Tea cosy, 'The Cup That Cheers' motif, cotton, maker unknown, Australia, 1930-1960
The attention paid to the production of tea cosies reflects the importance of tea drinking in 19th and 20th century Australia. Indeed at a time when middle class women did not have outside employment and socialising was principally done in the home, the equipment and presentation of afternoon tea was a major social indicator. Domestic guides provide detailed instructions as to how the table should be set, what range of food should be presented, the type of conversation -- 'chatty and agreeable' according to Agnes Morton in 'Etiquette' (1894) -- and how the tea should be drunk. In 'The Cottage Kitchen' (1883), Marion Harland advised that tea 'must be drunk noiselessly, not sucked, from the side of the cup, leaving the spoon in the saucer and the cup be held by the handle'.
Although embroidered tea cosies had a long history, patterns for crocheted tea cosies did not appear until the early 1900s. Typically the tea cosy would match the crochet lace on the cloth. 'The cup that cheers' was a popular description of tea in the 19th and 20th centuries and was linked to the temperance movement. This tea cosy pattern came from a women's magazine and was worked by a woman from Mudgee.
Barbara Ballantyne, 'Mary Card: Australian crochet lace designer', Sydney, 2002