Tea for Two

IMG_8112IMG_8108I enjoy riffling through craft books, and the other day was riffling through Tasha Tudor’s Heirloom Crafts. At one point, my attention was riveted by a tiny, postage stamp-sized photo of a lovely little sampler. A rebus (a representation of words by pictures in a motto) was stitched upon it, and I knew instantly that I wanted to stitch one up. So I got out graph paper, a pencil, some cross stitch fabric, a needle, and began riffling again, this time through my bag of embroidery floss. By peering intently at the little picture, and straining my eyes to their utmost capacity, I was able to come up with a chart of the design, and soon I was stitching. By the way, the rebus says: Except the kettle boiling be, Filling the pot spoils the tea.

(As a side note: If you like this little sampler, there is a similar one at a blog called Stitches of Life. If you enjoy stitchery of all kinds, this is a nice blog, full of projects and interesting links.)

There are several nice things about this little sampler–it’s quick to make, and since it uses only three colors, it’s easy going. I have to admit, though, that I wasn’t totally sure what the saying meant! I can remember my grandmother talking about making tea. She used a tea pot, and poured boiling water into it first to warm it up. Then she spooned loose tea into the pot, one tea spoon per person, and one tea spoon for the pot. Then she poured boiling water into the pot, and let it steep. When pouring the tea into your cup, she placed a strainer over the cup to catch the tea leaves. When she was done pouring, the strainer was set onto its own little silver caddy. A tiny spoon scooped up a lump of sugar, if you requested it.

Tea strainer on its caddy.
Tea strainer on its caddy.
So-called "slops jar"
So-called “slops jar”

Something else I learned is that a so-called “slops jar,” was on the table. When you were done with your first cup of tea, you poured the cold dregs into the slops jar, and the hostess poured fresh tea into your cup. My grandmother also noted to only use boiling water to make the tea, and to never re-boil the water. Re-boiled water has all the air bubbles boiled out of it, and makes a flat-tasting tea.

Spoon for the sugar cubes.

So my guess is that the sampler is telling us to use boiling water to make the tea, and not to re-fill the pot with plain old hot water. That’s my guess!

SUPPLIES: cross stitch fabric (11 count), embroidery floss in brown, black, and blue, a needle and scissors.

I used 11 count cross stitch fabric. You could also use 10 count (the finished sampler would be a little larger), or 12 count (the finished sampler would be a little smaller. The stitched area of the sampler shown is 5 x 5″. It could be cute to use 14 or 18 count, for a tiny sampler, but it all depends on if your eyes are up to it.

The following graph is ok, but not wonderful, and if you would like a better copy, please send a SASE to Fran Manos, 920 South 2nd St., St. Charles IL 60174. ERRATA: The words “Spoils the” should start one line higher than shown. (After making this chart, I have new respect for anyone who creates cross stitch patterns!)



Start stitching the middle, which is three lines below “boiling,” between the “o” and “i.” It might almost be easier to use the following photo as your graph!


I tea dyed my sampler when it was finished to give it an old-fashioned air. I placed five tea bags into the bottom of a stainless steel bowl, and poured in one cup of boiling water. I let it steep, and then put in my sampler. I let it steep in the tea for about 15 minutes. I rinsed it lightly, and then smoothed it out on a folded towel. When it was damp-dry, I ironed it on the back. I will admire it for a few days, and then frame. It’s perfect for the kitchen!

The weather dealt us a cruel blow yesterday–we had a blizzard! The snow fell steadily for hours, and when I woke up my pansies were under two inches of snow. But spring blizzards are different from the real winter blizzards–they’re silly things–and most of the snow has already melted away. The little puschinkias (Puschkinia scilloides) are up . . .


the scilla are blooming . . .


and a goldfinch says hello! Namaste. Fran







8 thoughts on “Tea for Two

  1. Wonderful and colorful essay. And I must say I am always happy to see – well, grown-ups, shall we say – warm memories about grandparents.

  2. I wish I could go back in time for a tea with all our awesome grandmothers, who seem to have time to contemplate over a cup of tea and some needling work. It calms the mind and it results in beauty.

  3. Yes, it must have been calming to have some small rituals in daily life, and I find myself still learning lessons that my grandmother taught me many years ago. Fran

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