Thursday, May 5, 2011

Tea Cozy Project

At the end of June my family & I will make our third visit to Japan. My son Brendan & I have been studying Japanese for nearly 6 years & we find an every-other-year trip to Japan really inspires us in our  studies.  Also, when we visit Japan, we visit the friends we've made over the years, & each time we go we have more people to visit & it all becomes more like a reunion than a trip :) In Japanese culture, part of visiting is bringing gifts, called omiyage, to the friends you go to see. In Japan omiyage is often food from where you live, or someplace you've visited on your travels. Since we'll be staying with friends there, we like to bring things that are made in our part of the US, or have some personal significance to us. It's always a challenge to think of things that would appeal to people from a different culture than our own, as well as appeal to people of varying ages.
Tomoko's family & our family, in front of Asosan (a live volcano) on Kyushu.
During our first visit to Japan, 4 years ago, we stayed with the family of our first Japanese teacher, Tomoko, who live in a small town outside of Fukuoka City, on the southern island of Kyushu. We had met Tomoko's mother, Nobuko-san, about a month earlier than this, when she visited Tomoko in the US. Being keen to learn some things about Japanese cooking, during her visit to our house I asked Nobuko-san (through her daughter, since she speaks very little English) if she would show me how to make tamago-yaki, since I had bought a rolled-omelet pan & wanted to see how it worked.
Getting ready for a simple tea ceremony at Nobuko-san's house.
 I also asked her to make tea for us (Nobuko-san is a tea ceremony master & teacher :) & learned more than any words could tell about how to properly make tea by just watching her. I had been hoping for some more impromptu cooking lessons when we visited Japan, but, sadly, it wasn't to be. Since I was a guest in her home, Nobuko-san wouldn't think of letting me into the kitchen :( The food was wonderful, though, but I had to observe at a distance... 

Breakfast table settings at Nobuko-san's house.
Last summer, when Tomoko was in Japan visiting her family, we Skyped with she & Nobuko-san. It was wonderful to see her & talk for the first time in 3 years. During our conversation I asked Nobuko-san, in my best Japanese, if she would allow me to cook with her. She seemed surprised & delighted, and agreed, but asked if I would teach her how to cook some western food. During intermittent discussions about this with Tomoko over the next few months, we decided a good thing for me to cook with her mom would be scones & cookies. Although ovens are not necessarily found in every kitchen in Japan (I've never seen one in any of the apartments I've stayed in there), Nobuko-san does have a small one & has been experimenting with making breads. Scones & cookies are a natural next step, so along with assembling supplies to send (like measuring cups & ingredients), and getting ready to work on translating some recipes into Japanese with our present teacher so I can make a little cook book to bring, I thought it would be fun to bring western-style teapots & crochet cozies for them, to give as omiyage to various friends in Japan.

Hence the Tea Cozy Project! I made my first crocheted tea cozy a few weeks ago (& posted about it here) & from that project I discovered some important things about crochet & tea cozies. In general, crochet is less stretchy than knitting, which is why Alice's original pattern for the Granny Tea Cozy has a button closure at the bottom. I didn't use a button for mine, but adapted the pattern so it fits over the teapot (just barely...). In designing my first cozy for the Project I decided to try making a stretchy foundation band 4 stitches wide from crochet ribbing (single crochet through the back loops only). Then I picked-up all along the edge of the band in shell stitch for the body of the cozy.
I made it from KnitPicks' Swish DK in heathered colours (sort of a heathered rainbow :) using a size E/4/3.50mm hook. The teapot is pretty small (~16 1/2" around), one of the 20 oz. ones from Republic of Tea (perfect for tea-for-two) & so the cozy worked up pretty quickly, in spite of occasional ripping (as I was creating the pattern as I went along...). 
I used shell stitch, since it's dense & makes a good fabric for keeping thing warm and I borrowed Alice's original opening in the top to let the lid peep through because it's really cute :) After washing (& blocking on the pot, over a floor vent) I am pleased with the results. Good thing- I need to make 4 more! All variations on the theme, of course. But first, I need to write the base pattern down!! Stay tuned for more cozies...


  1. Thanks for all your comments, "Boom Boom"! It's great to hear from you :)