Tea Baba (Чайная баба). Detailed hand made patchwork costume. Made in Moscow circa 1945-60. In very good vintage condition. 17" in height and about 12" wide. 1 only, as shown. (Note: these are hard to date, but the fact that there's no plastic puts it as early post-war.)
A tea baba is an insulated doll made of fabric, whose fluffy skirt is stuffed with cotton wool. She is placed on a teapot or a samovar to create a kind of greenhouse effect, allowing the tea to maintain warmth and to cool slowly. The baba is one of the most culturally familiar aspects of serving tea at home with family and guests.
Babas go back to the beginning of the 18th century in Russia. They were especially popular in the 19th century. In Russia, tea was served differently than in Europe. Water was boiled and maintained in a samovar, and tea leaves were prepared separately in a small teapot, which was kept warm. The "tea women" were made specially for this purpose, and were used as covers for the teapot. During the early Soviet era, the culture of keeping a teapot kept warm with the help of a “baba” continued, and many homes had this unusual, and often homemade, item. With the arrival of tea bags and electric kettles, the need to keep liquid warm began to vanish. Since the end of the 20th century and beyond, babas have mainly existed as a collectible item and for decoration.