Slipper Felting – part 2

Following on from my last post, Slipper Felting – part 1, this is where we go all out and talk about throwing your knitted slippers into the wash.

Firstly, all the samples here were felted in a front loading washing machine, in fact all the felted items I make are felted this way because it is all I have. This does not stop you from using a top loader if that’s what you have, in fact felting is much easier in a top loader as you can whip your item out almost whenever you want. The types of programs and lengths that I give will be slightly different though. You can also felt items by hand, it takes longer but you do have more control over the finished item. This method comes in particularly handy if you have felted something in the washer and it is almost the size you need it, but not quite, or if for some reason it has not felted evenly. If you don’t want to take a chance on it becoming too small if you put it though a whole wash again you can finish by hand.

I come across plenty of people, mainly here in the UK, that would not felt anything because they have a front loading washing machine. I think opinion is that you really need a top loader to be successful. This is certainly not the case and although you perhaps don’t have the control you would like, you can still produce felted items with great success.

There are so many variables when felting something it can seem complicated but it’s really not. Mostly you can just take a chance and see how things go but it does help to have a little background knowledge to better your chances of getting exactly what you wanted.

To put your item in a lingerie bag or not.

I know that a lot of people use lingerie bags to put their item into and felt in that. This is, I think, mainly to keep any fluff that comes off of during the felting process out of the machine. To be honest I have never used one and never had a problem but that is only my experience and if you have an expensive machine and don’t want to take a chance, using one can’t hurt.

Detergent.

I use ordinary laundry detergent to felt all my items. If I am hand washing a delicate hand knit I only use a wool wash but I have always been of the opinion that as I want my item to shrink and be hard wearing, not needing it to be particularly soft so, to me, using an expensive wool soap has no advantage.

Temperature and Length of wash.

This really is the crux of the matter isn’t it? No matter what machine you have, whether or not you use a bag to put the item in and what detergent you use, it all finally comes down to what temperature and for how long to get the item come out how you want.

Unfortunately, there really is no easy answer. I would love to say, ‘oh, just do this and all will be perfect’ but in all honesty I can’t.

The following knitted samples were all made in Cascade 220 held double, at the gauge I use for my slipper patterns except D which was the tighter gauge sample I used in part 1.

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Felting Samples

I washed each slightly differently. Each came out a slightly different size. Again, I have worked out a percentage decrease for each one so you can see exactly the difference it made. It all seems a bit technical but I wanted to be as accurate as possible so you could see what difference a wash can make. I have left out sample D as it is not relevant here.

Sample A = washed at 50 deg C / 122 deg F for 1 hour with towels

Sample B = Same wash as A but with denims not towels

Sample C = washed at 40 deg C / 100 deg F for just over 2 hours with clothes

Sample E = washed at 30 deg C / 86 deg F with towels

The following are the percentage decreases in size:

Sample A = -13% width x -26% height

Sample B = -11% width x -20% height

Sample C = – 17% width x -27% height

Sample E =  0% width x -10% height

So as you can see, all exactly the same in all respects to begin with, so different after a wash. Even changing what you use to agitate your item with changes your outcome. In my opinion, felting with the towels which ‘foam’ up the washing water more is why that particular sample felted more.

For my patterns, using the recommended yarn and sizing information, I use the wash from sample A – 50 deg C / 122 deg F for 1 hour.

Too much information? Probably…. maybe, but I hope that this has given you something to think about when embarking on a felting project and perhaps taken a bit of the mystery surrounding it away. The good news is that, with the exception of sample E, overall these figures will not make a huge difference to what exact size a small item such as a pair of slippers comes out. If your slippers are a little loose, felt a little more (see part 1), if they are a little small, put them on while still damp and wear them around for a while, they will stretch to the size of your feet.

Mostly, just have fun with your felting and experiment.

 

Slipper Felting Part 1 – Yarn

I thought it was about time that I gave my thoughts on felting. I’ve done quite a bit over the years, both intentionally and unintentionally! I once felted half my hand-knit sock collection in one easy move by setting the washing machine to an ordinary wash not a hand wash. Now, I always wash socks by hand!
Accidents apart, whilst writing my felted slipper patterns, and since for gifts for friends and family, I’ve probably felted more slippers than any sane person would want to in a lifetime.

I get a lot of questions by email regarding the subject, both from people whose projects have come out unexpectedly and those who need that little push to bite the bullet and actually throw their lovingly knitted item in the wash and shrink it. Felting puts a lot of people off, especially if they have a front loading washing machine. The thought of taking time to make something only to have it completely ruined in the felting process is just a chance some knitters refuse to take. I can understand completely and can still remember the first time I threw my knitting into the washing machine and left it to fate, and how I was so sure it was going to be a disaster. But felting can be fun and not as scary as it at first seems if you understand the process and are willing to experiment.

I’ve decided to split the subject into two. This, the first part is all about the yarn and the tension/gauge of your knitting. The second will be about exactly how to go about felting your knitting and the differing results you can get.

Yarn

Firstly, only use non superwash yarns for felting. That is, the type of yarn that has hand wash only on the label. It may seem obvious, but you would be surprised how this sometimes confuses people.

The yarn you use will affect the final outcome of your piece. This is true for all types of knitting projects from sweaters to shawls to socks. Just as the fibre content, twist and gauge affects how your knitted fabric looks and feels, the same is true for felting.

Some yarns will felt more that you ever thought possible. Some will resist so much you start to wonder if you’ve actually used a super wash yarn by mistake. There is one exception to this rule you should always bear in mind though – if you don’t want an item to shrink and felt, it will! Even those yarns you struggle to get to felt into a pair of slippers will still felt enough to make that sweater, at the least a bit stiff and at worst, un-wearable.

Yarns sold specifically for felting will, as they are supposed to, felt well. I started off my felting odyssey using these types of yarns and they do work very well although I did find some of them rather ‘hairy’ once felted. When writing the slipper patterns I also found them a little less consistent with regard to how much they felted each time. This is not a problem if you are felting an item such as a bag, but I wanted the slippers to have, as much as possible, a consistent amount of ‘shrinkage’ among them so I could size them as accurately as possible. I also wanted something that was perhaps sturdier and easily sourced.

For my samples I switched to Cascade 220. It is easily accessible and comes in a large colour palette (which at the time of writing this is about 150 different shades). I found that it felted well and gave pretty consistent results. I have used other yarns with very good results, Elann and Drops Yarns make some very good worsted weight non super wash wools in lovely colours but the list is pretty endless really. My personal preference for felting yarns are 100% wool yarns that are plied, i.e. have two or more strands twisted together. I find them nice to knit with and stable in the felting process. They also don’t shed an awful lot of fibre into your machine in which can happen if you choose to felt with a singles (one continuous twisted strand, un-plied) yarn.

Some people prefer their felted items to loose all stitch definition and just look, well, like felt. Some, and I probably fall into this category, prefer a little of the stitches to show. I  couldn’t tell you why exactly, it may be something to do with it still looking hand made or knitted. Whatever your preference there is a yarn out there for you – experiment is the key.

These are just my opinion and preference. There are many, many yarns that are good for felting. Don’t feel confined to use any specific one. Try your favourite yarn, or one that you have in stash. Just make sure that it is non-superwash and be prepared to experiment, you could get some very interesting results.

If you have never tried a particular yarn, or have done some felting with one yarn and want to switch to another, make a swatch and felt it. I know most of us hate doing it, but it does give you a good idea as to the final fabric you will get, how much it will felt (don’t forget to measure it before you felt it) and what it will look like. It all adds to your knowledge of that yarn before you start your project and takes a little of the mystery out of the process. No need to put the washing machine on just for one tiny swatch. Just throw it in with a wash that you happen to be putting on anyway and see what happens.
At the end, you don’t only have a little sample of your end product but felted swatches make great coasters!

Gauge / Tension

The gauge/tension you work to will affect how your item felts. The movement of the stitches is a factor in the felting process. A tightly knitted piece with less room for the stitches to rub against each other will be harder to felt than something with a more open stitch. This is why my adult patterns are worked at a gauge of only 3sts per 2.5 cm/ 1 inch on 8mm needles. Even though the yarn is doubled, there is still plenty of room for the yarn to move around and felt.

Below are two knitted samples. They are knitted from the same yarn, same amount of stitches and rows and were felted in the same wash. The only difference between the two is the gauge/tension they were knitted at.

Before you say it, I know that having the same amount of stitches knitted at different tensions gave me two samples of different sizes. But for all of the samples I knitted for this piece on felting (there are more in part 2 ) I measured before and after and calculated a percentage decrease in size. So effectively the starting size does not particularly matter here. Besides, to get the two to exactly the same starting size I would have had to knit a swatch to work out the gauge before actually knitting the swatch.  And knitting a swatch to be able to knit a … swatch… was just beyond my limit at the time!

This first sample, sample A, was knitted at the standard tension/gauge for the slippers, 3 sts per 2.5 cm/1 inch on 8 mm/US11 needles. The yarn was held double, just as it is in the slippers. I knitted 14 sts x 14 rows and it measured 115 mm x 100 mm or 4 ½” x 4″ before felting.

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Sample A

In the above picture it now measures 100 mm x 74 mm.  The percentage of decrease is 13% on the width and 26% in the height.

Knitting always shrinks more in height than width. Something to remember when knitting something for felting.

Sample D below was knitted exactly the same but I changed down to 6mm needles. The sample measured 95 mm x 82 mm or 3¾” x 3¼” before felting. It was put together with sample A and felted.

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Sample D

After felting it measured 85 mm x 70 mm. This is a percentage decrease of 10.5% in width and 14.6% in height.

So tension matters quite a bit. The big loose sample shrank by 13% in width compared to only 10.5% for the tighter knitted one. The height on the loose sample decreased by 26% where as the tighter gauge one only lost 14.6% in height. Quite a difference.

You can also see the difference in stitch definition between the two samples. In sample A, although you can still see that the swatch had garter stitch edges, the centre stocking stitch area has lost almost all definition where as in Sample D you can see much more of the stitches all round.

And of course, gauge is also important for determining the final size and shape of the piece. Even though you are going to felt your item and that is adjustable to a certain extent, it is still important to start out with the piece the size that it states in the pattern.

Well, I hope that this has given you a few tips about felting yarns and gauge. In part two, I will get into the kitty-gritty of throwing your slippers into the machine. The differences that you can expect and what to do if things don’t go as planned.

Hartland

Playing catch up as usual.

I think I mentioned some time ago that seamless was no longer my favourite type of construction. There was a time that I loved knitting seamless garments and they were pretty much all I worked on. In fact the three cardigans patterns that I published are all seamless construction.

Seamless v.s. seamed is a contentious subject amongst many knitters. It can evoke strong opinions in even the most chilled of knitters and I’ve seen a few fairly heated arguments erupt through the years.  You know though, I’m not sure why really. Each method has its’ merits and pitfalls. Some methods work well for some types of garments, other methods for others.

My move away from seamless construction, and I am talking mainly garments here, came about very slowly and as with anything there is more than one reason why.

I love yoke sweaters, always will, and the best way to knit them is seamlessly, especially if they have any colour work, so if I want to knit any more this will certainly be the way I will do it. But at the moment I prefer a set in sleeve, they just seem to suit me better in terms of fit and look. But..wait for it… I can’t find a seamless method of knitting them that  gives me results that I am happy with.

Perhaps it is my body shape, I think it certainly has something to do with my shoulder width being slightly wide for my (now) body size. For me, a seamless set in sleeve does not fit as well as a seamed one, no matter what method I use to knit one. On some garments, the fit is all about the shoulders. If you get the shoulder width right, the rest of the garment can be as large and ill fitting as you like and it will still hang right and look a good fit.

I have tried a contiguous set in sleeve where everything is knitted as you go but it didn’t work for my shoulder shape and didn’t sit right. The top of the sleeve appeared far too angular on me.  I have tried picking up stitches around the armhole and working short rows for the sleeve cap but it still didn’t really work for me either and I just don’t like the look that you get. I know it works for a lot of people but I have also seen a great deal of examples where the sleeve ‘seam’ pulls down the arm and doesn’t sit on the shoulder like it should. The garments look too small although they clearly fit well elsewhere.

The other reason is simply to do with the sleeves themselves. I found that I really don’t like knitting sleeves in the round. I knit a lot of socks and don’t have a problem with them so it has nothing to do with small circumferences in the round or anything like that. I’m not sure I can put my finger on it at the moment but I had several WIP’s that sat languishing in my knitting basket and when I sorted through them every one had stalled on the sleeves. Top down, bottom up made no difference, all had been brought to a point where the seamless sleeves needed to be worked and then the project had stalled.

So, at the moment, seamed garments are what I am knitting and perhaps it is time to move away from that subject for a while and show you one of the things I have finished recently.

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This is Hartland by Sarah Hatton. It was re-published in The Knitter issue 103. The yarn is from stash, a Sirdar wool blend.

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The pattern is a seamed one and was easy to follow but I did have a few issues with it. I knitted the jumper as per pattern without any adjustments but had a few issues with the neck width being too wide for my taste. It wasn’t apparent that it was that wide in the photos and there were no figures in the schematic for the neck width. In the end I ripped back and re-knitted the neck edging three times, each time decreasing the number of stitches that I picked up and again decreasing on the first round to pull it in even more. I am glad to say that it now fits nicely around the neck and shoulders although the body is a little boxy. If I were to knit it again I would probably put in a little waist shaping.

Until next time x

Ryðrauð

The next project in line that I haven’t shown you is the beautiful
Ryðrauð pattern by Steinunn Birna Gudjonsdottir. 

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I came across this pattern on Ravelry and thought the yoke was just gorgeous.

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The yarn is Knit Picks Wool of the Andies worsted weight which I purchased as a Christmas present to myself! You can buy Knit Picks yarns straight from their website, in sterling, and they ship it over to the UK at a very reasonable price. The last time I bought any yarn from the US was years ago, over ten years probably, when I wanted some Elann yarn for a specific project. I remember the shipping being expensive but I can’t remember what I made from it now. Of course you can buy most Elann yarns from Amazon UK now.

The Wool of the Andes yarn was lovely to work with and knits up with a very even stitch. As you can see, the colour work came out well and although the yarn is ‘sticky’ enough to do this with, it is actually very soft.

The cardigan was knitted in the round, with a steek, and then cut to make a cardigan. This really is the best way to knit anything like this, and although now, seamless knits are not my favourite project (more on that in a later post) I can’t imagine knitting a stranded project any other way.

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I secured the steek with a double row of machine stitches before cutting and once I had knitted on the front borders I hid the raw edges behind a lovely cotton tape I found at my local Dunelm Mill. I must confess that I have cheated a little in the top picture which shows the buttons as I have only placed them on the cardigan for show, I haven’t actually sewn them on yet! There was a delay in getting just the right button for this project, at a reasonable price anyway, and in the mean time I pressed the cardigan into service for the colder months at the beginning of the year. One day I will actually sew them on!

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The original pattern (which is free by the way) was written for a heavier yarn so I took just the chart and plugged it into my own pattern for this type of project. It is not as hard as you would think to do this once you have your tension swatch.

If you have never had a go at your own seamless garment and would like to be able to, I can’t recommend Elizabeth Zimmermann’s books enough.  Her percentage system for working out the stitch counts on seamless garments is invaluable and although I now adjust those figures to suit how I like my garments to be sized, her instructions not only give you a good grounding on how to work out your own patterns but her system for working out the decreases for yoke sweaters is simply genius. Even if you never want to design or knit seamless garments, her writing style is so very personal and almost meditative, her books make good read on their own merit, knitting apart. They take me back to another time whenever I read them.

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A little catching up

Seems I have a little catching up to do around here, as usual.

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Spring has sprung and although we have had some gloriously warm weather, this morning dawned frosty and bright and minus 3 degrees C. A bit chilly then. Hard to believe that just last weekend we had a great day out at Wonderwool Wales and sat eating our lunch and sunbathing. We always enjoy Wonderwool, apart from the show which is, I think, getting bigger each year, there is the beautiful countryside to enjoy on the drive there and back.

Although there are so many companies with beautiful yarns that make you want to take out a mortgage and just get them all (or is that just me?), I went this year with the intention of buying some yarns that I don’t always come across.

 

The main picture on the left is of two skeins of Ullcentrum a Swedish wool being sold by Midwinter Yarns. The colours are Old Rose and Light Grey and these 100g skeins are 300m each. This yarn is soft, not merino soft, but proper sheepy soft. There will definitely be more of this in my future and as you can see, I have already caked it up ready to try it out.

The top right picture is some Tibetan Cloud Worsted 100% Yak that I picked up for an absolute steal. I’ve never worked with Yak before and will be interested to see how it knits and washes up.

The centre right cakes are an unspecified yarn from Namolio. The lovely lady there sold mainly linen yarn but these were in a basket with no label. I would say that they are very like Kauni yarn and again about 300m long judging by the type of yarn and weight.

At the bottom are two skeins of hand dyed sock yarn from Weavers Loft and a ball of Wensleydale. The weavers loft yarn is a 75/25 super wash wool, a standard 400m long and they with become a pair of socks each for DH and myself.

The Wensleydale is from Wensleydale Longwool Sheep Shop. Well, I wish I’d bought more to be honest. I have spun some Wensleydale (when I used to do more spinning) and it is a great lustre fibre with a long staple length. I only bought one ball along with a couple of other goodies from their booth as I wanted to try it out first but as soon as I got it home I regretted not getting a whole load more at the time. This is another yarn that I will be adding to as I already have a great project in mind for this.

I know that as soon as the warmer weather comes people tend to move away from knitting and other crafts but all I seem to want to do in the spring is start loads of different projects. I have at least four recent projects to show but today I’ll start with a cowl I finished back at the beginning of the year.

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This started off as a scarf pattern that I wrote to use some Blacker Yarns Tamar Lustre blend that I had stashed away. It originally looked like this.

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The Blacker Yarns Tamar blend is a joy to work with, it knitted up beautifully,  the scarf has a good weight to it and the stitches have a crispness to them that makes everything stand out.

I enjoyed knitting it so much I wanted to do another but I didn’t want two exactly the same so for the second version I narrowed the pattern and seamed the two ends together to make a cowl.

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Again I used some yarn from stash, GGH Wollywasch in silver and metal. This yarn is very soft and blocks really well to give the cowl a good stitch definition and drape. Another yarn that I have come across recently that really surprised me.

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The final pattern I ended writing up is narrower as in the version above, not as wide as the original Blacker Yarns scarf. As usual, if you would like to make one, you can find the pattern on Love Knitting, Ravelry and Etsy.

Seamless Felted Mary Janes

I know that it’s been a while since I last popped by. I have been a little taken up with a design I’ve been working on that took far, far longer than I thought to get done. It is now in the pattern testing stage so I (almost) can breath a sigh of relief and return to normal, maybe.

The design follows on from my previous felted slipper patterns by the way that they are knitted seamlessly from the bottom up and are pretty quick to knit, but these are a little different.

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They are more form fitting than the others, being lower in the front and shaped for the back foot and heel. That said, they are still quick to knit – just a little more going on. I can make a pair in three hours, so not too bad.

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Here I have put contrasting soles on them but they look just as cute in a single colour.

The pattern went through a few different versions before I got to this one which is why it took me so long to finally put a proper pattern together. I have the most enormous pile of ‘almost, try again’ slippers you have ever seen and have been mulling over what to do with them all. It occurred to me last night that I could cut all the soles off of them and perhaps sew them into some kind of colourful hearth rug! But then I would still be left with all the uppers!

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The pattern has now been released. Please go to the pattern page, (link at the top) for more information.

I can’t really say that I’ve been up to that much apart from these slippers the last month. I made a very successful fruit cake GF and DF, picture below, and have also been knitting on some other things when these slippers got too much.

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img_3043Plain vanilla socks. I think the yarn is Regia with Drops fable heels and toes. I really need some new socks as the ones I have are getting baggy. Hand knitted socks last a long time but as some of mine are perhaps six or seven years old now (at least!) I think it is a little unfair to expect them to last much longer. Although I do still have a pair that is over ten years old but that’s exceptional. A couple of other things this month have been..

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The fruit cake was delicious even as I’m not a great fan. I usually find them too sweet but this was just right and I think the addition of some cherry brand helped!

Hopefully I will be back soon. I have written a post with some felting advice but need to finish putting it all together.

Until then..

Gluten and Dairy Free Lemon Cupcakes

I hope you have all had a good winter break and I wish you all a good New Year. I thought I would start this year with a recipe that I promised you a while ago. My standard gluten and dairy free cupcakes.

This recipe is adapted from an ordinary ‘even mix’, one my Mother used to call a 4,4,4 & 2 mix (she measured in oz not grams in those days). This mix was used for all sorts of sponges and puddings and I still use it today for standard gluten free cakes and puddings as it works well (most of the time, there are a few exceptions). Here I’ve doubled it up to make a more substantial mix which actually works better when converted to gluten and dairy free ingredients.

Although here I’ve used lemon for the flavouring, just vanilla or orange works just as well. Chocolate works a little differently in gluten free cakes though, it usually makes them better, but if you want a chocolate cake it needs a little something different than this straightforward mix to make it work.

GLUTEN & DAIRY FREE LEMON CUPCAKES

Makes 20 – 24 small cupcakes.

Ingredients:

225g Dairy Free margarine  (I use Pure )
225g Caster Sugar
4 Eggs
Grated zest from an unwaxed lemon
225g Doves Farm Gluten Free Plain Flour
2 tsp GF Baking Powder, slightly rounded
1 tsp Xanthan Gum
1 tbsp of the lemon juice or a few drops of Sicilian Lemon Extract (check ingredients)

You will also need:

2 x 12 hole Cupcake pans (If you only have one, that’s fine. I bake mine in batches)
Small paper cupcake cases

 

 

Baking Ing

Method:

Pre-heat your oven to 200° C / 400 F / Gas 6

Soften the DF margarine together with the caster sugar until pale and fluffy.

Add the eggs, one at a time and beat well. With a DF margarine it is really difficult not to have this mixture curdle, but don’t worry it all comes together once you add the flour and I don’t think it really affects the outcome.

Add in the grated lemon zest, and the lemon juice or extract if using, and mix to combine.

Next, sift together the flour, baking powder and xanthan gum straight into the bowl and give the whole lot a good beat.

The mixture should be fully mixed with no lumps. It should also be quite soft. If you find that it is holding together a little too much i.e. the whole mixture is moving almost as one around the bowl, add a tablespoon or two of DF milk just to loosen it up a little. The xanthan gum is vital for holding your GF ingredients together and holding in the air so that the cakes rise, but sometimes it can be, let’s say, a little over enthusiastic about it!

The mixture should look like this, holding up but still soft like a standard soft dropping consistency.

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Divide the mixture evenly between the cases. The mixture should be enough for between 20 and 24 small cupcakes with the mixture filled three quarters to the top of the cases.

Mixing bowl

Pop them into the pre-heated oven, they should take about 15 minutes. They are cooked when well risen and slightly golden and a tooth pick inserted into the centre comes out clean.

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You can of course ice these with an icing made from icing sugar and lemon juice, or pipe a swirl of DF buttercream flavoured with some more of the lemon juice; which I do if I am going to serve these to guests. But to be honest, most of the time we are pretty boring and just eat them the way they are. They are just sweet enough to satisfy and without the icing or butter cream it doesn’t interfere with my daily sugar intake, which means I can eat more of them!

If you want to make large cupcakes, the muffin sized ones, the mixture should make about 12 but you will need to bake them for a little longer, perhaps 20-25 minutes.

These will keep for several days in an airtight container.