Saturday, June 25, 2011

Gift Idea: Mad Tea Party

It may only be June, but Christmas will be sneaking up on you at any moment (complete with the credit crunch). And in the intervening months, housewarmings, birthdays and other celebrations will require gifts.

Big cup, small cup; yellow cup, green cup. (Ikea, for cheap)

It can be hard to give when you're broke. Perhaps that's why I have so many previous posts on gifts - I know it's not easy to do! But with a little ingenuity and imagination (and failing that, taking ideas from other folks off the internet!), you can come up with some pretty memorable and inventive gifts on a student budget.

Growing up a huge fan of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, I've always thought having a mad tea party would be good fun. And it is, actually - I had one for my birthday in 2007. True, alcohol did manage to sneak its way into the beverages, but it was good fun all around nonetheless.

So here's the gift idea: a hamper or picnic basket of teacups, saucers, teapots, creamers, sugar bowls and tea towels (new, vintage, or a healthy mix of both). The beauty of the "madness" comes in when you realise that you can slowly but surely build this gift around a central unifying theme or colour(s), or just indulge in complete whimsy and have a colourful basket of mismatches.

However you choose to do it, a mix of vintage finds and new deals will keep you in good stead!

A motley crew of various porcelain object d'art.
Take my personal collection of teatime-related odds and bobs, for instance. I had a cat-shaped teapot since I was very small (a component of my former cat figurine collection from a very young age), a whelk-shaped teapot from Paboom (a great store I loved in Victoria which has a very convenient sister location on W. 4th near Vine), two little robin's-egg-blue hen-shaped egg cups (from Mingo Wo), and an elephant sugar bowl (also from Paboom, which caries an elephant-shaped teapot as well).

I also have a huge latte bowl in yellow and a teeny espresso cup in green from Ikea from years back, that I bought almost solely for the size disparity (and the colours - love the colours!). Ikea is another great place to find good teatime bargains (tea towels, cups and saucers, trays, etc.).

Speaking of Ikea, you could always just buy bits and pieces from the Odmjuk series (cute teapot and accessories, but probably more expensive than the hunt & gather approach I'm recommending). Still, really sweet!

Paboom, Mingo Wo and Motiv on West 4th Avenue are great places to start building a gift-able collection. Don't forget to take advantage of the sale items - 'last one' is a phrase that need not trouble you!

But arguably the most fun places to shop for whimsical tea party ware are thrift stores (Salvation Army, Value Village, SPCA thrift stores, the MCC thrift store on Fraser, etc.). I can guarantee you you'll find something bizarre there, and it may even become the central 'theme' to your build-over-time gift. For example, if you find a hideous but hilarious pineapple-shaped sugar bowl, you may wish to build a collection of teacups yellows and greens. If you buy a green-and-yellow basket, you'd better include the "a-tisket, a-tasket" nursery rhyme on the card.

A few thematic or colour schemes I could suggest:
- blue & white
- cat or rabbit themed (love this one)
- red and apple themed
- fruit
- pink & yellow
- zoo (animals of all kinds)
- seaside (shells, boats, nautica)
- Asian-inspired or "Indochine" (which would be easy, given Daiso/Yokoyaya123 and the amazing number of Asian-inspired teacups and teapots that appear with regularity on thrift store shelves!)

Thank you Allyson!
Steph hates this apron.
 Aprons, trivets (hot pads), tea-cozies can all be bought, but you could also sew these to match your theme. If you have a real hodge-podge colour scheme or theme, then patchwork-style may suit it. An extra bonus is that you could use up existing fabric scraps rather than purchasing new.

Don't forget the cheapest place in town to buy fabrics! Dressew! Check in the bins to find small off-cuts or fat quarters (for quilting) for $0.25 a piece.

One of the more tempting places to browse pretty new fabric is at Sew, Mama, Sew. Definitely worth subscribing to their updates - they have great sales and perks. They also have a fantastic blog which has a myriad of sewn gift ideas.

(The best part of the Sew, Mama, Sew blog are the handmade holidays gift-guides.... Yeah, isn't that awesome?!).

Things your Mad Tea Party gift needs (adjust according to budget and availability):
  • a teapot
  • teacups and saucers (4 of each, various sizes, shapes and/or styles)
  • serving plate for biscuits, etc.
  • creamer
  • sugar bowl
  • teaspoons and teabag rests
  • tea towels
  • teapot cozy, trivets, apron
  • a mouse, Mad Hatter, white rabbit and a (broken!) pocketwatch*
*if you include these, better add an Alice in Wonderland DVD, or the original book by Lewis Carroll for explanation!

Tea-for-Two (a smaller version of the above):
  • a teapot
  • teacups and saucers (2)
  • 2 teaspoons
  • sugar bowl and creamer
  • small tray or serving plate

Don't forget - no tea party is complete without teas and cookies! Buy some teas and bake a batch of cookies to go with your unforgettable and completely unique gift. Places to buy tea in/near Kits: David's Teas, Granville Island Tea Company, and of course any grocery store's shelves (which is often the cheapest option).

Some time-dependent links of cool things I found on Etsy that you may wish to buy... (remember, it's always more expensive for vintage things online! Check your local thrift store or garage sale ('tis the season) first!):

"Fruit-on-Top" vintage sugar bowl - $4
A very retro orange and yellow daisies teapot - $5 (ALWAYS search by "lowest price" for vintage - found an identical one a few pages on for $18!)
Coral coloured cream & sugar set - $1
Retro white and yellow creamer - $3
Lovely cornflower-blue teacup and saucer - $2
Milk glass teacups (I love milk glass!) - $2
Blue and white donut-shaped 'Asian' teapot - $7
Cottage-shaped teapot - $7 (and another, if you're starting a collection - $17) - one on eBay too for $8 (here)
Beehive honey pot - $12
Royal Doulton poppies creamer - $12
Seriously retro brown and white scandinavian teapot - $12
An orange-shaped teapot (I want this!) - $12
A tea-table-shaped teapot - $15
A very modern-styled Zebra-print teapot - $15
A cauliflower teapot (go figure! It's kind of nice, too) - $20
Creepy frog teapot, sugar bowl and creamer set - $20
...and I could go on, but I figured $20 and up would be for the collector, not the casual gift buyer. Check back often, but definitely hit up those thrift stores first! Use the internet to flesh out a themed collection, but start it cheaply somewhere else. I can't handle navigating eBay anymore, but it's another option.

If you have a strawberries theme, there's lots out there! So cute!

Strawberries mug - $2.50
Avon Strawberry plate, cup and saucer - $16
Vintage strawberry tray - $8
Strawberry tea kettle - $10
A strawberry tea cozy on eBay for $8 (then you can buy a $2 white teapot and it might be cheaper overall!)
Strawberry tea fabric (one fat quarter - the centre of a trivet you'll sew?) - $2.50
Vintage strawberry teabag rest - $4
Strawberries table runner (so cute! Lace trimmed!) - $7
.....and the best of all (whether I would actually wear these is debatable!) - strawberry teacup earrings - $9
Oh, there's a strawberry teapot necklace, too! - $10

Oh wow - there's just about every kind of teapot (new) here.... link to "teapot decor" on Pronto

And finally, here's a few DIY links, if you're handy with a needle and thread, or with knitting needles/crochet hooks:

Tea Cozy sewing pattern from Homemade Holiday Gifts
Another tea cosy (British spelling) pattern from the Guardian
A photo of a simple felt Squirrel teapot cozy that could be easily replicated! Cut two and sew together!
A rather involved but seriously impressive knitted elephant tea cozy (you have to see this one!)
A granny-square based tea cozy on Ravelry

Finishing on a song (can you guess where it's from?):

Twinkle, twinkle, little bat!
How I wonder what you're at!
Up above the world you fly,
Like a tea tray in the sky.
Twinkle, twinkle, little bat!
How I wonder what you're at!

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