::Ta-Dah!! Pretty Poncho happiness::

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Oh my goodness! It is with great pleasure that I am FINALLY sharing this with you. After the planning, designing and deciding stages, then months and months of making, tweaking and finalising, it has to be the most favourite thing I have ever made and I ‘m so happy with it. My Pretty Poncho.

CAM00189It all started when I saw a beautiful Pretty Peruvian pPoncho in a magazine and was umming and arhhing about whether to make one. I began collecting images of ponchos that I loved here on my Pinterest board Poncho Love. Then to top it all off, I saw my blog friend Lucy’s Home Poncho over on Attic24 and I decided YES! It can get a bit chilly here in the Hayloft especially when you move away from the Aga in the kitchen. Many evenings working on school work, sometimes blogging and catching up with my Facebook friends, can get a bit shivery. A poncho would be just the job. It wouldn’t slip off my shoulders like my blanket sometimes does!CAM00191So it started back in February with this post. It started when I spotted this amazing yarn from Deramores Cascade 220 solid in it’s amazing range of about 150 colours. Yes approximately 150 colours of pure peruvian wool. Poncho heaven.

20140420_190606There was some designing involved, taking me back to my design roots. I have a Bachelor of Design degree in textiles, bet many of you don’t know that! Yes I do! I worked freelance in the textile industry designing knitwear and attending trade shows around the world before my two little bundles of joy arrived. So with my pretty poncho project, I gave myself the opportunity to design, to play with the scrumptious colours, to mood board, sketch, create shade cards and to play! I explain about all of this in my entry for the blog awards.

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I made a start; with no pattern to go from I felt my way and tried to keep to the image in my head of how I wanted it to turn out! Not an easy task, really, especially when you want it to be finished like yesterday! I can be so impatient and rush ahead. But no, I wanted my poncho to be beautiful, and I didn’t want to have to pull it out; frogging can be so tiresome!

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As you can see I started with a square ‘hole’ for my head! Wrong!! I pulled it out and started again, this time with 42 foundation chains, then I slipped stitch 3 into the end one before returning 42 chains back and slip stitching it together and making 3 slip stithies into this end too. Then there was that tricky first row of double crochets. Tricky because you have to make sure the chain doesn’t twist! Careful now… no twisting! Yay!! Phew

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As I got to the ‘points’  I made two stitches into the point stitch, then slip stitch and then two more stitches into the point stitch. This gave me a new point and a space in the middle of it to make a new point on the next round. I hope that makes sense! This gave me the classic ‘v’ shaped poncho with a point at each side- front and back. Oh it made my brain hurt for a bit, but once sorted I was off!

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I know some of you will want to know about the colours I chose – a very tricky job when there are almost 150 amazing Cascade colours to choose from all singing and zinging. However, I knew my palette would be based on my favourite colours of teal, raspberry, lime and purple, with some peruvian poncho red, orange and a hint of blue. There were many colours that I introduced and only used once or twice, one of them was yellow, it just didn’t please me. Then there were others that went together in a stunning way – of course there were others that got rapidly pulled out because they didn’t quite ‘click’. Overall I am blissfully happy with my colour combos and there are little areas where I have taken colour inspiration for other projects. My ripple blanket for example.

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It was extremely satisfying to se my poncho grow before my eyes. The Cascade 220 is a chunky yarn and is so wonderfully easy to crochet with no splitting or squeaking, it just flows off the hook in a wonderful rhythm. I used a 5mm Addis hook, I like the way it fits in my hand, especially for this chunky yarn. The pattern for the poncho is of my own making, based on a kind of granny stripe idea. I made it up as I went along; rows of trebles and doubles, some treble clusters and there is a kind of repeat, of pattern anyway not colour combos! Getting through the rows didn’t take so long really. All 73 beautiful rows. The rows basically go like this; {dc- single trb – dc – single trb – single trb – dc – single trb –  dc – dc – trb clusters – single trb – trb clusters } and back to the start. There was a point half way where I did two rows of treble closers back to back to mark the halfway down point!

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Outside evening hooky is so wonderfully relaxing, and I whiled away the hours sitting in the garden over the late spring into summer, entertaining friends and sometimes just entertaining myself enjoying the early summer. I wanted to get my poncho finished to wear in France on our holiday and the stitches found their way through the fabric and the colours began to blend; it has been so admired.

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Then there was a row of picot edging around the top edge and the tassels! Oh wow, they took a while. 126 perfectly formed shamrock style flowers – just because I liked them. Oh I loved making them. I took both of these patterns from my Edie Eckman book Around the corner. They were pinned and blocked so that they would hang beautifully and not curl up and yes, that did take some time, but it was very worthwhile. They swish and tassel and swing in style!

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Finally there were the ends! I sewed each one in individually as I find it gives a better finish and they are firm: I am more confident that they won’t unravel and twist out. Again time consuming but very worth it, having spent so long on this project, it was the right thing to do.

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20140726_230441So there you have it. Are you ready for the Pretty Poncho reveal? It was ready to go to France and I had great fun prancing about in the maize fields (sadly the sunflowers were passed their best) with Mr Mixture wielding the camera. Work that poncho Mrs Mixture!

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There you have it. My Pretty Peruvian Poncho. I love it. I have given as many nuggets of help as I can in this post so if you want to have a go-please do. I would love to see any peruvian poncho inspired makes. However I won’t write up the pattern – it grew organically and it would take me a very long time to get it written up into some kind of order. I am very willing to help anyone who would like a try. Go on- have a go. You won’t regret it! :O)xxx

::Returning::

Oh my it has taken a while to get around to this post. Returning from holiday, returning to school, returning back to the rhythm of life after a stupidly hectic Autumn term.

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Paris and France seem like an incredibly long time ago; wandering in the steaming streets following the summer downpours, a visit to L’Oisive The (even though it was closed for the french national holiday fortnight), balconies and beautiful architecture at every turn, great coffee, the views from the Eiffel Tower, the smell of freshly baked pattisserie, fields full of maize, sunflowers and grapes, returning to the farmhouse for simple freshly cooked dinners.

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It was a swift return straight into school with a bump, returning home on Friday and back to school Monday, having washed, cleaned, filled up cupboards of food, planned lessons and whooooosh, there I was back in class with a lovely bunch of new Year 6 children. We are studying The Victorians so the class is themed around Sherlock Holmes, at the moment.

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The following weekend it was the returning of my eldest E to Leeds for year two of Music production and composition. Moving him into his new flat, with flatmates and a new location for him to investigate, new relationships for him to forge and a new set of challenges for him has taken it’s toll on him and consequently me too. I miss him._DSC0098

A twenty second wedding anniversary meal followed the next weekend; returning to the two of us in the next few years is something we have begun to talk about. When both of our boys are at university, exploring their path through the world and it is just the two of us at home isn’t, in reality, too far away. I have mixed emotions about it. Having a house full of laughter, little feet, daily, hourly, investigations and wonder with small children will be replaced by time spent together again, returning to the two of us of twenty or so years before. I relish the thought of coming and going as we please. I look forwards to seeing our boys, now almost men, make their way and supporting, enjoying, and feeling so incredibly proud of their skills, personalities and choices.

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Returning to Yarndale the next weekend was amazing; taking my Mum as a birthday treat, catching up with Lucy from Attic24 and Amanda from The natural Dye Studio. Showing off my Poncho and my kaleidoscope blanket to them filled me with joy. So much in common, so many shared pleasures and time to indulge and share. Lovely. Treating my lovely Mum to the Yarndale trip filled me with such pleasure, the kind of pleasure you get from being generous and unselfish with your time for the delight of others. Spending time with my one year old nephew and my ‘baby’ brother in nearby Harrogate over the weekend and his “How long does it take to look at wool?” comments made me smile.yarndale 14 2yardale 2014Then there was the many happy returns of J’s fiftieth birthday weekend last week. Yes my husband is a whole big fifty! Where did the time go? He had no idea of the surprise birthday party, returning to my brother’s house to host it. We enjoyed a love filled, family filled day of reminiscence, memories and laughter and a wonderful hillwalking cake made by my lovely mum. Then I was forty five the following day. Hmmmmm…..

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So here I am with a half term of …. no plans. Wow. I have some catching up to do, the house needs some love, tidying, and sorting. I am full of cold, I have shared my germs unfortunately as I have shared my past four weekends. I am in need of some crochet therapy and intend to do just that. Recharge my batteries, drool over my Yarndale purchases, reflect on my last few weeks and return myself to full health before round two and the run down to Chrsitmas. Oh boy, it looks like it will be some ride! :O)xx

::Food fest at our house::

I love summer food. A food fest. Salad, coleslaw, especially red cabbage coleslaw, and lots and lots of lovely juicy fruit salads. Then there are the savoury salads, oh my! Avocado, walnut and peach – yum yum. Feeling inspired to try a new salad courtesy of my blogland friend Loopy, I decided to team it with some homemade pizzas too. Here is the post that set me off on this food fest at our house extravaganza.

20140805_185434Look I made it- however I didn’t have pumpkin seeds so I used toasted walnut pieces instead and I used cider vinegar (not as sweet or sugary). It was yummy. Hmmm… but what to have with it? A good fest needs to have … more food!  So I started some gluten free bread in the bread maker – I know cheating but I was busy packing for my holiday and writing this post!

I used 450g of gluten free bread flour,  270ml of warm water, pinch of salt, 1 yeast sachet, 1 teaspoon of sugar, knob of butter and that was it.

If not using a bread maker then mix and combine, and once mixed put in a warm bowl and cover with cling film for about 1 1/2 hours. then knead it until soft and forgiving. I used it to make two bases by rolling it out. I covered two large baking trays and then left them for about 15 mins whilst I did the rest.

20140805_184047I fried off some red onion and some portobello mushrooms which were not going to last a three week holiday, no they weren’t. Added garlic to some chopped tomatoes and whizzed them up to make a tomato sauce for the base.

20140805_184100This one had the tomato base, the onion and mushroom mixture, olives, and some ricotta cheese blobs. I added the rest of the grated cheddar towards the end.20140805_191900Then I made one for the boys with plain pepperoni, ham and cheddar- they don’t do olives and ricotta!20140805_190335

It was all so very delicious and food fest like. So a blogland friends post about her well-being and recipes turned into a food fest at our house! Oh how lovely it all was, and there is even a bit left over for lunch tomorrow. Hmmm… what to have then- I’ll be checking with Loopy to see if she has anymore ideas!

 

::That holiday feeling::

I’m feeling refreshed and beginning to get that holiday feeling now: the one just before we go away. We’re preparing for a three week holiday in France- yes, that’s right three weeks! I am so happy to be rested and ready with my holiday feeling just about peaking ready for the off.

poncho edgeOver the last few weeks I have completed many projects that have prepared me for that holiday feeling and in readiness for the new term in September. Here are a few peeks.

20140726_21153920140726_230441Oh those ends, they always take ages and I dread starting them but it looks so much better once they’re done. This is just a sneaky peak at my completed Poncho- I’m taking it to France to photograph in the beautiful and abundant sunflower fields surrounding the house we will be staying at (once we’ve left Paris!) I think having spent  months on this project and taking so much care and attention of it that it’s only right for me to do it justice in a proper photo shoot! YaY! I do looooove this project so much- it really does make my heart sing just to look at it and feel it’s glorious textures! Ahhhhhhhh… (sighs wistfully).poncho finishingI’m hoping that I’ll be able to wear my poncho on those dusky, sunset evenings when it is feeling a little chilly in the air. Oh happy holiday! Next there was the arrival of some beautiful Drops Muskat cotton- well I had ordered it so it was expected. But how soft, luscious and lovely this yarn is – waiting to be whipped up into some beautiful blankets and cushions me thinks!

muskatThen there was the completing of my classroom- having moved classrooms again. This is a huge job, files, resources, relabelling drawers (which my amazing class partner K will do this time) and then the reorganising, re-theming and sorting out of everything from bookshelves to backing paper. As we’re doing a terms topic on The Victorians, we decided to go with a Sherlock theme for the first half term (and a Charles Dickens one for the next half when we do Oliver Twist). Also a bit of a school room feel. What do you think?20140804_13003420140804_130055

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And then there are my garden projects. I’ve never been able to grow Clematis before, they’ve always wilted, dried up, died or just never done anything. But look..

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A proper flower and seed head! I love how this looks so spiky but it’s actually really soft and fluffy! Then there are my geraniums and nasturtiums ditto for them too- it must be the weather we’ve had this year. I know, back in June,  when I see summer blooms that the holidays are not far around the corner.

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So we are getting packed and ready to load up the roof box, pack those bags (including suncream and aftersun, of course), crank up the bike rack and of course the crochet bag. I’ll be working on my kaleidoscope blanket whilst I’m away- lots to catch up on and it’s quite portable and not so big and warm to sit under! Hey ho! That holiday feeling- ready, steady, we’re off!

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::P, P, Pick up a poncho – again ::

10500531_830857983600104_1603038425053066168_nOk, it’s a work in progress, a WIP as they say. It remains in progress, but my poncho is getting more and more beautiful and colourful as it grows. And it’s nearly there. I keep on p, p, picking up that poncho!10325347_829597540392815_7396260218902141198_nBut then I put it down as something else takes over. My Ripple stitch blanket was the most recent distraction. 20140713_18473510389357_822150724470830_4787128616661467355_nThen there will be my Kaleidoscope CAL blanket again. They seem to do triangular rotation, depending on my mood, time and inclination.20140510_09444220140531_163331k blanketNow back to the poncho again. You may remember how it started back at the beginning of the year.CAM00183The beautiful yarn I purchased from Deramores, gorgeous Cascade Peruvian wool, very apt indeed considering the inspiration.

5a872-6a0192aab0192b970d01a73d7c9d4b970d-pi20140420_190606Then there was the starting off, and the pulling out, the frogging, the restart and then the progress.20140513_20015420140525_082255It will give me great pleasure to wear my poncho on our French holiday when we arrive at the Farmhouse we are borrowing from a colleague. We have been before, three times, and it ‘s almost like having a family holiday home. I’ll tell you about it soon, but for now it’s time to concentrate on the Poncho, to get it finished for my cool French evenings with my local wine, cheese and some amazing bread. I’ll enjoy wearing it for evening sunset walks – when I get it finished! Need to keep on p, p, picking up my poncho!poncho 1

::Moving on:

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It is always with a mixture of emotions that I approach the end of the school term as a Deputy Head teacher, a year 6 class teacher, a parent and just as me! In all aspects moving on is a key theme.

The changes happening within school, moving classrooms for September, moving files, records and handing over to the next teacher, transition for the children, the emotional last few weeks for the year 6 children as they begin their moving on journey mentally for secondary school, all bring their stresses, strains and emotional roller coasters. Especially in this hot and humid weather!

20140531_142114In addition there are my sons own transitional journeys: one moving back home from first year at university and the entering of his final GCSE year for my youngest. And then there is me. The ending of another year brings home the knowledge that I know I have made a difference to the children in my school, class and my boys; their outlooks, self-belief, confidence and resilience to move onto new challenges. Moving on confidently is the aim in every sense. I believe I achieved it.

I spent Friday, our last day of term, in a parallel world. On the one hand I marvelled in the joy and knowledge that the year 6 children have the ability to put together a leaver’s assembly that represents their journey through our changing school. The reminiscing, laughing, crying and togetherness of a shared journey through their childhood, supported by dedicated staff, challenged by their peers. I continue to learn from them. It was wonderful to drink in the amazement, wonder and pleasure they had in this their final event in our school. It brought them a mixture of emotions: some they couldn’t contain. Those recent, quiet moments at home, spending a little bit of time on myself, have helped me to get through.

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But on the other hand, I also spent Friday consoling, reassuring and sharing, time, hugs and experiences with the children who have been a huge part of my life this year. This was a special year group for me – they were my first Reception class in this school seven years ago and it has been such a privilege to watch these young people grow over the years, from curious, exploring, exuberant infants to confident, open-minded, responsible juniors. I am extremely proud of every one of them.

Now I say changing school, because we also had the challenge of Ofsted this week. Yes the last week of term. It was both unexpected at this late stage and also a blessing in disguise – I no longer have to worry over the summer about a first week Ofsted in September. It is done and dusted. It went well. We have all worked so very hard. I am so very, very tired. I have spent my evenings snuggled under my growing ripple stitch blanket trying to stay awake to communicate with my family!

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Moving on for me over the next few weeks involves a substantial amount of rest. Sharing my life with a large primary school is a huge commitment for me and my family: their patience and understanding are what gets me through the months, weeks, days and hours that I spend in this highly intensive, challenging and immensely rewarding job. I love my job. It is a privilege.

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My many craft, crochet, baking and sewing projects will help me along. I will be spending lots of time with my family: holidaying in France (Ulcot actually- here on the map and below in the picture), walking up fells, lazy days at home, and we’ll be sharing experiences, laughs, love, kindness, challenges and time.

beckermondsThe surrounding sunflower fields of our holiday destination.

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Then there are my copious gifts. Many, many beautiful and generous gifts from children in the school, not just my class. But also colleagues.

20140720_111154This one just about sums it up. Its a beautiful vase from my colleague by Rob Ryan and it reads, ‘There is no such thing as spare time. There is no such thing as work time. There is no such thing as quality time. There is no such thing as free time. There is no such thing as down time. There is only time.’

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Over the summer months, I will be preparing my boys for their next journey through life, moving onto pastures new. A new shared flat for E as he enters his second university year and the final year of GCSE for Little J (although he will be JP from now on- he is much taller than me!) He has many ideas, hopes and dreams for his future yet to unfold and it never ceases to astound me how much I admire my two offspring. It catches me unawares sometimes and I have to take a moment to compose myself as it overwhelms me. As new parents J and I always joked that our babies didn’t come with a manual, we would always do what felt right for us, they would be treated as individuals and although we would make mistakes as parents, we would make them together and with the very best intentions, always. They are so very different, yet so similar! ( I pinched the eye idea from Lucy@Attic24).

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In our summer of moving on, I couldn’t be more filled with pride, love, joy and delight at my wonderful sons. I don’t mind saying, I feel we have done an awesome job so far. My heart is full and overflowing; it swells every time I think of the independent individuals our boys have become. As a Mum, I am also moving on.

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:: Ripple all the way::

20140713_173815I know, I know you wait weeks for a post and then two come along within a short space of time!! But, I am so enjoying my ripple stitch summer blanket at the moment- it really is relaxing, the repetition of the ripples forming a lovely little rhythm. I have had a rare afternoon of snugglery on the sofa rippling all the way. Blissful.

20140713_183435I’m also enjoying being random, but still not quite random. I know that doesn’t make any sense at all. Let me explain. I have my big bag of style craft colours and I choose three that compliment each other, then I work them in making sure I do a double row of treble stitches  and two single rows of treble stitches of each colour. Every 8 rows or so I add a single treble stripe of plum, then off I go again with the stripes. That’s as much pattern repeat as it gets. It really is random colours for my ripple all the way!20140713_184812I decided to call it Summer Ripple Blanket because of the array of beautiful summer ice-cream and sunshine colours. It’s going to live happily in Doris caravan ands it was essential that it had a summery feel to it.20140713_184722I do love it so.20140713_184838Now for the folded shots, lets pose, left, right, work that ripple! Oh Yeah!20140713_184920

20140712_122708And… here is a little bit of help for those wanting to give it a try. I’m not great with the diagram malarchy but I hope it helps. For the treble together are when you get through the first loop stage of your treble and hold it on your hook whilst you get to the next stage with the following stitch (3 loops on your hook) then you pull the yarn through them all. It gives you a ‘v’ shape which forms the trough of your ripple. The two treble stitches into the same loop give you the ‘peak’ or upside down ‘v’ at the other end. It really doesn’t matter how many trebles you have in between, I have 4 on each side of the peaks and troughs, as long as they are equal. The multiples for your foundation chain will need to be even – the number of chains in the side parts (mine is 4) then 6 additional for the peaks and troughs, then 3 for turning at the end. I measured the space I wanted mine to fit then did the fancy maths to figure out how many chains that would be based on my little sample of repeats. There is more detail for this in Lucy’s amazing post at Attic24 – she describes it so much better than me. happy ripple hooky. •∆•∆•∆•∆•∆•∆•∆•

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