed separately and the inner layer keeps it from getting tea stained.

See the inner layer made of quilted fabric and flannel?
Here is the free pattern for a homemade tea cosy.

A. Paper for pattern

B. Warm Inner Insulating Layer: flannel, batting, pre-quilted fabric. You can also add a water and/ or heat proof layer by adding using an old vinyl table cloth and/or a heat resistant fabric such as is used in ironing board covers and pot holders. For the inner layer itself you can use an old towel, pieces of an old bedspread or upholstery fabric for the inner layer.

Lining fabric for the inner cosy
Here is the insulating liner inside the finished, lined tea cosy. Note the lining is a darker color.
C. Decorative Layer fabric- this is what you will see every day. You can embroider, appliqué or quilt this on cotton, linen, wool or silk.

Lining for the Decorative Layer- this can be flannel or any fabric that won’t show through the top fabric.
Yes, I bought the tea cosy in the London airport and I still use it.

D. Ribbon or piping and maybe a button

E. Thread, scissors, sewing machine, iron, sewing stuff…


Draw a pattern in the shape of a 11” x 14” rectangle on a paper grocery bag.

You can leave it as a rectangle or round the corners by matching them, tracing an even arc with the edge of a cup and cutting. --

Right sides together, cut 2 pieces for each part of both layers—8 pieces in all

Cut 2 pieces for the Inner Warm Layer and

quilted or heat proof fabric or both can be used for the insulating layer!
2 pieces to line the inner layer. If you want to insert a third heatproof layer, cut two of the metallic or vinyl fabric also.

Cut 2 pieces for the Decorative Outer Layer and

2 pieces to line that.

The method is basically the same for both inner and outer layers.

For the top sides (inner and outer) Pin and sew three sides with a ½ inch seam leaving the bottom of the tea cosy open. \

For the linings,(inner and outer), Pin and sew three sides with a ½ inch seam leaving a 4” space in the middle of the top seam open. This will allow you to turn the tea cosy right sides out when finished.

Press both pieces. Turn the lining right side out and insert it into the unturned outer side so that right sides are together. Pin around the bottom edge, alternating seams. Sew ½ inch around the bottom edge.
Right sides together, sew around the bottom edte

sewing the bottom edge together
Turn the tea cosy right side out through the opening in the lining. Sew the opening in the lining closed by hand or machine. Stuff the lining up into the tea cosy, press the bottom seam and add a line ½ inch from the edge of topstitching or decorative stitching.

The outer layer fits over the insulating layer
 Press the entire tea cosy, insert the separate Warm Inner Layer and Voilá! You’re finished! These make lovely, useful and quick gifts.
a favorite tea cosy made by my friend Teresa and a formal, embroidered linen tea cosy

I made this tea cosy for Val's first apartment (it's lined with minkee which is a thick fleece)
But, no worries! If you don’t have time to make a tea cosy, just wrap a couple of thick towels around your just poured tea and let it steep. Enjoy and if you have a picture of your favorite tea cosy, post it or send it to me and I’ll post it! 
I made this tea cosy from a special linen towel with an insulating layer.


  1. I am excited that you posted This I was just about to search the World wide web to find a "how to" to make one.

  2. Wow! Where were these hints a few months ago when I needed them? I had to make "3 French Hens" as tea cozies for a friend's 12 Days of Christmas tea party theme and ended up just winging it. They look awesome but don't exactly fit right! Nice work-