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  • Our top picks for Christmas - 2017

    Christmas is fast-approaching, and with it comes the chaotic nature of Christmas shopping and gifting.

    The thing is, at Ulster Weavers, we don’t really do stress and chaos; we prefer things to be calm, cosy and lovely. To help you feel the same way, regardless of needing to find those special gifts for family and friends, we’ve put together a short Christmas gift guide featuring some of our favourite items for some truly unique Christmas gift ideas.

    Best of all, they’re all available online for delivery, meaning you get to skip all that frantic running about! Sit back, put the kettle on and enjoy the Christmas build-up…

    For a comfortable home:

    Working hard to keep your house warm this winter? One stylish and effective way to keep your home cosy is by using one of our draught excluders. Made from high-quality cotton and filled with polyester and sand for maximum insulation, they are available in a range of designs to suit any home.

    Our choice would be the Hound Dog draught excluder (https://www.ulsterweavers.com/hound-dog-draught-excluder). Perfect for any dog lover!

    You can see all our draught excluders here: https://www.ulsterweavers.com/home-accessories/draft-excluders

    For the baking lover:

    It’s no secret that we love baking at Ulster Weavers. Thanks to the rise of shows like Great British Bake Off, we think the nation is rediscovering its passion as well. If you’re capable of producing fabulous show-stoppers, or just want your cake to look the best it can, our range of cake stands can help.

    One of the most popular ones in our range is the Dotty Sheep cake stand (https://www.ulsterweavers.com/dotty-sheep-cake-stand). Using the same popular print as the rest of the Dotty Sheep range, the stand is made of high-quality ceramic, and can be taken apart for easy storage.

    Find our entire range of cake stands here: https://www.ulsterweavers.com/catalogsearch/result/?q=cake+stand

    For the tea connoisseur:

    We’re a nation of tea lovers in the UK. Nothing comforts people like a nice mug of tea and a comfy place to sit. If you have a tea lover in your life, now would be a good time to look at tea pots, they’re set to make a comeback in 2018!

    Once you’ve found a tea pot that suits, team it up with one of our animal tea cosies, such as our adorable Scottie dog, (https://www.ulsterweavers.com/scottie-dog-shaped-tea-cosy) to keep their tea warm and looking fantastic!

    All of our tea cosies can be found here: https://www.ulsterweavers.com/kitchen/tea-cosies

    For the sofa:

    Nothing brightens up a living room like a few cushions, does it? We’re very proud of our range at Ulster Weavers, with all our cushions made of 100% cotton with a dense polyester filling, for optimum comfort, and to ensure that the cushions stay plump and shapely.

    Whatever colour scheme you’re going for, we’ll have a cushion to suit. For example, contrasting colours with grey is very on trend, and our Dotty Sheep cushion, with a different design on each side, will co-ordinate perfectly with any shade of grey!

    Check out all our cushions here: https://www.ulsterweavers.com/home-accessories/cushions

    For the home chef:

    While not technically a Christmas gift, the chefs who work away in the kitchen on the big day deserve a few bits to make it more enjoyable!

    Bring the Christmas spirit into the kitchen with one of our special winter ranges, featuring everything from oven gloves and gauntlets to Christmas tea towels and aprons. As with all Ulster Weavers products, unique designs are extremely important, and our winter ranges include snow globes, robins and festive garlands.

    For truly traditional Christmas kitchenware try our Christmas feast range, designed in conjunction with Kelly Hall. Featuring a range of useful trays, coasters, mugs and tea towels, the design combines all the elements in a traditional Christmas dinner, meaning it can also act as an impromptu checklist if you’re worried you’ve forgotten something!

    Take a look at the Christmas Feast range here: https://www.ulsterweavers.com/collections/kelly-hall#/collections/kelly-hall/shopby/christmas_/

    With these and hundreds more products on our brand-new website, we could write 10,000 words on all the products we love. Check them out for yourself here: https://www.ulsterweavers.com/

  • Top tips for a family Halloween

    There’s no denying that in recent years, Halloween has become something of a highlight on a family’s social calendar. It’s a great chance to have some fun, show your creativity, and potentially spook your children, and who doesn’t want to do that occasionally!

    To help with your Halloween inspiration, we’ve put together a few ideas on how to decorate your home, as well as interesting Halloween party food ideas to serve up for trick or treaters, or at a spooky get-together.

    Decorate your house.

    You can’t have a Halloween party without making your home spooky, it just wouldn’t be right. However, this doesn’t mean you need to spend lots of money on special decorations that, let’s be honest, are likely to end up in the bin on November 1st.

    We’d suggest using your creative skills, as well as your kids’, to make something a bit different, reflecting your own style and sense of humour, while also saving yourself a bit of money. It also increases the Halloween fun for your kids! Some of our favourite ideas on how to make Halloween decorations include:

    • Another simple Halloween idea is to cut eyes into toilet roll holders and place a small torch or a glow stick inside them. Hide the holders in dark corners or hedgerows. The resulting sinister glowing eyes will spook your family, friends and neighbours! For the ultimate effect, try to use red or green lights.
    • Follow this step-by-step guide on YouTube.For trick-or-treaters in your neighbourhood, you can ‘monsterise’ your front door, turning it into a character all of its own. This can be done in many different ways, but if you treat the letterbox as the ‘mouth’ of the character, you can add teeth by using paper cut to shape, as well as eyes further up the door.
    • If you’re skilled with photo editing software, you could put your head in a jar… Don’t worry, it’s completely painless. It requires you to take 3 photos of your face, from both sides and straight on, blend the photos together, laminate the image, and place it in a large glass jar filled with water and food colouring. Find out how to do this here.

    Make something delicious.

    Halloween wouldn’t be the same without treats for everyone. It’s a big part of the whole experience, and probably our favourite part! If you’re a keen baker, you can produce some fantastic sweeties for the spooky occasion. From literal finger food to spider cookies, it isn’t too difficult to make scary, delicious food with our helpful Halloween tips. Just make sure to grab your special Ulster Weavers Halloween tea towels and oven mitt!

    • For a simple, yet effective, Halloween treat, try making your own spider chip cookies. We’ve got our own favourite cookie recipe as a basis, but any recipe where the chocolate chunks are clearly visible will suffice. To turn chocolate chip cookies into spider cookies, remove the baked cookies from the oven, and immediately take a toothpick or cocktail stick, and streak out the chocolate to look like legs. That’s it!
    • Create creepy ‘finger’ food for a delicious, yet unnerving treat. Simply combine porridge oats, dates, dark chocolate and peanut butter in a food processor and pulse until you have a rubbly consistency. Shape the mixture into fingers, and press a toasted almond flake in to the mixture to represent the fingernail. Store in the fridge until you’re ready to serve them!
    • You can create delicious mummies by coating chipolata sausages in honey, mustard and ketchup, and wrapping in croissant pastry (home-made or pre-rolled). For that added effect, use the mustard to create creepy eyes through a slit in the pastry, perfect for a party!

    Do you have any other special recipes or ideas for Halloween, or have you tried any of ours? Let us know on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

  • National Baking Week – A guide for beginner bakers

    With the rise of TV shows like Great British Bake Off, baking is becoming increasingly popular in the UK. More and more people are picking up their whisks and rolling pins, and turning their hand to creating delicious homemade food in the oven.

    At Ulster Weavers, we’ve made it our mission to get as many people to try their hand at baking as possible, whether it’s encouraging people to show us what they’ve cooked at the weekend with one of our competitions on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (link to competition), or providing the high-quality kitchenware our fans need to get great results and look good whilst doing it, we’re always looking at new ways to help people to improve their baking skills.

    But what about total newcomers? How do you learn to bake? What do you need to know? What baking tips do you need to really help you get ahead in the kitchen? To celebrate #NationalBakingWeek, we’ve aimed to answer some of the key questions for new bakers!

    Read on for our five top tips for baking a cake as rookie bakers, from deciphering the difference between some baking essentials, to tricks and hacks to bake better, faster and easier!

     

    What is the difference between light and dark brown sugars?

    Granulated, caster, icing, muscovado. Browns and whites. The difference between sugars can be a bit of a minefield for the new baker.

    With granulated and caster sugar, you can usually buy it as white or golden. These are almost completely interchangeable. If a recipe calls for golden caster, and you only have white caster, you will get a result that tastes the same, but lacking the rich colour of a golden sugar. When you’re baking your cake, think about the colour you’re aiming for, and pick your sugar accordingly.

    The main types:

    The three main types of sugar used in baking are granulated, caster and icing. The difference between the three is how finely ground they are, with granulated being the coarsest and icing the finest:

    Granulated: If you like sugar in your tea, this is the type you’ll use! Granulated is an excellent all-round sugar for cooking, but it’s too coarse to be used in the majority of cakes.

    Caster: This is the most commonly used form of sugar in baking, as the sugar is fine enough to dissolve in mixtures, removing any grittiness from the finished product.

    Icing: Also known as ‘confectioner’s sugar’, this is the finest form of sugar available. Icing sugar dissolves on contact with water, and so it is most commonly used to, as the name suggests, create icing for a cake, or dusting a finished product. Icing sugar has a tendency to form powdery clouds, so be prepared to thoroughly clean your kitchen surfaces after use, and whisk carefully!

    When you’re baking most cakes, these sugars will suffice. If you decide to turn your hand to something else, be it a chutney or a crumble, you might find yourself needing to use another sugar, such as Demerara. To find out all about them, head to the BBC guide!

    Is bicarbonate of soda the same as baking powder?

    This is a question we hear quite often! A large range of baked goods; require either baking powder or bicarbonate of soda, but most notably cakes. This is because both bicarb and baking powder are raising agents, and do roughly the same thing; they release carbon dioxide when they come into contact with moisture and warmth.

    However, the ways in which the two ingredients work does have an impact on how you use them. Bicarbonate of soda requires an acidic product to mix with in order to produce the gas. This is why you’ll often find it in mixtures that involve lemon, yoghurt, buttermilk or honey. Meanwhile, baking powder has a dried acidic element mixed in, so it is more suitable for cakes without an acidic base, such as a Victoria sponge.

    The short answer: Bicarbonate of soda and baking powder do the same thing, but in different ways. You can use baking powder in place of bicarb, but not the other way round. Using baking powder as a substitute could also adversely impact the taste of your cake.

    How do I know when my cake is ready?

    Every recipe tells you how long your cake will need in the oven, and at what temperature, but many a cake has been burnt/underbaked by taking this information as gospel.

    Every oven is different, and even fan ovens have variations in temperature within them, so it might take slightly longer or shorter to bake a cake in your oven, depending on this. We would advise purchasing an oven-safe thermometer, which can give a much more accurate assessment of your oven temperature than the thermostat on the front, and use that to get the perfect temperature.

    We would also advise setting the timer for a few minutes shorter than advised by the recipe, this gives you the chance to react if the cake is baking faster than anticipated. Although try to avoid opening the door when possible, however once or twice won’t ruin most cakes.

    Finally, an old trick is to insert a knife or skewer into your cake, and if it emerges clean, the cake is baked through. While this does work, we would advise removing the cake when there is still a small amount of residue left on the skewer. The cake will continue to bake for a few minutes after it is removed from the oven, so removing it early will help keep the cake moist.

    The short answer: Keep an eye on oven temperatures, don’t take the information on the recipe as undisputable fact. When removed from the oven, push gently down on the middle of the cake. If it doesn’t spring back, it isn’t ready.

    How do I ice a cake effectively?

    You’ve baked that perfect cake, mixed up your icing, and are now ready to make a masterpiece. While this is more of an artistic skill than the more scientific basis of baking, there are still some steps you can take to get the best result possible.

    The most important step is to ensure your cake has thoroughly cooled before applying icing. If the cake is warm, the icing won’t set, and will slowly melt off the cake, wasting the ingredients and leaving a messy result.

    One clever tip to help get a cleaner top is by crumb coating a cake. To do this, take a small amount of your icing, and apply a thin layer to the surfaces of the cake you intend to ice. This will act as a ‘crumb coat’, sticking down any crumbs or loose pieces of cake, and preventing them from appearing on the surface of the icing.

    Once the crumb coat is set, apply the rest of your icing on top for a clean finish with no crumbs showing.

    The short answer: Make sure your cake is cool before doing anything to it, add a thin layer of icing first to stop crumbs from being visible on the iced surfaces.

    How do I measure ingredients effectively?

    Accurate measurements seem like quite a simple step to take, but something that isn’t often given the appropriate amount of time. The mixture of ingredients in a cake need to be finely balanced, there is a very small margin of error. Too much of one ingredient, or not enough, could leave your cake flat, dry or gritty.

    To avoid this, measure your ingredients carefully, and in advance of making the cake. If you take the time before you begin to have everything ready and pre-measured, it’ll remove the chance for mistakes, and will probably take less time than the alternative.

    With dry ingredients, such as flower and sugar, make sure you sieve them in, this will stop them from sticking together, preventing lumps in your mixture.

    The short answer: Measure in advance, have everything ready to go!

    With these tips, as well as our range of cupcake recipes, you should have everything you need to get started this National Baking Week. We’d love to hear about your baking efforts, and of course if you have any tips of your own, please feel free to share them with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

  • The Best Cupcake Recipes

    Cupcakes are a wonderful thing, that’s something we can all agree on. In the hands of a passionate baker, they can be remarkably beautiful things, and thanks to their size they’ll stay beautiful and don’t need cutting into like a full-size cake!

    At Ulster Weavers, as well as supplying some of the best kitchenware around, we also love learning and sharing baking hints, tips and recipes. So, to celebrate amazing cupcakes, we’d like to share our five favourite recipes ever! We have also included downloadable recipes, to help you produce them yourself. So, don your Ulster Weavers aprons, grab your oven gloves and your kitchen utensils, and try these amazing cupcakes out for yourself!

     

    Chocolate Orange Cupcakes:

    If you’ve ever visited a Hummingbird Bakery, you’ll have seen some delectable cupcakes and other sweet treats on display. Specialising in sinfully decadent treats, Hummingbird are kind enough to share their recipes with the world through their range of cookbooks. Our recipe of choice comes from the Cake Days cookbook, and it produces a wonderfully moist classic choc-orange treat.

    This recipe is a fantastic one to bake with children, it’s remarkably simple and produces results that everyone will love! And just like the cakes, the icing is remarkably simple and packs quite a chocolatey, zesty punch!

    Interested in making these? Download the recipe here!

    Tried this yourself? We’d love to see it! And if you’re after more information on Hummingbird Bakery, be sure to check out their website and blog!

    Raspberry Rosé Cupcakes:

    This recipe, from American blogger Completely Delicious is of her own design, and we can vouch for the quality of cupcake produced. Combining sweet treats with wine is always a good idea in our book, and this combination of hard-hitting raspberry with delicate rosé produces some of the best cupcakes we’ve tried. To give it a go, check out the recipe!

    The icing for these cupcakes is where the real punch lies, but to produce them takes time and effort. These are not cupcakes that can be made quickly! However, we think you’ll agree the results are totally worth it.

    These cupcakes are perfect for a dinner party, or as a sweet treat for a more mature palate, and require a higher skill level than other cupcakes, but if you are confident in the kitchen, the results will be worth it.

    Download the recipe here!

    Honeybee Cupcakes:

    Cupcakes are always quite a fun treat, and the best are decorated in a way that raises a smile before they’ve even been eaten. One of the best cakes for this is this Honeybee design, created by Lisa Roukin.

    Combining the flavours of cinnamon, ginger, red wine and, of course, honey, these cupcakes are extremely soft and gooey, while remaining simple to make and beautiful to look at. The icing makes these cakes perfect for experts on their own, or baking with children, who can produce the decorative bees that proudly adorn the cake.

    Interested in trying this for yourself? Download the recipe here!

    Avocado, Coconut and Chocolate:

    These incredible cupcakes are perfect for a range of diets and tastes, retaining incredible taste and a creamy texture whilst reducing the amount of sugar compared to other recipes. They’re also gluten and dairy free!

    These cupcakes are the work of Christine Bailey, and can be produced very quickly, although they are difficult to master! The icing, although looking predominantly chocolatey, has a surprise kick of ginger along with the creaminess of avocado and the texture of coconut.

    Sound divine to you? Try the recipe out!

    Pumpkin S’mores Cupcakes:

    We finish with the most complicated, but most technically impressive of our cupcakes! These cupcakes might look relatively simple on the outside, but don’t let the appearance deceive you. There is some serious technique required to produce these, with a beautiful chocolatey secret hiding in the heart of them, and a crumbly biscuit base to get that authentic autumnal pumpkin s’more feeling.

    This recipe is the work of Jessica Merchant, so be sure to check her out if you like the recipe, however, we’ve modified it slightly, replacing the Graham crackers with digestives, adding a more British twist to the flavour!

    Fancy giving them a go? Download the recipe here!

    Have you tried any of these recipes? Have any other great recipes to share? We’re always interested to hear about them, and would love to try them ourselves. Let us know on Facebook and Instagram to get involved with our #WeekendBakingProject!

  • A rich tapestry – A brief introduction to Ulster Weavers

    For nearly 140 years, Ulster Weavers has been at the forefront of textile design and innovation, combining high-quality products with traditional and contemporary designs to produce, quite simply, the best kitchen and homewares around.

    Condensing our long history down to a few hundred words is an extremely difficult task, but if you’re interested in learning all about us, from our roots in traditional Irish manufacturing, to the modern company that continues to expand and work with the finest designers around, all whilst meeting standards literally fit for a queen, this is the blog for you!

    For hundreds of years, Ireland has been famous for its peerless linen production, expertly weaving together the fibres of flax plants to produce this soft, flexible and hardy fabric known and loved around the world. One of the most prominent producers of linen in all of Ireland was Moygashel Linens, the oldest remaining connection to Ulster Weavers. Founded in 1795, the company still invokes very positive feelings in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. Since becoming part of Ulster Weavers in the late 1990s, Moygashel Linens has continued to produce the ultimate in high quality linen fabric for home furnishing.

    Another heritage Irish linen brand to join the Ulster Weavers family was Spence Bryson. The Craigavon-based company has been producing high-quality handkerchiefs since July 1891. Since joining Ulster Weavers, the company has epitomised our company ideals, providing the highest-quality products and a range of interesting designs.

    The story of Ulster Weavers itself starts in 1880, with the aim of providing the highest quality linens produced in Ireland. Named after the region that had become world famous for the creators of the finest linen, Ulster Weavers quickly made itself synonymous with Irish linen production, and expanded throughout the late 19th and early 20th century.

    During the 1960s, Ulster Weavers started producing kitchen textiles, a move that came to define the company. Starting with tea towels, the popularity of these items, due to their quality and interesting designs, quickly led the brand to expand into other areas of kitchenware, from aprons to oven gloves, while retaining its focus on quality and quirky designs. This proved to be a huge success and helped Ulster Weavers to find new fans around the world, even attracting royal appreciation!

    In 1995, Ulster Weavers Home Fashions garnered the ultimate recognition for quality available to businesses in the UK, earning a Royal Warrant in 1995, an official marking to confirm that products from this company have supplied a member of the royal family for a minimum of 5 years. Ulster Weavers remain proud royal warrant holders, supplying the Queen’s kitchen textiles ever since; our products are quite literally fit for a queen!

    Throughout our history, we’ve worked with some of the most innovative and exciting designers around, together producing some of the most iconic ranges in our collection. Today, we work with famous designers, up-and-coming talents and household name brands to develop beautiful products that you’ll be proud to have in your home.

    Amongst these brands are Seasalt Cornwall, a British brand famous around the world for its use of soft colours and clean designs, as well as countryside and maritime themes. We’re very proud to produce several ranges with Seasalt, including our ever-popular Sailor Stripe and Scattered Anchor ranges. We’ve also been fortunate enough to work with Mini Moderns, a design collective from London, who shares our love for everything designed in the UK. We have worked closely with Keith Stephenson and Mark Hampshire, the founders of the brand, on several ranges, including our Whitby collection.

    As well as famous brands, we also work with individual designers to help us bring new and interesting ranges into your homes. Amongst them are big industry names like Clarissa Hulse, Madeleine Floyd and Sophie Conran. All three have worked with our in-house team to design everything from ultra-modern patterns to twists on traditional designs and seasonal styles, providing a depth of character unparalleled in the industry.

    While we don’t know what the future holds for us, we’ve worked hard to build a company to be proud of, helping to brighten up homes for more than a century. We hope to continue to do so, reaching more and more people, and expanding the rich tapestry that we have built upon so far.

    To see the latest products and news from Ulster Weavers, check out the rest of our website!

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