Craftiness, Thrifty

Ten new uses for old teacups

22 April, 2012

What IS it that is so tantalising about a vintage tea cup? Is it its daintiness, a fragility that makes you feel kind of feminine? Is it the beautifully detailed roses, or bright, retro colours?

The love of tea cups has gone pretty mainstream now. I am surprised they are not selling them in Oliver Bonas,  made in a ginormous factory, flown on to shelves, packaged up as “unique!” and “vintage-like!” and “shabby-chic!“, The Apprentice style.

I think this is why we love them so much – it is simply their antiquity. A tea cup evokes an old world, where ladies in beehives spun tales together. When you sip from a perfectly curved patterned rim you know your Nana and her generation dunked their digestives in it. You imagine a tea party, china clinking on china, neighbourly solidarity, rum slipped in, laughter cackling, biscuits crumbling.  Perhaps drinking from a proper old tea cup helps you see this new world through a lens of nostalgia, rose tinted tea-steam.

But still, despite all that history and all those memories, you won’t catch me paying more than a pound for one.

I love the vivid blue rose one most. Do blue roses even exist?

Because everyone loves a nice tea cup they can be tricky to find, but I have rescued these four (the four nearest the camera)  from various charity shop shelves in the last few weeks to add to my collection. Each one cost exactly £1.

They are sitting on a cute little wooden shelf thing we found on the street last week. I think I will paint it up with a bit of white, or maybe grey. The years have ravaged this old thing and keeping it as plain wood only emphasises it.

I always nab a tea cup when I see it so over the years have gathered a list of ideas for them other than tea drinking, some I have yet to do. Please do add to this list!

Ten Uses for Old Teacups

1– Feed the birds, tuppence a tea cup. How cute do they look in the garden? How much do you reckon those birds are enjoying getting their food out of a vintage tea cup? I have lazily stuck one of our ready made shop balls in one, and even more lazily just hung it on a hook on our back wall. But I suspect you are not half as lazy as me, so you could go all out and whip up your own feed to stick in there OR, as the excellent and thrifty Mrs Syder has done, get a giant tea cup and drill it on to a stick.

2– Plant bulbs in them. These look amazing—as you can see here. It is just a case of drilling a hole in  the bottom with a 10cm diamond coated drill bit and planting then nurturing your bulb.  *Looks around at all the dead plants in my wake* *Smile to myself knowing that readers of my blog can not know this*

If you are not hugely green fingered  – yes, it’s true- there ARE some people who kill plants, you might want to read this for more on that nurturing bit.

3– Serve desert in them. Have you ever baked a microwave mug cake? I can testify, we did it in a lunch break a couple of years ago, despite only taking 3 minutes they are delicious! Halving the recipe and doing it in tea cups would be Next Level and look totes marvellous. Mind you don’t use tea cups with gilt though, sparks will fly.

4– They make beautiful fairy lights. I have tried this as you can see below. I felt they didst look stunning. The light shone right through them in the most gorgeous way. String them up, knotting around the handles, securing in place with tape. Make sure they are at the right angle so that the flame reaches past the rim.

I do suggest you do this with caution.  They get really hot. Stringing up teacups of fire around a party is a bit risky.  I may not be the best model. I used to make candles with keys, leaves, flowers, random crap etc, melted  in them. Lovely looking they were. I made one for Tim as a gift while we were long distance fiancés and he lit it at dinner with his folks and all the family and right then and there it self combusted and  caught fire to the table.

5– So, perhaps the SAFER alternative, and this still looks beautiful, is to either melt wax and add a wick to make a permanent (but not swinging from the walls fairy lights styles) candle. If you are less keen for the permanence (personally that is me—this week I chipped out a candle from a beautiful vintage mug that someone had gifted me so I could use it for drinking) then just fill your teacups up with water and use floating candles. (Remember floating candles? So nineties! But, c’mon, they look The Biz.)

6– Use them for sorting. They have revolutionised my dressing table where they are now home to my bobby pins and jewelry. Ideal for tiny little craft extras like buttons. If I’d known organising could be so pretty I’d have done it yonks ago.

7- Keep your body scrub in it. A little while ago I posted the How To for my favourite body scrub with three kitchen ingredients. I now have said body scrub in a little tea cup in our bathroom. Sweetness alright. Hmmm, actually, this would make an EXCELLENT gift…

8- Speaking of gifts… Give as a gift!  Yaawwn! No really, stay with me.  It is what you put in it, and how you present it, that makes these extra special. Fill with sweets, or with little sewing bits and bobs, or make some cookie dough and put it in there. Put the saucer on top and tie a bow.

9-  Use them as vases, particularly for blossoms and berries, or full heads of roses. They look utterly delightful on the dining table and you don’t have to do the normal peer-over-huge-vase- meerkat-neck to talk to someone.

10- Hold a tea party in a surreal place. When I was a youthworker we took a whole bunch of young ‘uns dressed in their glad rags to Macdonalds but set up the tables with candles and fine dining wares.   It added a huge element of fun to a pretty basic burger and fries.  Always take your tea cups on your picnics in the park this summer, they will add the magic!

Soooo. Set fire to anything lately? Got a favourite tea cup use? All this talk of vintage tea cups making you feel nostalgic or just ill with twee-ity?

PS What a bummer it’d be if you missed a post of mine, eh? Follow through Facebook or Bloglovin or even just enter your email to get them pinged into your inbox. I won’t be spamalot, promise!

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  • inkomplete 22 April, 2012 at 10:46 pm

    ….The Blue Roses you can buy are just white ones they dip in dye 🙂 and great blog….

    • lulastic 23 April, 2012 at 7:10 am

      Thanks, and, really?! Dyed roses, who’d a thought it?

  • hunsabunsa 23 April, 2012 at 12:41 am

    Sadly sadly here in Sydney, it seems that with the rise of popularity of these lovely cups and saucers, comes a horrible rise in price even in the 2nd hand stakes. My most recent visit to a (granted terribly overpriced in every sense) Sally Army shop had the cups and saucers at a whopping $40 a set…what? Just looking for me today.

    • lulastic 23 April, 2012 at 7:14 am

      Woah that is a lot of money.

      Mind you, I’m definitely too stingy, lovely vintage china should come with a cost.

      It’s so hard for charity shops to get it spot on I think.

  • littlegreenblog 23 April, 2012 at 5:58 am

    These are fantastic ideas; thank you for sharing. Interestingly, my 11 year old, who loves Enid Blyton has been begging me for a proper cup and saucer so she can have a cup of tea and a biscuit!
    Sadly my use is a bit more boring – I use an old cup instead of a cookie cutter; it’s just the right size for jam tarts 😀

    • lulastic 23 April, 2012 at 7:18 am

      Oh that is well cute! Enid Blyton is the inspirer of little hearts- she used to make me hanker after jugs of lemonade and night time adventures (even though it was usually only her boys allowed!)

      Mmm, jam tarts!

  • goodskimpin 23 April, 2012 at 10:29 am

    Wow! So many cool ideas. I’m going to use at least 5 of those, and hopefully people here wont know about your blog, lol. Jokes I’ll credit u, it’ll make me sound very continental crediting a English blog.

    • lulastic 23 April, 2012 at 11:51 am

      He he, aces, glad you saw some of these as viable and not too much of a health and safety danger zone.

      Look forward to seeing what you create 🙂

  • ChrisTeaAndCakes 23 April, 2012 at 11:58 am

    I must confess to being a bit of a teacup addict myself, love all your ideas, all the tea cups (the blue one is my fave too) and the little shelving unit, I’m sure it will look amazing when it’s dolled up.

    • lulastic 23 April, 2012 at 5:05 pm

      Thanks 🙂

      Have meant to paint it every night this week but the internet keeps getting in the way. Grrrr.

  • Liz Burton 23 April, 2012 at 12:57 pm

    I can’t believe you can still find cups saucers for a quid, they want about a fiver round here.

    Jumblies and car boots are the best for them I find.

    Lovely ideas, I’ve done a few. Chuckling at the houseplants – I too am a serial killer of houseplants :0(

    • lulastic 23 April, 2012 at 5:04 pm

      Real? *gobsmacked*

      Booties are best for sure, the orange and gold star one pictured up there was THIRTY PENCE!

  • minibreakmummy 23 April, 2012 at 2:45 pm

    I’m impressed. And slightly jealous.

    I bought a pretty china tea cup and saucer from a ‘bring and buy’ earlier last year. I enjoyed drinking tea out of it a few times, but before I knew it my husband had passed it on to a charity shop on the grounds that it ‘wasn’t practical’ ;-(

    • lulastic 23 April, 2012 at 5:02 pm

      Noooooo! He didn’t!

      To be fair, for modern day tea drinking a little cup like these isn’t the most practical vessel. Have you noticed how these days there is a lean toward huge, HUGE, mugs?

  • Mama Syder 23 April, 2012 at 6:43 pm

    I wanted blue roses on my wedding day but back then (24 yrs ago) you could only get them ordered in from Jersey and as we arranged my wedding in 11 wks we didnt have time. My Hubby bought me a bunch of flowers on my 40th birthday with blue roses that were dipped in blue wax.
    Love the tea cup ideas, especially the fairy lights!

    • lulastic 23 April, 2012 at 7:09 pm

      Ah, that is beautiful! Jersey?! That is bizarre and amazing.

      I think you should trial the fairy lights, I am sure you will manage to do it in a proper and safe way!

  • midcenturystuff 23 April, 2012 at 10:07 pm

    I love the idea of using them on the dressing table. I always have a few random pieces of jewelry or loose buttons or pins that need to be corralled.

    • lulastic 24 April, 2012 at 3:08 pm

      Fab eh? I think it was A Thrifty Mrs who originated that gem.

  • shinypigeon 24 April, 2012 at 10:44 am

    I feel tea cups can only be used when you have a MASSIVE teapot, and you can get those for under a squid as well. I don’t have any dainty tea cups yet (I think him indoors may explode if I introduce any MORE tea drinking recepticles to our household) but I am always on the scout out, so i can hide them away til our new place! Mwahahaha…and then I can say ‘these? I’ve had them AGES!’.

    • lulastic 24 April, 2012 at 3:10 pm

      Maybe you could invent a new purpose, one he’d really get, until you move then reclaim them for tea drinking?!

  • KnittedFox (@knittedfox) 24 April, 2012 at 8:55 pm

    OMgoodness! About an hour ago I walked by a consignment store and pined for these 4 teacups in the window. I couldn’t think of anything to do with them so I kept on walking. I might have to go back for them now that I have some cute ideas for their use! d^_^b

    • lulastic 24 April, 2012 at 9:26 pm

      Ha ha oh yes you do have to get them, you do. They have your name ALL over them!

  • Clare Gibson 27 April, 2012 at 3:03 pm

    You have inspired me to take some teacups camping! Will be so much better than my plastic mug.

    • lulastic 27 April, 2012 at 6:57 pm

      Hee hee we always take our posh crockery camping!

  • Chris Mosler 3 May, 2012 at 8:51 am

    Oh my God, I LOVE this post! Tea cups are my passion, I hunt them out and use my elbows to jab other women out of the way if I find a good one! I did a post ages ago about tea cup posies but this is inspired, thank you so much! I am new here but will be back, often (that sounds a bit threatening, sorry! I’m not a stalker, honest, Liz will vouch for me!)

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  • littleowlski 6 August, 2012 at 11:47 am

    Every time I come and read your blog, it gives me some more good ideas. I cannot wait for my DIY ridden house to be completed so I can play around with more stuff like this and less builders! Bird feeders is my favourite, think I’ll be trying that out. Emma x

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  • LORRAINE SMITH 24 July, 2013 at 5:08 pm

    There is such a thing as Blue Roses! They are actually called ‘Sterling” roses.

  • Susan 25 July, 2013 at 2:18 pm

    Love your ideas.. i’ve used them recently for candles also. I’ve melted old candles that didn’t get used or were too worn down to burn (large tin can set in a small pot of water and heat gently). Then I pit a candle wick in them and poured the wax around, let it cool, then did it again.

    You can also do the fairy lights by using those LED tealights that you get at the dollar store (or your equivalent)…no fire worries.

    Love your ideas and a new blog to me!

  • Nicole Tull 3 September, 2013 at 7:47 pm

    I use teacups for holding scrubbies by the kitchen sink and toothbrushes, toothpaste in the bathroom. I also have an assortment that end up holding hair things (rubber bands and pins/clips), loose change, jewelry, q-tips, cotton balls, floss pickers, tealights or votives, and sometimes they just sit around on a shelf looking pretty.

    I’m glad to know there are so many uses for something that might be discarded. I cannot wait to go garage saling for more so I can plant with them!!! what a lovely idea as I am just about to plant my irises.

  • Kelly long 29 September, 2013 at 10:11 pm

    Do you know if old china teacups can go in the oven (after using a sharpie pen on them)? Not sure if this just applies to new cups and am afraid to try! :/

  • Stephanie 29 November, 2013 at 11:44 pm

    Made candles out of them! It’s a beautiful and cute way of using old china tea cups! 🙂

  • anji welland 30 December, 2013 at 12:01 am

    can i say what great ideas! i have hundreds lying about the house from our wedding and didnt want to get rid of them now i know what i can do with some thanks again

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  • Helen 4 April, 2015 at 11:55 am

    I love old china cups but am cautious about using them for hot drinks as I am concerned about lead leaching. I think using them in the microwave might be a non runner. There is a lot of information on the internet about lead glazing that is over whelming, but from what I gather children and pregnant women are most at risk as they absorb much higher levels of lead but I presume for the rest of us occasional use might be ok. Here is a link I found….

    • Lucy 7 April, 2015 at 9:54 pm

      Oooh good point thank you!

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