Woolwork embellished with glass beads from Italy was all the rage in Victorian times. Women set out to fashion useful and decorative items for their homes. They embroidered chair seats, stool covers, cushions, pictures, shelf hangers and other items, including tea cosies, all heavily beaded.
The designs were limitless, but florals were among the most popular. Myriads of peonies, forget-me-nots, lilies and roses adorned many projects. This cosy is worked almost entirely in beads, as opposed to the more usual combination of beads on woolwork. Furthermore, it has brass beads and steel beads that were worked into the design, along with the pretty Italian glass beads.
The design is more of a stylized flower surrounded by feathery flights of fancy. There is woolwork is in the center of the main central flower with several of its open petals of wool. The only other wool in this piece is minimal, as insets to offset smaller parts of the design. This wool is black on one side and brown on the other.
The cosy has its original silk braided trim with a braided knot on top for further embellishment. It was heavily padded in a pretty shade of pink silk to keep the tea warm.
The condition is excellent for its age of over 150 years. This is one of the finest quality and prettiest beadwork cosies I’ve come across. The beads are all present; the brass and steel beads have not rusted, which in itself is unusual. The beading was done by a very skilled beader. The colors of the beads have not faded and still give off much sheen. The silk lining on the inside has split in one main area, but given the delicate nature of silk, it is amazing to have survived this long with only one split.
It measures about 13 inches wide at the bottom, and it is 10-5/8 inches to the top (not including the braided knot.
19th Century Victorian All-Beadwork Tea Cosy