Hope you are enjoying a cupcake on national cup cake day?
Summer picnics and afternoon teas are a great tme for a cupcake.
I have made both a savoury and sweet versions during the last week and share my recipes with you here. Both can be enjoyed knowing they are easy ways to increase your vegetable intake.
My sons are generally Ok with vegetables, but are not keen on either courgettes or beetroot, both of which are summer seasonal healthy vegetables, so these cupcake recipes are a good way to encourage vegie consumption.
First the savoury Cheesy Courgette Cupcakes.
1 medium courgette
100g cheddar cheese, or any hard cheeses lurking in your fridge
225g (8oz) self-raising flour
50ml (2fl oz) olive oil
175ml (6fl oz) semi-skimmed milk
preheat the oven to gas 6, 200°C
Place the muffin cases in a muffin tin.
Rinse the courgette, cut the ends off, grate it into a mixing bowl.
Grate the cheese into the mixing bowl.
Add the self-raising flour, along with the oil and milk.
Crack the eggs into a small bowl with some black pepper and add this to the other ingredients.
Stir just until all the ingredients are combined.
Divide the mixture equally between the muffin cases using two spoons.
Bake for around 20 minutes until they’re golden andspringy to touch
Cool on a cooling rack.
Now we have the Chocolate Cupcakes
120g self-raising flour
60g cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
150g golden caster sugar
2 large-sized eggs
140ml olive oil
Heat the oven to 180ºC/Gas 4.
Sift the flour, cocoa powder and baking powder into a bowl. Mix in the sugar.
Peel and grate the beetroot
Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, add the beetroot, egg and oil and lightly mix with a wooden spoon.
Divide the mixture evenly between the cup cake tin (with cases if you prefer)
Bake for 20-25 minutes or until well risen and just firm to the touch. Cool on the cooling rack.
Lightly sieve icing sugar over the buns to serve.
National CupCake day takes place on June 14th and is held each year to raise awareness and money to help the fight against dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. This is needed everyday so don’t worry if you have missed the date in June, to enjoy cupcakes and consider a gift to the alzheimers society.
Avoid Christmas panic – make your own hanging heart decoration, or use one of our kits that has everything you need ready for you. The hearts you make, or the kits, are great stocking fillers or Christmas Eve box gifts.
Taking just the cotton print heart you have made, secure the thread in the centre with a couple of small stitches. Put the needle up through the small felt heart and one of the holes of the button. Take the neele and thread back down through the other hole of the button and repeat a couple of times.
Secure on the wrong side with another couple of small stitches. This is the stage it is easiest to add any personalised embellishment too.
Layer the 3 heart pieces with the print upermost.
Fold the ribbon in half and tuck the ends into the top of the heart. Secure with a couple of stitches, and test it with a little tug.
Using running stitch, sew from the top of the heart up and around the curve, down to the bottom point and then back up the other side, to 1 cm to the second curve. Secure the thread with a small stitch.
Use the hollow fibre filling poking it into the inside the heart, as evenly as possible. A pencil can help with this.
If you would like some scent, add some dried fragrant petals, such as lavender, or a couple of drops of essential oil to the hollowfibre.
Complete the running stitching back to the centre top and secure with another couple of little stitches.
Hang your completed hanging heart decoration with pride.
Hanging heart Kits
If you would like a kit to make a hanging heart decoration (available in three designs) then please go to my Etsy shop.
I offer to save you time, stress and money:
gift wrapping service (small extra charge)
I will send your purchace to your recipient with a greeting (free service)
I also have another DIY Christmas presents hanging kit available at my Etsy shop.
And as a blog reader you can use the code HCBLOG at the checkout for 20% off any orders from my Etsy shop over £10.
I will show you how to up-cycle and simply sew to get a cosy classic coat, ready for the colder weather.
A coat can be an expensive garment to make, unless you up-cycle one you like the fabric of.
Here is my charity shop bargain, £3 for a wool navy coat, in very good condition.
bargain wool coat
I would love to be able to report that this “before” picture is really an “after weight loss” picture. However, my size has stayed the same but the coat was far too big, several sizes too big.
The material was good quality, a great colour for me, so worth some care and sewing. In fact, as the cost of material rises, I both buy, and advise others to buy, clothes that will provide fabric and haberdashery to use instead of buying new.
You may be interested to see how I up-cycled some denim jeans and some shirts to meke a lined tunic dress
Sometimes a £1 bargain rail charity shop, or car boot sale find will generate fabric, a zip and/or buttons. Extra—large cotton men’s shirts are a favourite up-cycle of mine for patchwork and crafting. It’s worth training your eyes to see pre-worn garments in a new light!
It’s much easier to take fabric away than to increase the size of a bargain!
This wool coat needed taking in by 12 inches, to have a fitted rather than sack like feel. After measuring, the first thing was to cut up the back of the lining to expose the coat’s construction.
Here is the maths:
The 12 inch reduction was then planned and divided:
4 inches by taking in the back seam by 2 inches
5 inches by taking in both side seams by 1.25 inches. (this was continued for the sleeve seams).
2 inches by creating 2 back darts, and 1 inch by moving the button position (the buttons were also replaced)
First some unpicking was needed:
The shoulder pads were removed
Either side of the bottom back and side seams
Either side of the top and bottom sleeve seams (armhole and cuff)
The seams were pinned and the new seam position marked with tailors chalk.
Because wool does not fray, straight stitch on my trusty Bernina
machine was used.
If the fabric had been one to fray, I would have considered using my overlocker (serger), to cut and finish the seam in one action.
After sewing the seams, they were trimmed to the original seam allowance, clipped in to the stich line and then pressed (with a steam iron on wool setting)
The lining was then taken in at the same places, except for the inside back.
The unpicked cuff, armhole and hem were then reattached to the lining, to complete the seam
The back darts were positioned, pinned and marked with chalk as shown.
After stitching, these were pressed towards the centre back seam.
The centre back lining cut was then taken in and with right sides together stitched, leaving a portion to allow it to be turned back so the inside main and inside lining seam were together. The gap was slip stitched together to close.
The new buttons were sewn on further in and the original buttons removed. You can up-cycle something from one garment to create further designer items!
To embellish the completed coat, I made a brooch which was attached with a brooch back.
The coat was brushed to remove threads and fluff, and then steamed to remove a stain and refresh both the fabric and lining.
The completed upcycled coat. 12 inches smaller.
I would love to hear of your up-cycling, please get in touch, or comment below.
The fabric I used for this Lottie blouse is a lovely comfy, slightly stretchy silk blend. The downside from a sewing point of view is its a very slippery fabric! I won’t repeat my mutterings as I sewed, but will share how I dealt with this issue.
Helen Moyes Designs Lottie Blouse
For cutting out I avoided the use of pins, which can stretch fabric and leave holes in fine fabric, by using my pattern weights. I run workshops on making these or they can be found in my Etsy shop.
I also used a French rule and a rotary wheel cutter (along with a self healing cutting mat) for cutting out as This was much easier than scissors for this fine, slippy fabric.
Avoiding pins – using pattern weights
I did find the fabric layouts a little confusing, and there is only a 60″ wide fabric blouse layplan provided. My fabric was not this wide, so I used 1.9m of 45″ wide fabric, which worked out fine.
I also used a rule, along with carbon paper and a carbon tracing wheel for marking the dart position.
using a carbon tracing wheel for marking the dart position
The darts are the first thing to be sewn. With fine fabric, it is even more important to start the stitching at the narrowest part and not back stitch, but rather to hand tie a knot. This avoids bulky stitching showing on the right side of the blouse.
I also used my new fine Tulip pins. These are extra fine and short – ideal for fine fabrics and applique. I got these from another Yorkshire seamstress, Grace at Beyond Measure
For fine fabrics, use a finer, new needle. I used a 70 universal needle.
Since the fabric frayed a lot and is slightly see through, I chose to use French seams, as all the raw edges of the fabric are enclosed and hidden.
Because this blouse pattern seam allowance is only 1cm, I made sure I cut the blouse on the generous side to allow for the French seams.
I do find it interesting that the French refer to this seam construction as “Coutures anglaises” – English seams!
A French seam is actually two seams, first starting with a 1cm seam allowance wrong fabric sides together, which is then trimmed and enclosed in a second seam right fabric sides together. Here is how you create this seam:
Place the wrong fabric sides together, and sew a 1cm seam. Then trim the seam allowance down to 4mm
Press this seam allowance to one side
Place the right sides of the fabric together and press
Now sew along the seamline with a 6mm seam allowance
Press this enclosed seam towards the back.
Bias Bound Neckline
Once the shoulders are joined with a French seam, the next stage is to bind around the bottom of the neckline on the front piece. This uses a strip of bias binding, cut on the diagonal – to the selvedge of the fabric. This means the strip is stretchy to work on the curved neckline. I pinned this on the right side of the neck , sewed, trimmed and then clipped to the stitching line on the curve.
Clipping seems scary but the worst thing that can happen is you cut through the stitching and need to re do some stitches!
I then turned the bias strip over to the wrong side and slip stiched the free, folded edge to the stitch line.
The next step I did was to insert the sleeves.
By a row of running stitches between the notches I achieved a slightly gathered sleeve head is. As I wanted a French seam here as well, I did wrong sides together and then created the second seam as above.
During the five months of the round robin, I looked forward to seeing how others interpreted the theme. The challenge included piecing, but not quilting, the rows, which were to be between 5 and 9 inches deep.
My Row Design
My Sheffield Quilt row was inspired by growing up and living in Nether Edge and Ecclesall. These leafy suburbs in South Sheffield are on the edge of the beautiful Peak District. So I wanted to include both the city and peaks I love. This combination of a green, culture rich city with easy access to the Derbyshire Peak District makes me love living here. In fact, a third of the city lies within the Peak District national park.
I upcycled some existing patchwork from a worn out skirt, signifying my love of creating with the discarded.
The greens spoke of a lush landscape with varying foliage, and I created a background of hills.
I added a sky-scape for the city of Sheffield, in dark, small floral print fabric. And I used the council logo as a basis for the design, enlarging it and cutting out the dark fabric (with bondaweb on the reverse) with embroidery scissors. Running stitches in black thread attached this to the patchwork background.
I added millstones in a textural fabric and the Peak District arched logo in green satin to blend the City with the Peak District.
As instructed, in August we each took our first row in a plain cream fabric bag. We were also told to include any fabric we wanted in future rows and a notebook with colour or style preferences, theme etc.
I noted the inspiration for my row in my quilt notebook and added that I was happy if the theme was interpreted in any way, with any technique. Furthermore I wrote: ” a traditional patchwork block may come to mind, or it may be an experience of Sheffield you have which inspires your row design”
The group bag monitor then redistributed the bags so each month we each received a different bag. So during August, September, October and November I received a bag containing an ever increasing number of rows and I made a further row. This year I plan to blog about the other sewing, as each completed quilt is revealed. However, here I will share about my Sheffield quilt.
This was the deepest row and ended up at the bottom of the Sheffield Quilt. The team member wrote in the notebook they hoped they weren’t being greedy as they chose five aspects of Sheffield to create:
Henderson’s Relish, because they were born in the previous maternity hospital opposite the factory that made this iconic sauce brand. Made in Sheffield for over 100 years, it’s spicy and fruity and known locally as “Enderson’s”, or simply “Relish”. The comedian Tom Wrigglesworth said that while ‘outsiders’ think Henderson’s Relish is Sheffield’s answer to Worcestershire sauce, Sheffielders think it’s the answer to everything. If you haven’t tried it and you live outside South Yorkshire, you can purchase online.
Stanedge Pole, where the quilter used to walk and learned to drive on the road leading to it. Stanedge Pole, also known as Stanage Pole, is a landmark on Hallam Moors close to Stanage Edge in Sheffield 10 (grid reference SK2468784429). On the crest of the moor the carved wooden pole (and it’s replacements) have helped the weary and confused navigate in driving rain or blowing snow from the 1550s.
Forge Dam Slide, near the cafe and by Ivy Cottage Lane, Sheffield S10, is a long metal slide. As the quilter said in the notebook, “the joys of living somewhere hilly is that you can get long slides”. You can see an image on Trip Advisor.
Cutlery, is what Sheffield used to be well known for, with the first reference to cutlery made in Sheffield in 1297. Now there are only a few small producers, including Ernest Wright & Son (whose stork embroidery scissors I used for the city-scape in row one). You can see sheffield cutlery at the Sheffield cutlery shop.
Wind, which the quilter remembers blowing the cherry blossom in her parent’s garden. The blossom blowing from the tree reminds me of frequent visits to Sheffield Botanical Gardens, from toddlerhood to the present day.
This row, which is in the middle of my Sheffield Quilt , concentrates on Sheffield’s industry. The quilter shared in the notebook how, like me, when she thinks of Sheffield her first thought is of the hills, and her second is of the rivers which led to industry. The quilter used a background fabric suggesting the contours of the earth and appliqued the Bessemer Convertor, strip mills, steelworks and cooling towers. I hand quilted along the rivers in the top three rows.
Five Weirs Walk Sheffield’s industrial landscape has been changing along the river Don with it’s five weirs since the 1980s. Now it’s a green ribbon of trees known as the Five Weirs Walk. This 8km takes you through the East End of Sheffield, past scenes of Sheffield’s history. There are Victorian buildings and scenes of the city’s industrial heyday: old schools, mills, factories and some contemporary sculptures.
The quilter shares “the leaves represent the regeneration of the industrial sites”.
Sheffield Tinsley Canal In 1819 the 4 mile Sheffield Tinsley canal was completed between the River Don and a new basin in the centre of Sheffield.
Some trade continued up to the 1970s but then it was neglected. Now the towpath is a walk out of Sheffield for all weathers and seasons, and I have enjoyed a cruise along the canal.
As shared by a reviewer on the park’s facebook page, I’ve been going to this park since the 70s as a child. A shame the lido went, but the cafe and all the facilities brought about by the friends of Millhouses Park have kept this beautiful space totally user friendly and alive.
The park was near Abbeydale Grange, the comprehensive school I atended, and is quite near where I live now. My children were taught to ride a bike without stabilisers on its gentle slopes and I enjoy the cakes at the cafe by the miniature boating lake depicted on the quilt row. I have walked dogs, played tennis and mini golf, and watched my sons play basketball and rugby at this park.
The blocks of the quilt row represent the sports pitches, paths and flower beds.
I added a “love blooms here” print to widen the row to fit the others and represent family times at Millhouses Park.
The common colours in the five rows for my Sheffield Quilt were grey and green. I chose a fairly dark grey textured “linen print” to divide the rows, highlight them and represent the “steel city”.
I chose a light grey with cream spots to represent living above “the snow line” in Banner Cross in Ecclesall.
Batting & Backing
My choice was a bamboo cotton 50/50 blend batting as this is eco friendly and anti bacterial. The makers recommend you hand wash it, so I did this in the bath with soap flakes. I then squeezed and rolled it in a towel to remove some moisture, before drying it flat.
The sashing, border fabrics, and batting for my Sheffield Quilt, were a gift from my son Matthew – from Billow Fabrics. I used a plain grey, soft fabric for the back.
Each month I am inspired by the stitchers at my quilters group. The Totley Brook Quilters are keen sewers and quilters who meet each month to chat and sew. Each session includes “show and tell” and it is amazing to see what has been produced. So this month I was able to show the top of my Sheffield Quilt – pinned and basted, ready to quilt.
I used a walking foot to do straight quilting rows on my Sheffield Quilt, rolling the quilt to work through the machine.
Machine Finished Binding with Mock Piping/Flange
This binding gives a piped look you can completely sew to your quilt with the sewing machine. Use either invisible thread or thread to match the piping in the top of your machine and a thread matching the quilt backing in the bobbin.
Make the Binding
You will need: 1½” strips of your main binding fabric and 1¾” strips of a contrast fabric.
Cut sufficient strips of each of these to go around your quilt plus extra for corners and joining. Prepare the binding by Joining the strips of fabric with a diagonal seam:
Place fabric right sides together at right angles
Trim seam allowance to ¼” and press seam open
Next sew the two colours together along their length using a ¼” seam.
Press the seam towards the main binding fabric.
Fold the binding in half lengthwise, so the raw edges are flush. Then press so a strip of the contrast fabric is visible on the right side of the binding.
Now prepare the beginning of the binding strip:
Unfold the left edge of the binding, fold the corner in and press.
Trim the triangle leaving a ¼” seam allowance
Refold the strip
Attach the binding to the quilt
You will first sew the binding to the back of the quilt. Then fold to the front before stitching again. Place the right side of the binding to the wrong side of the quilt, with raw edges along the edge of the quilt. Using a walking foot stitch ¼” from the edge of the quilt.
To turn the corners, stop stitching ¼” before the corner of the quilt. Then remove the quilt from the sewing machine to fold the corner. Fold the binding up so that the diagonal fold points directly into the corner.
Next, fold the binding down again, aligning it with the edge of the quilt.
Continue sewing ¼” from the edge, all round the quilt, folding each corner.
When you reach the start, trim the binding. Then Insert it into the pocket created at the beginning. Pin and stitch in place.
Complete the Binding
Fold the binding onto the right side of the quilt so you can now see the narrow piping strip.
Pin carefully, being careful the match the corners.
Stitch in the ditch on the piping using a thread matching the piping, or invisible thread in the top of your machine and a thread matching the quilt backing in the bobbin.
Sewing my Sheffield Quilt during the Christmas holidays was also a time to catch up with family. So I thought how patchwork and family life are similar and I also about this quote from, The Christmas Quilt (Elm Creek Quilts novel).
“A family is an act of creation, the piecing together of disparate fragments into one cloth – often harmonious, occasionally clashing and discordant, but sometimes unexpectantly beautiful and strong. Without contrast there is no pattern, and each piece, whether finest silk or faded cotton, will endure if sewn fast to the others with strong seams – bonds of love and loyalty, tradition and faith.” Jennifer Chiaverini
I would love to hear about your experiences of quilting and/or Sheffield. Please leave a comment below, or contact me
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As it’s getting colder I would encourage us to cosy up and hygge!
All my household are rather “under the weather” and we have been doing a lot of coughing and sneezing. I bet you’re so glad that germs can’t be transfered through blogs! I have frequently heard the phrase “it’s the time of the year for colds” and I have needed to remind myself that coughs and colds do seem to be a fact of life and getting frustrated won’t help.
It would seem that in clearing our throats we have been making sounds like the the Danish word hygge. Hard to explain and even harder to pronounce, the Danish word ‘hygge‘ (pronounced “hooga” or “heurgha” ) translates roughly to ‘cosiness’.
In essence, hygge means creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people. It’s all about creating feelings of happiness, friendliness and wellbeing within everyday life.
Helen Russell, writing in the Telegraph, describes hygge as “the absence of anything annoying or emotionally overwhelming; taking pleasure from the presence of gentle, soothing things”.
It’s being hailed as the route to health and happiness. The latest OECD World Happiness Report put Denmark at No 1, Iceland in third, followed by Norway and Finland, way ahead of the UK at 23.
The phrase “go easy on yourself” springs to mind and I often encorage both myself and others to celebrate what you can do rather than worrying about what you can’t do.
Hygge and Nature
Signe Johansen’s new book How To Hygge hails the Nordic people’s love of being in nature as the key to hygge and encourages us to exercise outside. Walking outdoors compared to on a treadmill automatically increases the calorie burn by ten per cent, due to factors such as wind resistance.
Research has found that being in a park or forest environment lowers stress levels, increases energy, boosts self-esteem and makes you less angry.
I have been wrapping up and getting outside as much as possible and have enjoyed some short walking breaks, enjoying the Winter light and then reflecting these in creating with wool.
One of the things I love about living in Sheffield, one of the greenest cities in terms of parks and woodland, is easy access to the Peak District National Park.
Take a Break
The Danish tradition of daily ‘fika’: a break to sit down, enjoy a hot drink and often a sweet pastry or a cinnamon bun. Taking breaks and having a good work life balance aids prodoctivity as well as . What are your favourite breaks?
A ‘Nordic style diet’ of whole-grain products such as Ryvita-style ‘knackebrod’, fish three times a week, root veg, berries, locally sourced fruits such as apples and plums and avoiding sugar-sweetened foods, lowers cholesterol.
The mentality of ‘hygge’ means enjoying the good things in life without feeling guilty, including indulging in the food that makes you happy. Despite this, the proportion of adults in Sweden who are obese is 14 per cent, compared to the UK’s 27 per cent. perhaps it is the ideal of moderation. The Scandinavians firmly believe in ‘lordagsgodis’ – Saturday Sweets. It’s ingrained in Scandinavians from childhood that you treat yourself on Saturdays. Studies show a treat every now and then can make a person more likely to stick to a diet.
‘Hyggeligt’ means “pleased to meet you”, and is also used to describe a chance meeting that felt warm and convivial. Spending time with those near to us is also key to our wellbeing. Forget perfectionism and remember the main thing is sharing food, conversation and your lives with people. Don’t just invite over your friends and let them sit there while you slave in the kitchen. A true Hygge host says” YES” when guests offer to help.
Candles and natural fires are a key part of this, and are a quick way to feelings of cosiness, and in my experience their gentle light are a great way to disguise dust! Combine with natural scent, such as using coffee beans, for an even greater cosiness.
You can find some of the scented eco soya wax candles I make using vintage cups in my Etsy shop
Crafty hobbies such as knitting or sewing are perfect to help to relax and calm your being, or curl up and read a good book for hygge refreshment.
Good housekeeping give us 11 ideas for a hygge home.
The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well by Meik Wiking who is CEO of The Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen. Meik says in Denmark “You hear hygge being talked about all the time – by everyone, no matter who they are. We talk about hygge things coming up that we’re looking forward to; we point out when something hygge is happening right now; then we like to talk about what a great ‘hyggelit’ (hygge-like) time we’ve had afterwards.”
Then the word can be used in many practical but different sentences describing Danish life – as a noun (hygge), an adjective (hyggelig) and a verb (at hygge sig). As in “hygge is important”, “I’m going to make sure my house is hyggely”, and “I’m hyggeling this corner of my house.”
However, although maybe hygge is not everything needed for wellbeing, I for one am looking forward to cosy moments. As Kurt Vonnegut once said, “Enjoy the little things in life because one day you’ll look back and realize they were the big things”.
How do you cope with the cold or darker days blues? I’d love to know your thoughts on the concept of ‘Hygge’
If you were to create a hygee box, what would you put in to it?x
Unwittingly, I seem to have become part of a national trend. As more of my work is done at my studio at home, I decided I would investigate a new WI group I heard about. And it was just as well I was decisive, as the new local group formed and at its first actual meeting, had to declare itself full with a waiting list. The upper room above a local pub can’t comfortably fit any more! What has been happening in my neighbourhood is going on elsewhere, with a massive influx. In the last year alone 150 new groups have formed and 40,000 new members have joined. The trend is for younger members in urban rather than rural areas.
A traditional image of the WI
The WI is no longer an amusing stereotype. Now it’s a savvy collective quotes Kat Brown in Grazia magazine (11 April issue 571 p57).
There is increasing variety in both the age of WI membership, but also in the range of activities planned. As a Home Economist and textile artist, I have given talks & led workshops at WI meetings in the past, and even been asked to judge the results of a crafting challenge. But each group decides its own programme which may or may not have any traditional activities.
“shake it up” cocktail making at Seven Hills WI in Sheffield
Dubbed the original social network, groups will supplement their usual monthly face to face meetings with both a social media group and other activities such as walking and book discussions as well as invitations to join in with other local group’s activities. This week I was invited to take part in “couch to 5K” running by another local group but I have hurt my toe this weekend…
Having thought traditional hymn singing was in my Methodist past, I was a little shocked at the great enthusiasm for singing the traditional hymn “Jerusalem” which was one of the first things my new WI group voted on! It also has a cooking and preserving summer fruit competition on the programme for September. Read on for more about jam later.
Although there are set arrangements for the formation of WI’s, the programme for each WI can be very different. as groups focus on what their members are interested in. If you are investigating joining one you may need to visit a few before you discover the one that’s right for you. There is no obligation to join when you visit, but you may be asked to pay a small visitors fee and it is worth checking beforehand that there is space for a visitor at any specific meeting.
WI members can belong to more than one WI, by paying the full membership fee of £37.50 a year to the first WI, and a further £18 to any additional WIs. This entitles you to take a full and active part in any additional WIs and have full voting rights on matters relating to your primary WI.
Membership entitles you to eight copies a year of the WI membership magazine, WI Life. This has a mix of articles, a craft project and recipes. I enjoyed browsing my first copy, and booked a holiday through one of the adverts. However, I did feel the advertising generally was aimed at elderly readers. Let’s see if this changes with a younger membership.
The WI has been meeting for over 100 years, following the First World War, the WI was initially sponsored by the government with a mission to help boost food supplies and energise rural areas. But the gatherings proved so popular, it soon took on a life of its own. By 1921 the WI was campaigning for women to serve on juries and as early as 1943 it passed a resolution calling for “equal pay for equal work”.
In the 1990s Calendar Girls reintroduced many to the WI when the tale of a bunch of rural WI members who stripped off for charity was turned into a best-selling book, West End musical and film. As Helen Mirren says in Calendar Girls: ‘‘It’s not just a load of middle-aged women standing mysteriously behind fruitcakes, you know.’’
The image of the organisation has undergone a radical change. As diverse groups focus on what their members are interested in.
In 2010, the WI logo of a tree was deemed to be in need of change ,with the new logo “indicative of the evolution” of the WI. The strap line, `Inspiring women’ has a double meaning indicating that members are both inspired by the WI, and inspiring women in their own right.” said a WI spokesperson in a telegraph article.
The WI Inspiring Women
Jane Robinson, the social historian whose account of the WI, A Force to Be Reckoned With, was published in 2012, is available at Amazon
And if you thought it was just vicars’ wives, ex-headmistresses and housewives who join the WI, think again. There are solicitors, bankers, teachers, women from all walks of life says Helen McGurk’s as she shares her WI experiences in Northern Ireland in More Than Jam and Jerusalem
If you are interested in joining the 212,000-plus membership visit the WI website to find groups near you.
So what about the jam?
I thought I would share my low sugar Strawberry Jam recipe with you:
250g strawberries, hulled and sliced
1 Tablespoon agar flakes
Place a small plate and some metal teaspoons in the freezer
In a small cup, combine agar flakes with lemon juice.
In a large pan combine all ingredients over low heat, stirring occasionally.
Bring heat up to a low boil and cook, stirring often, until jam has thickened, about another 20-30 minutes.
Stir in a figure-eight pattern about every minute.
The berries will get glossier looking and feel a bit thicker – you will see the change. Once you feel it’s ready, put a little on one of your frozen spoons and place that spoon back in the freezer for two minutes. Go back and tilt the frozen spoon of jam and if the jam on the spoon is thickened and not running thinly, your jam is done. It will continue to thicken as it cools.
Put your jam into small freezable pots. Refrigerate up to three weeks, or freeze up to one year.
Perfect Preserves Workshop
If you want to join me in a preserves workshop (perhaps ready for a preserves competition?!) then please get in touch.
I would love to hear about your experiences of the Women’s Institute, and/or jam making, please comment below