Friday, 15 August 2014

Elizabeth Craig's Thimble Tea

A recent post on a favourite blog Shelf Appeal featured the illustrator Herry Perry in Elizabeth Craig's book on Entertaining.  I just had see more and found a reasonably priced copy on ebay.  What a delight!  Published in 1933 it's full of advice for "The Modern Hostess", whether entertaining "with the help of one maid, of a staff of servants, or single handed"!

 There are dozens of entertaining occasions covered by Elizabeth, from "A Bride's First Dinner" to "Tea for Two in Wintertime" and everything else in between.  But my very favourite has to be "Just a Thimble Tea".  Here is just some of Elizabeth's advice:

"Every little while I give a Thimble Tea, to which I ask a few chosen friends.  In the summer-time we sometimes hold it in the garden.  In winter it is held in the cosiest corner of the room close to the fire with ship logs ablaze in blue and purple and fiery red........If you want to start Thimble Teas first count over your friends who are interested in needlework, whether it be simple knitting or embroidery, or fine sewing.  It matters not what their taste is so long as they are of the Sister Susie sisterhood (I've tried to look up what this means with no success).  Then send out invitations to come to tea and bring their work along with them.  I would not invite more that half a dozen at a time.  For a Thimble Tea I usually write "from 2.30 to 6 pm" on my invitations..........As this is a Thimble Tea she (the hostess) must produce her daintiest tea cloth, doilys and tea serviettes.  If she has a hand-worked tea cosy it is a good idea to have a teapot rest to match - a strip of knitted wool stuffed firmly with cotton wool and sewn lengthwise to form a woollen roly-poly.  This must be invisibly joined at the ends to form a circular roll which in turn must be firmly sewn to two rounds of plain knitting with a round of stiff cardboard slipped between to form a stiff base for the nest.......... Boil the water for the tea at table with the aid of an electric kettle or a spriit lamp, have your tea caddy ready beside the teapot and a little plate containing slices of lemon in case some guests wish their tea a la Russe.  Have milk as well as cream for lots of people do not care for cream in tea (too right - yuk!).  Then arrange little plates of dainty sandwiches, shortbread fingers, or jam-jams, almond or coconut macaroons, spiced rock cakes, and anything else you care to have within reach of all.  Provide at least one muffin dish of hot scones and have what is the very latest idea, a plate of tiny canapes of bread rounds the size of crown pieces spread with savoury paste and kept carefully out of sight till everyone has finished with cake, and then brought out and offered as a savoury finish......

.......No matter your menu, tea over have food cleared away if teaing in the sewing room and settle down again to work and gossip.  In the summer-time serve tea when possible in the garden.  If raining have it indoors with the fire lit.  Decorate the room with glowing plants.  In winter-time decorate your room with red flowers or berries and red or white candles, serving tea when possible in a different room to that in which you work or in a room opening off your working room."

Phew, I haven't done that much copy typing in a long time!  Good job I proof read it!  I'd not heard of jam-jams before but there are lots of recipes on line.  Here's a nice one.

And this is Elizabeth's 1933 recipe:

Rub 4oz butter in 7oz flour, stir in 4oz castor sugar, half teaspoon baking powder, half teaspoon ground cinnamon and moisten to a rollable dough with yolk of egg.  Roll out on a lightly floured pastry board, cut into rounds with the top of a wineglass or a fancy cutter, bake till crisp and golden and if by any chance through incorrect management of the oven the cakes spread out of shape you can recut them again with the same cutter as soon as you take them out of the oven.  But don't wait till they cool at all or they will break in the cutting.  Put two rounds together with jam then sprinkle with castor sugar.  Apricot or raspberry jam is best for jam-jams.  If liked you can use ground Ginger for flavouring instead of cinnamon. 

Of course there were no oven temperature gauges then - today bake at 190C (375F) for about 12-14 mins.

Lastly, these are Elizabeth's suggested Tea Menus:

Bread and Butter
Cucumber Sandwiches
Layer Cake, Strawberry Filling
Strawberries and Cream
Petits Fours

Raisin and Nut Bread
Cheese and Pimento Sandwiches
Hot Buttered Tea-Cakes
Spiced Fruit Cake
Iced German Biscuits

Bloater Cream Sandwiches 
Ham and Cress Rolls
Buttered Crumpets
Chocolate Eclairs
Tangerine Layer Cake

Note - Make Bloater Cream Sandwiches with brown bread.  Use bridge rolls, split for Ham and Cress sandwiches.  Hot buttered teacakes can be substituted for Crumpets and Cream Buns for Chocolate Eclairs.  Fill Tangerine Layer Cake with tangerine honey and cover with tangerine icing.

If you enjoyed this I might share a few more gems in future posts.  What about "Tea in Heather Time" or "A Scramble Party" ?


  1. Oh , please invite me to your timble tea. maybe i shall be in thr UK in august next year to do workshops in the Summer School in Bath.

  2. A very entertaining post Ann! I look forward to reading about your first thimble tea!!! The author had very specific instructions for the teapot rest didn't she?! I would love you to do more posts like this and may even have a go at some of the recipes. Thank you so much for sharing. x

  3. Even though I don't sew Anne, I'd love to come to a party like this. Sounds much more refined that the 'stitch and bitch' sessions I see advertised locally lol! Those biscuits look yummy.
    Carol x


Thank you so much for visiting my blog and taking the time to comment - its hugely appreciated. Ann :o)


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