When making tea cosies the knitting is the easy bit, knit and purl in the right places and you have your knitted parts. But sometimes a few little tips can make the difference between completing a satisfactory project to creating a sensational, show stopping tea cosy. This page is going to be the come-to place for TeaCosyFolk knitting pattern tips and pointers to get the best from the knitting patterns.
Every week during 2021 I will be posting tips and hints of how to accomplish magnificent tea cosies. Some of the tips might be related to knitting, some to assembly, some might relate to sewing up.
I shall also be interspacing the knitting pattern tips with videos made by me, showing you how to do certain things. Sometimes words aren’t enough and it’s just easier if someone shows you. I thought videos of me knitting tricky bits would be helpful.
Of course, some of the helpful knitting pattern tips will be transferable to other knitting projects you’re working on and not just TeaCosyFolk designs.
Young or old, experienced or amateur, it's always good to learn new skills and new ways of doing things. Some of my tips you may already know and use yourself, whilst other knitting hacks will come as a great revelation and will become part of your knitting skills arsenal.
Here's one great tip that you can have right now – if you find something in a knitting pattern difficult; reach out and ask for help. There is an online TeaCosyFolk Facebook help group which has a clatter of knitters who like to talk about knitting and like to show off their TeaCosyFolk tea cosies they have knitted. The TeaCosyFolk designer is also a member of the group and she's happy to help anyone who is struggling. It's a great place to post and get help and just enjoy tea cosy chat, so do join up!
Teapots come in all shapes. I always design tea cosies to Price and Kensington teapots and they are round and cervical.
Because Price and Kensington teapots are ball shaped, the bottom edge of the main tea cosy tucks under the teapot slightly and this means that the bottom of the tea cosy isn’t the bit that is level with the table.
When you are pinning and sewing added parts to your tea cosy its always best to have the main tea cosy on the teapot and to place the teapot on a hard surface. This is especially important if you want to have something standing next to the teapot.
When the teapot is resting on a table, you can then offer your added part over to the cosy and have that so it’s base is also resting on the table, and at the same time touching the tea cosy. Pin where the two meet and then remove from the teapot to sew into place.
If you skip the teapot and standing on a table, you run the risk of your parts looking like they are levitating, and this spoils the overall look of the tea cosy.
It’s a Stitch Up
In various conversations I have been keen to hear people’s views about sewing up their projects.
On the whole people usually say that they hate a lot of sewing up. Some people say they haven’t finished a project because they have left all the stitching till the end, but then don’t want to sew it together. It seems very sad to have come so far to stop at the stitching up. But I do know what they mean.
I know it’s all personal preference, but I like to stitch as I go, purely because I don’t like a lot of sewing up at the end. However, I do like to sew everything for a head and pin it into place before I sew it down. Sometimes I put the hair and nose on, but then the ears go on and I feel the nose needs adjusting or the hair needs pulling down a bit. Once it’s all stitched you lose that flexibility. But once I’m happy with the head, I will sew everything to the head and then sew the head to the main part.
I write my patterns so that you can sew as you go, because this is how I like to work.
I would always recommend stitch as you go, to make the task at the end less daunting.
How you stuff your tea cosy is going to make a difference to the finished look. If you don’t want it to look lumpy, bumpy, dark and dingey, read my stuffing tips.
I know in the past it was thought old tights were a good stuffing material, but maybe not the best for stuffing a knitted thing. I don’t think that a knitted fabric is robust enough to contain tights. Plus, the colour of the tights shows through the stitches and doesn’t look great.
I always use a polyester toy filling. It’s more manageable and you can mould it. It’s nice and white so keeps your yarn colours true. It’s also light weight – perfect for modelling with.
When you start to stuff, pull your stuffing to bits first and fluff it up, you don’t want lumpy stuffing. Start to stuff with small amounts at a time. Mould as you stuff to make the stuffing sit to the shaping of the knitting. Keep stuffing with small amounts and moulding until the part is full.
Under-stuffing can sometimes be a problem. If you don’t stuff enough, the parts will be smaller and less able to stand by themselves, especially over time and repeated use. Get into the habit of stuffing well, so that the stuffing is compacted and firm but so that it’s not bursting the stitches on the right-hand side of the work.
Just as an example, the average head for a TeaCosyFolk medium sized character tea cosy should be about 9.5cm from top to bottom and about 7.5cm across.
I bet you have seen that graphical joke that gets posted on Facebook; The one that say “I see you like to live dangerously – no stitch markers”; well, that was me. The pattern would say to use a stitch marker or mark the row and I would shrug and carry on and muddle through and later find that I really did need to have marked the work.
Because I know that this is probably how people feel about stitch markers, (well those who haven’t seen the light yet at any rate) I really do make an effort not to use them. I just assume that the knitter won’t do it, so I try to find another way.
However, sometimes in my knitting pattern I just have to use stitch markers. So, I’d just like you to know, if you’re knitting a TeaCosyFolk knitting pattern and I say to use a stitch marker, you really do need a stich marker. I’m not just saying it casually. It’s really important and I’m going to refer back to it later, so please, please, please, use your stitch markers, and if you haven’t got one, use a bit of waste yarn, it will work just as well. Thank you.
Purling or Knitting 3 or More Stitches Together
There are things we can do to make knitting and life a little easier. Always ready a few rows ahead, then if you see this sort of thing coming up, you can make sure that the row worked beforehand can be a little looser. Looser stitches are easier when you must knit a few together.
Likewise, if they are in the first row, cast on loosely. If I need a loose cast-on I hold both needles together when casting on.
If you haven’t had time to prepare looser stitches, there are other tips to help.
Try working nearer the point of the needles. Where the needle tapers, the stitch feels looser so you will have more moveable space.
Another thing you could try is to loosen off the stitches. Slipping them from the left needle to the right needle and back again. If this doesn’t work the first time, put your needle in the stitch as if you were going to knit or purl it, and wiggle your needles in a scissor-like action to stretch the stitches a bit.
If you’re still having no luck, you could ‘SL1, K2tog, PSSO’. The stitch will look as if you K3tog, but it will be less of a fight.
Embroider on a Mouth
I do hear a lot that sewing on mouths is an issue. People feel that their embroidery isn’t good and that their mouths are letting their finishing down and leaving them down in the mouth. (sorry couldn’t resist!) So I’m going to show you how I do my mouths. I’m not saying that this is the only way or correct way; it’s just the way I do them. And maybe this technique will work for you too.
I use a technique based on the Lazy Daisy embroidery stitch.
So, the yarn is already secured under the hairline or at the bottom of the head somewhere out of sight. Bring the needle out to where the first corner of the mouth should be.
Then put the needle back into the work, where the second corner of the mouth should be, but importantly, exit the work two or 3 rows down from the corners of the mouth and at the centre point.
Lightly pull the thread through until the loose stitch makes a pleasing curve. And then, with your needle going over the stitch, put the needle back down the same hole to secure the stitch. Don’t pull too hard or the mouth shape will change.
Secure the yarn somewhere un-noticeable.
Scallop Edge Cast Off
People sometimes find it tricky because they cast off the wrong stitches and end up with the wrong number of stitches on the needle. This edging is used on a number of TeaCosyFolk knitting patterns. The stitch numbers may vary but the basics are the same.
Keeping Seams Hidden
It sounds obvious, but sometimes we need reminding to stop and think where the seams are going.
When I write a pattern, I try to make it so that the seam will go where it’s hidden. So, the arm seams will be downwards and underneath, and on a body the seam would usually be at the back. However sometimes, as with a head for example, I can’t make it obvious that the seam goes at the back, but it always does.
Sometimes, the seam won’t be in the obvious place. I am knitting a figure at the moment that will stand leaning up against the main cosy. And in this case, the seams are up the front of the legs and the front of the body, because the figure’s front will be against the main cosy and this will mean that the back is exposed and I don’t want you to see a seam.
So just take time to think about what is on show and turn seams so that they can be hidden. If you are going to have a seam you can’t hide, maybe you can sew the seam with mattress stitch. This gives a neater seam that you won’t mind people seeing.
How to Knit into Back Loops from Cast on Edge
This video shows you how to pick up the back loops from the cast-on edge and knit it together with the next stitch to create a hem or a billowy bulge.
It’s a great technique, that is nice and neat and looks great. It also saves sewing the rows together at the end. But more importantly for the bottom of a tea cosy, it means that the hem is stretchy, and you need the bottom of your tea cosy to be stretchy so it can stretch over the teapot.
Marking Along a Row
Sometimes in TeaCosyFolk knitting patterns you are asked to mark along a row. This is usually because you are going to be asked to knit into the back of each stitch at a later date.
To mark along a row you need a length of contrasting scrap yarn that you weave in and out of the working yarn as you knit the next row. You need a contrasting yarn so that you can see it clearly.
The great thing about marking a row like this is that when you have to remove it, just pull one end and the scrap pulls out easily.
Watch the video and see how I mark a row.
Pins and Pegs
However, with a knitting magazine, I received a free gift of 'No Pin, Sewing Clips'. They are little peg like things that you can use to hold two pieces of knitting together with. Now I know you're perhaps thinking that you can achieve this with pins, and that the pegs are a gimmick. And before using them I would have thought the same; but now I find that I do reach for the pegs as often as the pins. In fact, if I am sewing two flat pieces together, I peg them and if I'm sewing something stuffed to another stuffed thing or the main cosy; I use pins.
I find that the pegs hold things just where I want them, it's like its being held by another finger and thumb. There is no chance of the knitting slipping or of the peg wriggling free.
I'm a convert! If you get an opportunity, try them and you'll see what I mean.
Vintage Tea Cosy Stitch
This is a help video for the vintage tea cosy stitch. This stitch is used on the Crinoline Lady tea cosy and the Virgin Queen tea cosy.
It's an easy stitch once you get your head around how to make it billow out.
Working From The Inside
If I’m sewing directly on to the main cosy part, lets say I’m sewing on someone’s arms for example, I pin the arms in place whilst the tea cosy is on the teapot. When I’m happy with how it looks, I add a few more pins to secure it in place.
Then I remove the tea cosy from the teapot and sew the arm to the main cosy from inside the main cosy. It’s great because you can only see the stitches from the inside of the cosy. If you use the same colour yarn as the main cosy itself, you can’t even see the stitches from the cosy inside.
You can’t always use this technique, but sometimes it’s a great trick to use and it gives neat results. It's great for when you want to attach things and you want them to keep their shape and look prominent.
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