Cosy here, isn’t it?

28 01 2012

I found myself, as so often happens, in an odd situation the other day. I seem to attract them. I was once more having illustrated to me just how much one takes for granted when conversing with another human being (or in this case a software developer, but it’s close enough for the purposes of this posting). When we communicate with someone, we start with gross assumptions about the amount of knowledge and “background” we already share, and blithely kick off the conversation from there.

This can be seen failing spectacularly when you see novice travellers launching into detailed queries with public servants and shop assistants in their own language, and simply assuming that the other person will understand and give a reasonable response. The more experienced will instead set the stage and dance around with a few basic local equivalents of “Parlez-vous anglais?”, look apologetic, and show a willingness to use sign language and more basic methods, like pointing at maps and street signs. I always make a point of learning “thank-you” in any new country I visit (I’m up to about 15 or so languages now, I think).

Showing that (i) you’ve at least learned how to be grateful in the local language and (ii) you accept you’re the one with the lack of ability will, in my limited experience, nearly always move you from “bloody tourist” category to “poor lost soul in need of help” category.

Shrek's Puss in Boots

Shrek's Puss in Boots asking for the best local drinking establishment

So anyway, I was in Vancouver, speaking English with a fellow westerner, and none of these more fundamental considerations seemed in play. I was then all the more stymied to realise that my fellow conversationalist was not actually pulling my leg when they claimed to not understand what a tea cosy was. After 11 years, I am still amazed at how little I have actually learned of Canadian culture, language and idioms. A true Imperialist, it seems! “If they don’t understand, shout louder!”

So anyway, this got me into quite an embarrassing spot. Firstly, the whole tea cosy thing stemmed from quite a lame joke about someone’s knitted hat having the same general form. There’s nothing worse than having to explain a joke… unless (i) it’s not very funny in the first place and (ii) the very crux of it is not even familiar to the audience. I was briefly reminded of Coke bottles and Bushmen.

The Gods Must Be Crazy

The Gods Must Be Crazy

All this taught me a few valuable lessons. But I forget what they were. I never was any good at studying. So anyway… tea cosies? Still interested?

Tea cosies (at least in the UK) are one of those archetypal “simple knitting projects”, like scarves. They’re supposed to be pretty straightforward, and kids learning the basics can throw one together reasonably successfully. Or so I’m told. I’m old enough to have been schooled in a time when boys would be boys, and girls would be washing the dishes. I didn’t “do” knitting, so can only assume it was straightforward. I thank my lucky stars that an above average education allowed me to quickly see the fundamental imbalance in things as I got older. Maggie coming to power in 1979 put any lingering doubts to rest regarding the true power of the fairer sex, but once more I find myself wandering from the path in werewolf country, and with no script calling for Jenny Agutter in the shower, even. Tea cosies… yes tea cosies. Basically they’re a toque for your teapot. The intent is to keep the pot from cooling too quickly,and allow your tea party to last that bit longer before the hostess (statistically, not sexistly) need get up to put the kettle on again to freshen it up a bit.

Now teapots (Disney aside) do not have eyes, but do have a spout and a handle at the back, both of which need to be accommodated in the basic design. This is usually done with a small slit for the spout and a longer one for the handle.

Disney: Chip and Mrs. Potts.

Disney: Chip and Mrs. Potts.

And that’s about it, really. Designs can get as funky as any toque you’ve ever seen. I loved this example from Wikipedia, for example:

Wikipedia: Coral Tea cosy

Wikipedia: Coral Tea cosy

If you fancy a stab at making your own, I found a bunch of patterns here: Knitting Pattern Central, including this one which I thought was quite cute from fellow blogger Rosa Hoban:

Rosa Hoban: Tea Cosy

Rosa Hoban: Tea Cosy








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