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!


  1. Oooh ! Lovely slippers ! I remember very well my childhood Cinderella book (unfortunately lost)...Cinderella was pictured in the most beautiful princess dress !...
    Some versions of the Perrault tale speak in favour of "pantoufle de vair" (vair is the fur of a little squirrel) instead of "pantoufle de verre" (difficult to walk -and dance- into)... Anyway, those slippers are very appropriate for felling (and looking) like a princess ! Bravo Mrs Tittlemouse !


    1. I am sure you're right - le vair works much better than le verre and it's an obvious translator's slip-up. The idea of a sparkling, transparent glass slipper still has a certain romantic je ne sais quoi about it though! E x

  2. How lovely are those slippers...excellent choice od adornment too....congrats and thank you for the link!
    bestest daisy j

  3. They are the happiest slippers I've ever seen, I'd have them over a glass pair any day! :) x

  4. Thank you for such a sweet story today. I needed some "uplifting" and your blog post did the trick. Bless you....sweet photos of some lovely, colourful slippers. They look great on you.

  5. I love the pompoms and your very fancy bag, I was also going to say about the translation probably meaning fur rather than glass, in which case your slippers would be very appropriate!

  6. Oh Elizabeth, I love this post. Cinderella is one of my favorite stories. So very clever to combine the pumpkin and slippers into one Cinderella post that warms my inner child. Thanks for the smiles!

  7. If the squirrels leave any, I shall use some of our walnuts to make the muffins. If the squirrels eat all the walnuts then maybe I should use some squirrel fur to make some slippers as my crocheting skills are not up to your standards.

  8. What a wonderful post, I love your slippers they are super cute, I have to confess on the few occasions when I have to wear heels, I always have some ballet pumps in my bag these days. I think I might need some of these in my life.
    Clare xx

  9. Your slippers remind me of that other fairy tale of the Dancing Princesses, who disappeared every night to dance and every night wore their slippers out (if I am remembering it right) -- they were not so foolish as to try to dance all night in glass shoes:) And again, your recipe looks and sounds delicious. I have to confess I have never made anything straight out of the pumpkin -- I have only used the canned kind so far.

  10. Hi, Elizabeth. Such an engaging blog post. Your slippers are great. I bought a pair of slippers at Marks and Spencer when I was in Oxford and have been living in them at home. They have roses on them (very English) and remind me of my time across the pond this summer, but yours are much nicer.

    I haven't bought any pumpkins (for consumption or for decoration) yet, but plan to do so soon. It's been in the 80s this week, not quite inspiring fall weather. I will try your pumpkin muffin recipe soon, though.

    I've been collecting a bunch of goodies to send to you and your family. H might have a special shirt (attesting to his love of bacon) to wear before November, if I can remember to take the time during the weekend to find a few other items to add to the box, so that I can ship it.

    Things still are very hectic here at work and I haven't been devoting much creative effort to my recent blog posts. All the best. Love, Liz

  11. Oh, it's all so very lovely! I saw this post a few days ago but saved it until I had time to sit down with a cup of tea and savour every last word. I love your Cinderella theme here and agree that the true, original fairy tales were horribly brutal and gory and are endlessly fascinating to me still. Reading even the tamest ladybird version of Hansel and Gretel to Bella now makes me a quite unomfortable (it hints at child abuse, cannibalism, fear of abandonment, murder...not to mention the idea that all childless and unmarried older women must be witches...)

    But on a more cheerful note: your slippers are a triumph. The pom poms are the perfect adornment and your pumpkin muffins look delicious. I would have to add some cream cheese frosting if it were me though, just a very little bit.

    Gillian x


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