Friday, 25 October 2013

Old-Fashioned Handkerchiefs

If you are someone who regards using fabric handkerchiefs, which get laundered and reused, rather than paper tissues which are binned, or burned, after use, as faintly disgusting and unhygienic, you may want to close this page and move on elsewhere because this post is an unashamed hymn to proper, old-fashioned handkerchiefs! Just saying, in case anyone feels squeamish about the idea!

I am of a generation that grew up when fabric handkerchiefs were commonplace and I was brought up to make sure I had a clean one in my pocket each morning. It's not that we didn't have paper tissues at home - we did, but their use was limited and not really encouraged as they were "wasteful" in my mother's eyes, especially as I had a regrettable tendency to go through the box of multicoloured pastel tissues, fishing out all the pink and pale blue ones and discarding the rest. Ahem! Anyway the use of tissues was restricted generally to when one had a cold and went to school with a capsule of a pungent decongestant called "Karvol", emptied onto one.  I was fascinated by those capsules - little, individual ampoules of amber-coloured liquid that my mother snipped the top off, with a pair of sewing scissors, and decanted carefully onto a waiting pad of tissue. This was folded over and tucked into a pocket, from where it fumigated me and everyone else in my vicinity all day, until it wore off. Less functional and less pungent than the "Karvol" was a drop of Yardley's Lavender Water or 4711 Eau de Cologne which, for an old-fashioned treat, my mother would occasionally dab on the proper, cotton handkerchiefs we used for blowing noses, wiping tears, grazed knees or cut fingers, most of the time. I still have those handkerchiefs. Most of them anyway.

 They are all pretty faded and have become beautifully soft, through much washing and ironing, but faded and frayed in places though they are, they still very evocative of my childhood especially the Mabel Lucie Attwell ones. The little rhymes that each one had, have almost disappeared. I've no idea what the gardening scene's rhyme was about; I think the one below had something about posting parcels and doing shopping errands by tricycle but it's almost indecipherable and only the green-edged handkerchief in the pic below has a rhyme left that you can read easily.

Mabel Lucie Attwell was a children's book illustrator active in the first part of the 20th C and there is a kind of vintage innocence about her images of children with their characteristically round, smiley faces, rosy cheeks and stocky legs with dimpled knees.

Her children belong to a world that is now outmoded - they carry old-fashioned satchels as they walk or cycle to school; they ride dated, slightly cumbersome tricycles, they have picnics from wicker baskets and retro thermos flasks;

the girls wear short-skirted frocks with puff-sleeves and the boys sport caps, short trousers and lace-up shoes; they play old fashioned ball-games; they chase after butterflies with butterfly-nets and weed the garden in sun-bonnets. You get the picture.

More recently, I've acquired other, less self-evidently childish handkerchiefs - some plain, some not so plain. I went through a phase of bypassing them in favour of the "more hygienic", paper option, like poor old Mr Ogmore, under Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard's astringent, disinfecting thumb, in Dylan Thomas' "Under Milk Wood"! Do you remember him? He has a whole raft of health and hygiene rules dictated by his wife which include drinking "herb tea which is free from tannin", "eating a charcoal biscuit which is good for me" and blowing his nose "In a piece of tissue-paper which I afterwards burn."!! "In the garden, if you please." snaps Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard!

But risking Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard's, cleansing wrath(!), I've increasingly come back to fabric handkerchiefs. Not least because an undiscovered, old-fashioned, fabric handkerchief that has surreptitiously stowed away in a garment stuffed in the washing machine, does not shed a snowstorm of nasty, little, tissue flakes all over the laundry in the wash. I find these pesky flakes are virtually impossible to remove effectively when you try to pick them off but they seem to shed themselves ubiquitously and without difficulty, under their own steam, everywhere you'd rather they weren't, when you are not looking.

I've also come to feel that fabric handkerchiefs are greener and ultimately cheaper than paper ones and, if treated sensibly, are just as hygienic. I even use them when I have a cold although I do have a patent system for laundering them separately, on a very hot wash, as I do for handkerchiefs that have been used to mop up blood, bicycle oil, paint or mud. The only snag is that using them more frequently has inevitably meant losing quite a number, including some old favourites. Not the Mabel Lucie Attwell ones, you'll be pleased to hear!

You can, of course, still buy handkerchiefs, but they are not quite as readily available as they were. Ebay throws up some enchanting, vintage ones in wonderful art deco designs on silk and fine linen as well as cotton and I was sorely tempted by a collection I saw on Ebay of twelve very pretty, vintage-style-but-new, cotton handkerchiefs, only to find it was being sold from the US and, with the postage, the price was, well, silly, just for a few pretty hankies.

And then I got it into my head that perhaps I could simply make my own. I mean, how hard can it be? A handkerchief is just a square of lightweight cotton with a narrow hem. Not difficult, surely, to rustle up a few myself?

I remember years ago using a rolled hem foot on my mother's sewing machine to create a narrow hem on a silk scarf. My basic (and now elderly) Elna sewing machine did not come equipped with such a foot and extra accessories for her are no longer available. But handkerchiefs have been around a lot longer than sewing machines and in the old days, people sewed them by hand. The Victorians were wonders at this kind of fine, constructive hand-stitching. Handkerchief-hemming even figures in literature - Beth hems a set for "Marmee" when money is short and the girls want to give their mother something for Christmas, in Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women". Anyway, leaving the frugal March girls on one side and feeling sure that there must be a "how-to" out there, I had a little search and found a whole wonderful Purl Bee tutorial on hand-sewing handkerchiefs with beautifully clear photos and instructions. Bingo!

It has been one of the happiest, crafty discoveries I've made in recent times. No good if you don't like hand-sewing, but I do and I've found making a raft of my own hand-hemmed handkerchiefs one of the most therapeutic and useful activities I've done in a long time.

I experimented, first of all, on one of D's old shirts just to see whether I could get a result I was happy with, before Mrs T, with her "happy snipper" tendencies(!)*, started cutting up anything precious and pretty.
*I've posted before, here, about the trouble my "happy snipper" tendencies got me into!

The shirt fabric was nice and soft through much laundering and although the collar and cuffs were badly frayed, rendering it no longer wearable, the back of the shirt was perfectly good. Just right for cutting out two sample handkerchiefs, on which to practise my narrow hem stitching.

Having mastered the technique to my satisfaction - my hems are not as perfectly narrow as on a commercially produced handkerchief but they are good enough to pass muster, I think - I moved on to cut up some fat quarters of Tilda fabric that I'd picked up a while back in Hobbycraft.

I found I could only get one handkerchief from each fat quarter but the off-cuts will be used for something else and the handkerchief results are just great. I love them!

And for those of you who are beginning to turn your thoughts to making homemade Christmas presents, especially for those difficult-to-make-for-men in your life, you might find this idea hits the nail on the head. You may not even have to spend a single penny to make a jolly collection of handkerchiefs - raid your fabric stash, or that bag of clothes due to go to the charity shop for suitable lightweight cotton fabric. Obviously you don't want anything too heavy or with too coarse a weave and you need to cut your squares in line with the grain of the fabric and not on the bias but frayed shirts, old sheets, off-cuts from summer dress-making projects are all your friends, just waiting for a new life as handkerchiefs!

For each handkerchief you need:
a piece of 100% cotton fabric big enough to cut a 12" / 30 cm square for a reasonable size ladies' handkerchief or a 18" / 46 cm square for a man-size one;
a small, sharp, hand-sewing needle;
some matching, or contrasting, thread, depending on the look you are after.

Plainish pastel fabrics, stripes, polka dots, florals are all obvious choices but I wouldn't rule out something more flamboyant. Depending on the recipient, of course. I cut my squares with a rotary cutter and a quilting ruler, for accuracy, but if you don't have a rotary cutter, you could just draw out a paper pattern and cut the square out with scissors, keeping the sides as straight as you can. If, unlike me, you have a rolled-hem foot for your sewing machine, you will be able to rustle up a dozen or more in no time, but if you don't, take heart, because I found sewing them by hand an entirely delightful experience. Don't be tempted to cut your sewing thread too long though, as it will knot itself and that gets annoying. Better to play safe and use shorter pieces, I found.

If you decide to give it a go, you'll quickly get the hang of the technique. A small tip is that when you come to the corners make the gaps between the stitches a bit smaller so that the fold on both edges is stitched securely in place. You can see where I've done this in the close-up pics of the corners here

and here

I bought some duck-egg blue cotton lace with the Tilda fabric just because it was so pretty and I may add some to one or two of the handkerchiefs. And you could always add an embroidered initial, if you want, too.

These ones I have made are all in subtle pastel colours - nice and lady-like - but I am thinking of going bolder and brighter now that I have got my handkerchief-hemming-hand in! Amy Butler prints? Liberty lawn off-cuts? Christmas fabrics? Bring 'em on!

Oh, and don't forget the Eau de Cologne or lavender water ...

... or even that most Victorian of English perfumes, a tiny bottle of "Devon Violets", to dab on the results!

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

"Smarties" Cushion

This is another of my leftover summer projects that's been sitting around waiting to be finished. It didn't start off as a a cushion at all. In fact, it was intended to become a Granny Square cardigan but my courage failed me and I wasn't sure I could bring such an ambitious project off successfully.

The pattern for the squares is a an adaptation of Sue Pinner's which she used to make her most beautiful Granny Square coat which you can see here. Fabulous isn't it? You can obtain the pattern both for the squares and the cardigan itself by subscribing to Sue's Granny Square Pattern Club site. (If you like her book, this site is super and well worth joining - the only problem is finding the time to make everything I want to make from it. Details for how to join are on the sidebar of Sue's blog, The 8th Gem, if you're interested.)

Anyway back to the cushion. I used one colour for the coloured centres, rather than two, and the effect reminds me irresistibly of these:

"Smarties" for UK peeps. Not sure what you call these in the US and elsewhere. M&Ms? Anyway convex chocolate buttons covered in brightly coloured candy "shells". Yummy. Small pause while I check whether they are indeed as yummy as they were when I last checked, five minutes ago. Small pause again, to decide that, yes, they are indeed just as yummy!

The yarn is the Spud and Chloë Sweater yarn I used for my pot-holders. It comes in a mouthwatering range of colours. I especially like the turquoises and pinks (see the pot-holders!). I've used twelve colours in total here, as well as the deliciously named "ice cream" for the background. The yarn, as I've said before, is unfortunately rather expensive, which contributed to my abandoning the cardigan idea which would have required me to buy a lot more.

This is the first project I have experimented with using a very pale neutral as a background colour - I really like it and wonder what's taken me so long!

The cover is fastened with simple chain loops over these gorgeous velvet-covered buttons which themselves look rather like "Smarties" too!

Furry "Smarties" though? Not sure about that!

Be that as it may, as the days grow greyer and more autumnal, this is a pop of glowing sunshine inside that is most welcome.

Now, never mind the cushion, where are the rest of those "Smarties"?! 

Funnily enough, there don't seem to be quite as many left, as when I started writing this!

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Norwegian Heart and Flower Pot-holders

This heart-shaped pot-holder, I am ashamed to say, I began and basically finished in June, but it needed a loop to hang it up by and although I kept meaning to get round to it, somehow I never did, so it languished in a work-bag all summer waiting patiently. A bit silly really, when to make a simple crochet strip for a loop and stitch it in place, only takes a few minutes.

I seem to make a habit of this almost-but-not-quite-finishing - I have a cushion cover that's finished apart from the buttons to fasten it; there's a skirt that just needs the hem hand-sewing in place; the blossoming bag of my last post waited for two months for the final blossoms to hang from the handle and there are several other things in the same limbo zone, if I think about it.

But in this month's finishing-things-off-mode, a loop was made and my happy, heart-shaped pot-holder is ensconced in the kitchen where she should be.

I absolutely love the yarn I chose for this - it's Spud and Chloë Sweater - a mixture of wool and cotton - and it's utterly dreamy to crochet with.  I was lucky enough to get some for my birthday (as the result of a bit of happy, hooky hinting!) but it's rather expensive so I wanted to use it thriftily.  That steered me to choose several smaller projects rather than one big one as I felt this would stretch what I had, to best effect. So a few pot-holders looked a good option (as did a cushion cover and a little Christmas project I've been playing with, of which, more another time) None of them used a huge quantity of yarn and could be enjoyed in different ways and in different rooms. Canny!

The pattern for this heart-shaped pot-holder is on a lovely Norwegian blog - Olavas Verden and the pattern is, not surprisingly, in Norwegian. You can find it here. Despite my complete lack of any Norwegian at all, Olava's version just looked SO lovely that I had to have a go and, with the nice clear pictures and the aid of Google Translate, I took my courage in both hands and plunged in.

I am not sure I've followed the pattern entirely accurately - Google Translate is wonderful, but not infallible, especially when it's asked to navigate the intricacies of crochet terminology! So I had to do a bit of working out on the hoof, as it were, especially for the edging which wasn't included as part of the pattern, but it seems to have worked and I love the way the colours  - some of my absolute favourites - harmonise together. If I had my way, my whole house would be in shades of pink, lavender and turquoise, I think!

Olava has another gorgeous, flower-shaped, pot-holder pattern which you can find here and, very helpfully, she has provided an English version here. This also called for a couple of experiments using the same yarn:

I haven't made loops for these because, although the backs looked quite neat, as you can see in this one:

I felt it would enhance their functionality to pad them with a bit of quilt wadding and a disc of fabric.

A happy thought, as they now feel, as well as look, all gorgeous and squishy, but the only problem is that now, loops aren't so easy to attach.

Don't tell me! I know; I should have sandwiched a loop between the backing fabric and the crochet before stitching it all in place!

The absence of loops means these are not hung to hand when a bubbling casserole wants removing from the oven and secretly, I am pleased because I can't bear the idea of Casserole Overspill spoiling my hooky petals or even the cushiony backs! Woe betide anyone who thinks they will use my heart-shaped one for such a purpose either!

Fine to use to retrieve an Apple Glut Cake though, when its baking time is up, and, all golden and risen, it's singing quietly to itself.

This is my version of a Dorset Apple Cake and is basically a pound cake recipe to which peeled and chopped apples are added. I like to flavour it with cinnamon. I refer to it as Apple Glut Cake because I use double the original quantities of apple, when my conscience is pricking me about using all the windfalls strewing the grass, but you can use a smaller quantity for a non-glut version when apples are not coming out of your ears!

If you want the recipe, it's very simple.

Preheat the oven to 170 C and line a deep 20 cm / 8" round cake tin. Cream 225g / half a pound of soft unsalted butter and the same quantity of sugar together. Beat in 4 large eggs along with 225 g / half a pound of self-raising flour and 25 g / 1 oz cornflour that have been sifted together with a heaped teaspoon of ground cinnamon. Peel, core and chop enough apples to fill a 1 litre  / 2 pt pudding basin almost to the top. Tip the apple into the cake batter and fold in. Spoon the mixture into your tin and bake for about an hour and a quarter until, as I say, your cake is golden, risen and singing. It keeps surprisingly well considering the amount of apple in there.

Now for the next project whose "call is important" but which has been "held in a queue" for some considerable time! Fortunately, crochet is patient!

Friday, 4 October 2013

"Time, Mrs T!"

Autumn's bell has been calling "time" on me. Or more accurately it's been calling "time" on some of my unfinished hooky projects.

You know, those lovely summery projects that bud on a quiet, sunny afternoon in the garden, perhaps unfurl properly when they travel on holiday with you and almost reach their full bloom as Summer draws to a close, but Not Quite. Or perhaps you are more disciplined than I am about finishing one thing before beginning another!

I have several of these unfinished summer projects and I felt that with the arrival of October I had better do some finishing off and put them to happy use before embarking on too many more new starts.

The first, apart from my Sea-Ripple, was my version of a Blossoming Bag from Sandra of Cherry Heart's beautiful pattern. You  can read Sandra's engaging post about the emergence of this bag here and you can buy the pattern in her shop here. I wanted to make this as a nice, discrete project to take away with me for my week's holiday in France, in July. After a few false starts, before departure, with the wrong yarn,  - the first was too thin and the second was too thick, like Goldilocks' porridge -  I hooked blossoms all the way through France on the train and it grew nicely. I didn't have any of the Bergère de France Ideal yarn Sandra recommends for the pattern so in the end I used some Noro Silk Garden Lite yarn, of which I'd bought a couple of extravagant balls back in the Spring. Although Noro Silk Garden Lite yarn is expensive, I am not sure it didn't work out substantially cheaper than buying lots of balls of a cheaper yarn in single colours.* And the advantage of using a variegated yarn while travelling is major - you don't need to cart the bulk or weight of umpteen balls of yarn in different colours around with you but neither are you stuck with a project all in one colour. Good news for those of you who, like me, like a bit of colour change to keep you happy. And the effect of using variegated yarn, although rather different from Sandra's lovely prototype, is pretty, I think.

*In fact it worked out at almost exactly half price because you only need two balls of the Noro yarn instead of eleven separate colours - thrifty or what?! (I know, I know, let's not go there!)

I finished the flowers in Provence under the shade of the wisteria on the terrace of the Mas, where we were staying.

At the end of the week, the bag - and it was already a bag, because the blossoms are joined-as-you-go - came home with me and waited patiently for a lining. A rummage in my fabric stash produced two suitable oddments of cotton fabric for the lining - one with tiny, lime-green polka dots on a cream background and a deep, rose pink one with a subtle pattern of darker pink flowers and leaves, traced on top.

The bag design cleverly uses two fabrics for the lining so that you can choose a relatively neutral fabric to show through the gaps of the trellis of hooky flowers of the bag's outside and a more dramatic fabric for the inside. I really like this feature.

The handles are plain D-shaped wooden ones which I got from here and they are easy to attach to the bag - you simply make the border deep enough to wrap over the base of them and sew in place.

Simple, neat and secure. I do like well-thought out designs like this.

This point got reached by the end of August and the bag was almost complete. All that remained was to hook up a few extra blossoms to attach to the handle by way of a little extra decorative touch. Took me to October to get round to them, but never mind! They make it, as so often finishing touches do and I love the result.

Perfect, as Sandra says, for when you want to pop out with a purse and keys and not a whole lot of other clobber.

It occurs to me that such a bag might make a good homemade Christmas present -  not too big or complicated to make and, unless you are as dilatory as Mrs T, nice and quick to complete!

Now with the loose ends from one project tidied up, I must move on to the next one so that I have a clear field for some new ones! Tee hee!

Have a lovely weekend everyone!

I shall be finding a way to give my newly completed Blossoming Bag a little outing, 
... even if it's only to work!

E x

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Cinderella Slippers (and Pumpkins)

Of course we all know that Cinderella's prized slipper was made out of glass, not wool. Otherwise when the Ugly Sisters tried to fit their feet into said slipper, when it did the rounds after The Ball, they might have managed it. In the early 19th C, Grimm Brothers' version of the story, before it was watered down for innocent childish consumption, I understand the Ugly Sisters were so desperate to squeeze their feet into the glass pump, that they did a little impromptu, DIY surgery and took a knife to their toes and heels, to hack off what wouldn't fit in. Eeek! Brothers Grimm were nothing, if not bloodthirstily lurid in their story-telling! I am rather glad this was edited out of my early childhood, favourite, fairytale book which seems to stick to Charles Perrault's rather more civilised 17th C version of the tale! I had this book when I was very small indeed and it has been so well-loved that a lot of the pages are falling out of it but Cinderella and her fairy godmother are more or less intact, as you can see! I always loved this illustration for the way in which it suggested that the fairy godmother's dress and cloak could have been made out of a pumpkin too.

What we don't know, is how Cinderella actually managed to dance in her glass slippers, without shattering them on the ballroom parquet. And even if she did, she must have been pretty glad to take them off at the end of the evening - I should think they were exquisitely uncomfortable. And it doesn't say in any of the extant manuscripts of the fairy tale, that Cinderella had a handbag, but we all know she must have done. Why? Because! (possibly a tatty, old shopping basket, given the fairy godmother treatment and turned from workaday, wickerwork container of grubby potatoes (and the famous pumpkin), into a glamorous, embroidered, silk purse just big enough for a lip-stick and a pair of comfortable ballet-flats, into which to slip her danced-out feet at midnight.

What do you think?! I like this slight addition to the "Urtext" of the fairy story! Anyway, be that as it may, I have long been wanting to hook up a pair of crochet slippers of the type that Cinderella might have been glad to have stashed away in her handbag, if she had one, and I've been experimenting with some happy results.

There are lots of patterns for crochet slippers out there, if you have a look on the Internet; some with button-across, Mary-Jane straps; some plain; some two-tone; some dainty - beaded, beribboned and flowered; some chunkier and more business-like - in thicker yarn or even felted. Take your pick.

The trouble has been trying to decide on a pattern that doesn't make my feet look more akin to those of the Ugly Sisters than Cinderella. I expect you know what I mean - crochet is so flexibly fitting that bumps and strange twists of toes all fit in OK, but can also get mercilessly accentuated in appearance. Not good. Not the effect I was after. And I am not proposing to go down the Brothers Grimm route! But as the Chinese proverb has it, "Patience is power. With time and patience, the mulberry leaf becomes silk." With time and patience, I found a pattern that was just what I was looking for. It's SarahSweetheart's Sweet Slippers and you can download the free pattern from Ravelry here or you can find her republished version on her blog here.

I love the shape of these, with the slightly squared toes, more like proper ballet pointe shoes.

Quite a lot of the patterns I looked at, have a less squared, more pointy shape that can give a slightly off-putting, "witchy" quality to the feet - more broomstick than ballroom, if you know what I mean! They look all right in the hand, but not on the feet, or not on my feet anyway. I adapted the Sweet Slipper pattern a bit as I went, making the toe section of the slipper rather deeper than the pattern suggested as it didn't seem to come up quite far enough and I think my tension or yarn weight is different, as I needed a lot more rows for the main part of the slipper than the pattern indicated, but these details aside, the slippers are as per the pattern, which was easy to follow and quick to make up.

Plain and unadorned, they looked simple and rather elegant but I couldn't resist adding the pom-poms to the back of the heel and a bunch of them on the toe. Fun aren't they?!

Tell me Cinderella didn't have a pair of something like these stashed away! I bet she did, even when back in her rags after midnight!

Of course they are very much indoor shoes - you can't nip out down the drive to retrieve a run-away wheelie-bin, in them, or go out to shut the hens up, wearing them, but to tuck tired feet into at the end of the day when they've been wearing boots or other proper shoes for hours, they are absolutely delightful.

I recommend them and am making some other pairs to give away for Christmas presents. You need an aran weight yarn; one with some acrylic in it, would be good to make the slippers harder-wearing. I used some Cascade pure wool yarn (because I happened to have a lone skein or two in my stash) but I think if I were purchasing a yarn for these, I'd choose an acrylic / wool mix. I used a 4mm hook, smaller than the 4.5-5 mm one recommended by the yarn label, to give a nice, dense, warm fabric. The pattern suggests worsted weight yarn and a US size G hook.

And while we are thinking about Cinderella and her slippers, let's not forget her pumpkin. It's that happy time of year again when the shops are beginning to stack their shelves high with Cinderella-coaches. I love pumpkin - I love the shape and sound of its name in English; I love its deep orange, sunset colour; I love its sweet, mild flesh that can go either savoury or sweet depending on what you put with it. Normally I prefer recipes that roast the pumpkin, before using it in cooking because this deliciously intensifies the nutty flavour and helpfully reduces any wateriness, but I've devised a recipe for Pumpkin Muffins that doesn't involve roasting first and is, I think, rather good. So good in fact, that I've made it (and eaten the results) a slightly worrying number of times already!

Like the low-down? Here it is then!

Spiced Pumpkin and Walnut Muffins

What you need:
300 g raw, peeled and deseeded, pumpkin flesh, grated*
125 g unsalted butter at room temperature
175 g soft brown muscovado sugar
2 large eggs
3 dsps honey
200 g plain white flour
2 tsps baking powder
1 tsp ground ginger
11/2 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
100 g shelled walnut pieces

a 12 hole muffin tin lined with muffin papers

*The only tricksy part of this recipe is the grating of the pumpkin - if you have a good, sharp, hand-held grater, doing it by hand will work OK but my hand-held grater is, to put it bluntly, blunt - hardly surprising as I've had it for 25 years - and it was a long and tediously messy job grating the pumpkin with it, the first time I tried. Using the grater attachment of the food processor subsequently has proved much easier. (You can peel and pre-grate the pumpkin the day before, if that's more convenient, and store in a lidded container in the fridge overnight.)

Preheat the oven to 180 C.

Cream the butter and sugar, either by hand or in the food processor, until it's nice and fluffy. Add the eggs, honey, flour, baking powder and spices and beat well. Add the grated pumpkin flesh and the walnut pieces and mix in. If using the food processor, be careful not to overdo it. Add the pumpkin flesh first and incorporate using the pulse setting and then add the walnuts last of all, in a couple of last, short bursts of the motor so that you don't break up the pieces too much.

Spoon into the waiting muffin-papers and bake for about 30 minutes until risen and deep golden. They will sink a little bit as they cool but don't worry about this.

They are deliciously light and moist and the spices, similar to those in a traditional pumpkin pie, make the muffins beautifully fragrant but not over-the-top spicy.

Once they are cold you can ice them with a mixture of cream cheese, icing sugar and softened unsalted butter, if you like, but I think this is gilding the lily (or rather the pumpkin) and I prefer them un-iced. They make great additions to lunch boxes, an easy (and relatively healthy), breakfast or a happy accompaniment to a cup of tea in the afternoon while you put your feet up and dream of what you would like your fairy godmother to transform the rest of your pumpkin into!

They also freeze beautifully and can easily be defrosted in the microwave for an instant pumpkin fix, when you need one.

Cinderella, I am very sorry, but I have eaten half your coach and I am borrowing your slippers! 
I may be gone some time with them!