Beekeepers have a long history of making ingenious homes for their bees. But before the days of moveable frame hives and bee space, beekeepers’ material of choice was often straw coiled and woven to form squat coneshaped baskets.
Inspired by these iconic straw bee skeps, I made a beehive teapot cozy that takes its design cues from these traditional coiled baskets. It’s constructed of two layers of wool, quilted together. Unlike some teapot cozies that allow the handle and spout to stick out the sides, this one is designed to cover the teapot completely—simply lift off the cozy, pour the tea, and then replace the cozy over the pot. Here’s how to make your own beehive inspired tea cozy.
What You Need:
- Teapot (mine’s a 22 oz. carrot-colored Bee House pot)
- Tape measure
- Fabric for the Interior Base Layer: ½ yard of woven wool or wool felt (I used a remnant piece of dark brown wool suiting from my stash)*
- Fabric for the Exterior Coil Layer: 2 fat eighths of Mary Flanagan’s hand dyed felted wool in a shade of gold or light brown (available at purl; I used a shade called gold mine)*
- Straight pins
- Scissors for cutting paper
- Scissors for cutting fabric
- Sewing machine or needle and thread**
- Sewing needle (with an eye large enough to accommodate embroidery floss)
- Embroidery floss in a color of your choice (I used a little less than two skeins of DMC cotton floss, color no. 3046)
*You might need more fabric if your teapot is larger than mine; I’ll give my teapot’s dimensions below and you can work from these basic numbers to see if you will need more fabric.
**You can do all of the sewing by hand. Or, if you prefer, you can complete the Interior Base Layer on a sewing machine and then switch to hand sewing for the Exterior Coil Layer.
1. Measure your teapot.
Circumference: Use a tape measure to measure the circumference of your teapot, including the spout and handle. I found that by placing a loop of measuring tape on a table, setting the teapot in the middle, and then looking down upon my teapot from above to be sure that it was entirely within the measuring tape circle, I got an accurate measurement of the circumference. Add 1” seam allowance to the circumference.
Height: Use a ruler to measure your teapot’s height. Add 1” seam allowance to the height measurement.
Point Height: There’s just one last calculation needed, in order to plot out the tapering pointed beehive shape. Figure out what 2/3 of your Height calculation is (height measurement + 1″ seam allowance) is. This will be your Point Height.
My teapot’s measurements and final calculations are as follows:
Circumference: 20” (including the spout and handle)+1” seam allowance=21”
Height: 5” + 1” seam allowance=6”
Point Height: 2/3 of the Height=4”
2. Make the Interior Base Layer.
Use the measurements you calculated in step 1 to draft your pattern for the interior base layer. The pattern will be the width of your Circumference, and as tall as your Height + Point Height. Divide the width of the pattern into 6 roughly equal sections, making the sections on each end a little bigger to accommodate the seam allowance.
Along top edge, mark the center point of each of the 6 sections. Then, draw a gentle curve from each center point down to the dividing lines of the six sections. You’ll now have six pointed tops. This is what my pattern for the Interior Base Layer looks like the drafted pattern pictured here.
Cut out this pattern. Use this paper pattern to cut one of the fabric you have chosen for the Interior Base Layer.
Placing right sides together, sew the fabric piece (you can do it by hand or machine) into the basic beehive shape. First, sew the two side edges together (right sides together) to form a squat tube, and then sew each point edge to that of its neighbor, almost but not quite closing up the tapered top. Last, turn 1” up toward teh seamed side of the bottom edge and sew down this hem. Press all of the seams with an iron.
3. Add the Exterior Coil Layer.
Prepare the fabric strips that will form the coil design around the exterior of your hive by cutting a series of long strips of felt on the bias, 3/4” wide and as long as possible using your fabric. Cutting on the bias (at a 45 degree angle to the weave of the fabric) will allow the strips to stretch and curve around the beehive shape. Then, sew these strips together end to end, making sure that all seams face the same direction, so that you have one long, continuous strip. I needed about 8 yards to complete my beehive. Mary Flanagan’s hand dyed felted wool is ideal for this project because its luxurious flexibility allows it to drape and bend around curves handily.
Starting at the base of the Interior Layer (with its seams facing out), begin to attach the coiling strip (with its seams facing in, against the Interior Layer) along the lower edge using a running stitch and embroidery thread along the lower edge of the strip. When you get all the way around once, begin to incline the start the second layer so that eventually it runs parallel to the first round, just overlapping by ¼” or so. Continue round and round, stitching the lower overlapping edge of the coiling strip.
When you get within one round of reaching the hive’s top, stop attaching the coil and make a handle.
4. Make the handle, and complete your hive.
Take a scrap of leftover felt measuring 3” long and ¾” wide, and fold it in half so it measures 1 ½” x ¾”. Insert it through the top of the tapered top of the Interior Base Layer so that the folded edge sticks out the top by about 1”. Secure this handle to the hive with a few stitches using the embroidery thread.
Now, complete the last round of coiling at the top. To complete the hive, stitch through the top edge of this last round and cinch it closed around the handle, securing it with a knot inside.
It’s completed! This hive will keep your teapot warmer longer on winter’s draftiest days; you can curl up with a pot of tea while you immerse yourself in the wonders of armchair beekeeping.