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October Sip and Stitch: Dickens and The Gilded Age

The Sip and Stitch series continues this month with a spiced rooibos tea, a Julian Fellowes series, and a shawl that encompasses some Gilded-Age decadence. That’s right: I’m working with a cashmere blend.

A top-down image of a pair of small, plump, white hands holding a blue and white teacup and saucer. The teacup is full of milky rooibos tea. In the background are some knitting, a couple antique doilies, a plate of madeleines, and some antique books.

Before we get to the knitting, though, let’s talk tea and TV. Remember our ground rules here:

  1. This is not an expert manual for how to drink tea.
  2. This is not a health guide.
  3. This is not meant to shame or pressure anybody into changing their drinking habits.

But if you’re like me and find that you don’t react so well to caffeine, this series of blog posts might be something you’ll enjoy. Each month, I’ll cover a new decaf or herbal tea. I’ll also chat about the latest costume drama to catch my eye and share a fun knitting project with you.

This Month’s Tea: Bellocq Tea Atelier’s No. 42, Little Dickens

Okay, I’m going to just lay all my cards on the table now: I am a sucker for good aesthetics. Bellocq has had a stranglehold on my attention for over a decade. That’s when I first saw a photo of their glorious plant-filled shop and knew, just knew, that it had to be a little slice of heaven on earth.

Then I saw their packaging.

A yellow canister of tea sits on top of a tall stack of books surrounded by knitting, madeleines, a clear pot of tea, a creamer, and a blue and white teacup filled with tea.

And listen, if there’s one thing I can’t get enough of, it’s cute little canisters. You can buy Bellocq’s teas in beautifully printed paper bags, but you can also choose these ridiculously beautiful yellow or navy canisters. For this review, I went for yellow because I figured I’d need some cheer in the winter.

I ordered a canister of No. 42, Little Dickens. It’s a rooibos blend that includes cacao nibs, ginger, cinnamon, spearmint, rose petals, vanilla beans, and calendula. Most of the ingredients are organic. While it’s marketed as a children’s tea, this grown-up is a big fan, too.

Like most rooibos teas, it has a little bit of natural sweetness to it, but the cinnamon and vanilla also give it a warm, festive flavoring that is perfect for fall and winter. I love curling up in the evening with a massive mug of this tea and a good book.

Sip and Stitchflix: The Gilded Age

I’ve done a bit of costume drama rewatching lately, including perennial Dickens favorites Our Mutual Friend and Little Dorrit, but I also watched a modern drama set in the 19th century.

Earlier this year, HBO aired the first season of Julian Fellowes’s latest series, The Gilded Age. It takes place in 1880s New York. I’d been saving it until I needed a good comfort watch, as I tend to do, and finally broke the glass last month.

I’ve seen complaints that this show is kind of slow, but for me, that’s part of the appeal of a Julian Fellowes drama. I like the quietness. I’d say if you enjoyed Downton Abbey, the English Game, or The Young Victoria, this will be just fine for you.

In the foreground is a spread-out pile of dried tea leaves on a white marble countertop. Behind it are a blue and white teacup full of tea and a plate of madeleines.

They are, admittedly, trying to do a bit too much at once with too many characters, which is part of why things feel slow at first. As with Downton, this show focuses on the lives of both the upstairs and downstairs characters. Unlike Downton, though, there’s more than one household to follow.

Where Downton was isolated out in the Yorkshire countryside, The Gilded Age is set in the middle of New York. As a result, the cast of characters is significantly larger. It takes a while to feel much of a connection to them, but it does happen.

By the end of the first season, I was hooked, and now I’m anxiously waiting for season two.

Stitching a Lush Wrap

Last year, Purl Soho sent me a few skeins of their Cashmere Merino Bloom. We had originally discussed turning it into a trio of designs for a hat, cowl, and mitts featuring the same stitch pattern.

Things did not go as I had planned.

After trying a few different stitch patterns, I had to accept the truth: the yarn wanted to be something else. It wanted to be a shawl.

A yellow canister of tea sits on top of a tall stack of books surrounded by knitting, madeleines, a clear pot of tea, a creamer, and a blue and white teacup filled with tea.

So I tucked it away for a while and gave myself time to lick my wounds. Every time I fight the yarn, the yarn wins in the end, and I need a little while to recover. By August, though, I was ready to start again. I cast on a few stitches, and this time, I let the yarn guide me.

Things surprised me. It turns out this lush, plump, luxurious yarn with a soft halo and ultra squishy hand feel became a seed stitch asymmetrical triangle. There’s going to be a soft white ruffle made of double-stranded silk mohair at the very end. It’s rather simple, and yet the visual impact is magnificent.

I wound up drawing heavily on inspiration from several winter garments from the 1880s. They often seem to have a small band of soft white fur or goose down at the collar and around the edging. For example, take a look at this cloak and this one, both in the collection of The Met. While I have no interest in working with fur, I’m very interested in mimicking the look of it, and that’s where the white ruffle comes in.

A blue and white teacup filled with tea dominates the bottom left of this photo. Around it to the top and right are a plate of madeleines, some yarn, and a handknit shawl in progress.

I can’t wait to show you this shawl when it’s all finished. It’s going to be exactly the kind of luxurious, elegant, slightly frivolous treasure I most enjoy.

I could wax rhapsodic all day about costume dramas and squishy knits, but let’s go ahead and pause things here for now. I’d love to get some tea recommendations from you for future installments! Do you have a favorite decaf or herbal tea I should try next?


Wednesday 12th of October 2022

I love Republic of Tea’s Blueberry Lavender Tea. It not only tastes amazing, but it is purple. There is something special about raising your tea cup and seeing a lovely shade of purple as you take a sip.

Lauren Rad

Friday 14th of October 2022

Oh, now that sounds just lovely. I'll have to see if I can get my hands on some.


Wednesday 12th of October 2022

The first season of The Gilded Age is glorious just for the costuming alone. I was happiest when not focused on Marion being in love. Such nonsense. Nixon and Baranski are gems. I like the Black family's story. Quite the mystery.

Cashmere. Saving my shekels! Thanks for the tea info! Will be watching . . ..

Lauren Rad

Friday 14th of October 2022

I think Peggy's story is so good and hope she gets lots more screen time next season. I want to see more journalistic exploits! I want her to find her baby!

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