LOANI PRIOR DEFIES THE
STEREOTYPE that tea cosies are only reserved for use by your sweet old
grandmother Dorothy who offered tea and day-old lamingtons when ‘company’ came
Self-confessed queen of the tea
cosies and author of Wild Tea Cosies has just launched another offering – Really
Wild Tea Cosies.
I meet Loani (pronounced
Low-ar-nee) at her subtropical Doonan home and am struck by her height (she
stands at 180cm) and warm, welcoming manner.
“Tea or coffee?” she asks. I choose tea (of course) and Loani
reaches for one of seven-odd canisters filled with loose leaves sitting on the
kitchen bench. It is obvious from the get-go that this is one woman totally and
utterly devoted to tea – drinking it, blending it, and of course, making cosies
to warm it.
After perusing Loani’s
extensive ‘wool stash’ – neatly colour-coded and packed away in various plastic
storage boxes – we move to the timber deck overlooking the rainforest. I sip my
perfectly brewed Russian Caravan and we begin to talk cosies.
Having been taught to knit as
a six year old by her Greek neighbour Mrs Theodosiou in Port Moresby, it wasn’t
until Loani moved from Brisbane to the Sunshine Coast eight years ago, on a ‘knit-change’,
that she got well and truly wrapped up in knitting tea cosies.
“I’ve always done a little
bit [of knitting] on and off in my life but only with a vengeance really in the
last eight years,” she says. Previously working as a consultant in Brisbane,
helping businesses ‘spring clean and restructure their electronic filing
systems’, Loani now spends her days knitting cosies, planning book tours and
holding knitting workshops. Talk about a knit change indeed.
“I moved here for love,” she
blushes, referring to partner Julian, a marine scientist, whom she
affectionately calls ‘The Bloke’.
Wikipedia, a tea cosy is “
cover for a
, traditionally made of
, which is used to
the tea, keeping it warm while it brews”.
Ok, so why the interest in
knitting them? “You get to this stage in your life and think everyone has
everything they need and you wonder what you can get them,” Loani says. “So I
started knitting things for people as gifts.”
Not all knitted gifts are
“If they have to wear it –
like a jumper or socks – it can be a bit dodgy. They might not like the colour
or the feel of wearing wool or it might not fit quite right. You can spend a
lot of money on a gift like that and it might not be appreciated, whereas a tea
cosy … everyone loves tea cosies! Even if they’re really stupid,” she laughs.
If the popularity of Loani’s
first book, Wild Tea Cosies is anything to go by, then Really Wild Tea Cosies
will surely be a success. Loani explains how her first book rated in the
“It landed number six on the
national best-seller list for independent book stores one month after its
release,” she says.
It just goes to show there
must be a tea cosy knitting ‘underworld’ out there. It seems Grandma Dorothy
was clued up well ahead of time.
“Yes, tea cosies keep the tea
warm,” Loani says. “But I really didn’t understand in the beginning what the
success (of the book) was about.”
While she admits there is
resurgence in knitting, she doesn’t put the books’ success solely down to that.
“I’ve had a lot of people
write to me and say they haven’t knitted in 20 years and now they’ve seen my
book, they’re going to start knitting again,” she says. “But more importantly
they tell me their tea cosy story. At book events people will bring me their
100-year-old tea cosy that’s ragged and tannin-stained and really quite
horrible but to them it’s imbued with these memories of their grandmother, who
owned and made that cosy. And then their mother had it and now it’s been passed
down to them, so it’s become this social history object that’s filled with
nostalgia and love.”
What a beautiful sentiment.
“And I think that has been
the success of the book, the interest in it, especially for so many people with
a sense of humour!”
Loani herself wasn’t passed
down any tea cosies, but she understands the significance of the tradition.
“I think it’s part of the
Australian and the English psyche. It’s a part of our genetic memory, the
iconic tea cosy,” she says.
Asked to judge a tea cosy
competition recently to raise money for breast cancer research, Loani was faced
with 400 entrants (and not a grandma in sight) eager to sell their hand-knitted
cosies for charity. It then became clear she wasn’t alone in her love affair
“There are all these tea cosy
fetish-ists that are coming out of the woodwork, being empowered to celebrate
the tea cosy!” she says.
Launched on April 1, Really
Wild Tea Cosies is a collection of 21 cosy patterns for readers to knit. From
the colourful ‘Coral Punk’, a sea coral-inspired cosy in bright punky hues, to ‘Burlesque
Betty’ (think Dita Von Teese made from wool), Loani’s creations are sure to
make people smile.
And speaking of smiling, the
book is dedicated to her son and late mum: “To my mother Kate who would have
smiled so wide and my son Benjamin who makes me smile so wide.”
Wild Tea Cosies is available from all good bookstores.
Check out Loani’s blog at www.grandpurlbaa.com It’s full of witty
knitty comments that’ll have you in stitches (pardon the pun).
The queen of the tea cosies
is holding a ‘Wild Knitting Retreat’ in Noosa from 16 – 20 August. To book your
place, phone Eumarella Shores on 5449 1738 or visit www.eumarellashores.com.au
words candice gregor
To view this article in our online magazine please click here: Doonan knitter the tea cosy queen