Sophie Kingo Blogs

Insight into Sophie Kingo's African-Scandinavian inspired clothing and accessories


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New home: Finlay’s room

I wrote most of this post in the late afternoon of Good Friday – 3rd April 2015 – and abandoned ship after I realised what I thought might be contractions definitely were contractions. 17 hours later our first child, Finlay, was born. Unfortunately, 90 minutes after birth Finlay was whisked away to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) fighting a serious infection affecting his lungs and blood pressure. After 14 days in NICU and SCBU, we were able to bring Finlay home well and happy. 

This post is about the room we decorated at home to be Finlay’s first room – his ‘nest’. In reality, Finlay’s first nest was the one with all the machines and drugs keeping him alive shown in the image on the left.

You can read the poem ‘Three Nests’ that my husband wrote during Finlay’s stay in NICU, which describes the nest we made (this one), the one we mocked and the one we sat in. 

 

Between renovating the bathroom in May and relaxing over Christmas, very little happened on the home renovating front. You may remember back in June I mentioned that we had been having difficulties with a structural engineer for our plans for the downstairs. Then in November I shared the news that we were expecting an addition to the H-B household. Well, we managed to find a new structural engineer and engage the services of a builder for our major building work downstairs – more on that in a future blog post – which was due to start in January.

But before tackling the structural work downstairs, the hubby and I thought it necessary to tackle the room that was to be the baby’s room. We booked our builder to come just before New Year, and before he started downstairs, to come and help us get started.

These old Edwardian houses were designed as two-up two-downs. They were cheaper housing, likely for manual workers (indeed some of the previous owners of this house included fish sellers) and were not particularly plush, though I’m not sure these were the cheapest housing stock of the time either. They were made up of a hallway, leading to a small galley kitchen at the back, next to a dining room, with a living room at the front. The stairs run up the middle between the living and dining rooms. These stairs then went up to the first floor between a front bedroom and a back bedroom. At the top would be a door to the front room, opposite a door to the back. There would be no landing.

This is, I believe, how many of the houses down our and surrounding streets have since remained. Many have added an upstairs bathroom which doesn’t have direct access but is instead accessible via the main and second bedrooms.

Processed with MoldivHowever, our house is somewhat different. A landing has been installed between the stairs and the back, second bedroom. This leads to our bathroom and stairs going up to the loft. The previous owners had installed this landing when they had the loft converted. But they made one particularly bizarre decision – to put the door to the second bedroom in the middle of the wall to the landing, rather than at the edge. This wasted rather a lot of space in the room, leaving in effect only two usable walls. The room also had massively uneven walls, a damp patch in the ceiling where we’d had a leak in November, and a delightful 70s cork floor. And it was painted in that lovely creamy white that I think the previous owners must have got a job lot on.

Our plan: to make a dry, cosy and practical room for our new addition

I had been pulling together a Pinterest board for inspiration for the baby room since we discovered we were expecting. Jeff and I decided not to find out the sex of the baby; neither of us had a real hankering to know. But what we did know was that there was no way we were planning to instill gender ideals into this baby of ours. It never occurred to us to paint the nursery either blue or pink or stock up on blue or pink clothing depending on what sex the baby is. It really perplexes and annoys me when people would say, on finding out we don’t know whether we’re having a girl or boy: “but how do you know what colour to paint the nursery?” or “how will you buy things in preparation?”. My annoyance was compounded when I received the following email from the BabyBump app we were advised to download to guide us through pregnancy (see image below).

pink or blue

Apparently,when decorating a baby room parents-to-be should:

1. Decide on a theme. Girls like fairies, ballerinas, flowers. Anything pretty and delicate. Obviously. While boys like anything masculine. Think mechanical or strong. You know, space ships, trains, dinosaurs. Obviously. (Now, if you read my Sophie Kingo is getting married blog you’ll know my thoughts on themes.)

2. Use the colour befitting of a girl or boy – i.e. pink or blue respectively.

3. Mix the theme with the gender-specific colour. So think ballerinas, bunnies and flowers in nice pink and lilac hues for girls, and spaceships, vehicles and dinosaurs on a nice boyish blue background for boys.

And if you don’t know the sex of your new baby? Luckily the BabyBump app gave some tips of how to handle that scenario.

Anyway, I could rant on about gender stereotyping and the limits it places on individuals and society for some time. But this is about our baby room renovation, so I’ll just leave you with a few links worth taking a look at at the end of this post (sadly I couldn’t find the articles that have stuck with me on this subject to include here today).

Back to the baby room.

Just before New Year, the builder worked his magic moving the door from the middle of the wall to the end, which gave us a lot more room and turned the room from a wide corridor to a roomwith three usable walls, replastered all walls and the ceiling to get a smooth finish and replaced the skirting boards, adding a bead to the top to tie them in with the original skirting boards in the front bedroom and living room.

Processed with MoldivIt was then onto the decorating. We chose a lovely off white/pale grey matt emulsion – Snowfall by Crown – for the walls and brilliant white for the ceiling and woodwork, a pale beige loop carpet, a white wooden venetian blind and multi-coloured spot curtains made by Mormor (my mum).

As for the furniture, there was only one piece that was new – the cot, which was a generous gift from Jeffrey’s cousin and her family. For the rest of the furniture, we spruced up an old wardrobe that was made by the previous owner’s granddad, and which the vendors left behind for us, and a book shelf and sideboard that were made by my dad for my room renovation when I was 14- years-old.

We added a few pictures to the wall that I had acquired over the years – including a print of a silk painting of Tivoli Gardens in Copenhagen that I bought in about 1997, my GCSE art piece from 2000, an original little piece bought on Las Ramblas in Barcelona in 2002, and a scene from a H.C. Andersen fairytale that I bought in about 2005 – and a moon and star nightlight from Ikea (the moon was one I bought back in about 1998).

A multi-coloured homemade crochet mobile that I knocked up a few weeks ago hangs proudly over the cot and a little hook rack made by my Dad a few years ago is home to a few nice pieces of clothing we have been given from friends and family.

There are still a couple of bits we’re waiting for – including a nursing chair for the corner – but otherwise we’re done. And now that Finlay is home we can enjoy using it for nappy changes till he moves into it properly.

 

A few articles on gender stereotyping and colours:

Out of the blue and in the pink

From TV to toys: What makes girls into girls and boys into boys?

Gender Roles and Childhood Development

(I will be adding more articles as and when I come across them. And hopefully when I find the excellent few articles I have read on the matter over the past year or so.


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Rainbow baby blanket

In August this year, the hubby and I discovered we are expecting a baby due April 2015. So out came the yarn, crochet hooks, knitting needles, etc. to start making. I’ll be sharing everything I make for the baby as and when I complete them.

First up, a crocheted rainbow zigzag blanket, inspired by this crochet ripple baby blanket, made with Rico cotton dk.

blanket 1 blanket 2 blanket 3 blanket 4 blanket 6

 

 


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Knitted dress – Rowan Tammie

Back in late summer 2013 I treated myself to some Rowan Lima yarn. And it was a treat by the price it cost! I wanted to knit the Tammie “ribbed sweater” from Rowan Studio Issue 28, but knew there was no way I could knit it in the required Kid Classic as I can’t tolerate wearing lambswool or mohair – I find them far too itchy. So I chose the Lima, a soft and lightweight baby alpaca and merino wool yarn, instead. The gauge is pretty similar and I just made sure I did a gauge swatch to get the right tension.

I also knew I wanted to make some changes to the Tammie. For a start, the version on the model – being a “sweater” – was too short as a dress, even thought they styled it as one. Secondly, I didn’t like the sleeves. So I bought enough of the main colour to lengthen it by several centimetres and decided to end with the second colour as cap sleeves.

But I took too long to get the Tammie dress going, and by spring was no where near half way through the second side. So I put it away and waited for autumn to come round again. By this September I was 10 weeks pregnant and worried that I wouldn’t fit into the dress anymore, but I decided to continue to make it anyway and see how it went. It was, after all ribbed which would stretch over a growing bump. But then I picked up my crochet hook and started crocheting a baby blanket – more on that later – and the Tammie dress got sidelined again.

However, come November I was back onto the dress (which, being dark purple and a plaited yarn was quite tricky to work with on a cosy evening in Walthamstow with the nights drawing in) and finally completed it just after Christmas. Here it is. Complete with 26 week bump.

Knitted dress 2 Knitted dress

knitted dress 3


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New home: bathroom

The thing about our new house is, our love of it has never been the décor. It’s not to our taste – the hall is yellow and grey/purple, the living room a pale brown with gold aztec style border, and the dining room turquoise and green. But it feels right. Yep. We had the feeling when we looked round it. But it needs work and we have plans.

We decorated the loft first as it was a relatively straight forward transformation – a few licks of paint, a new carpet and a load of furniture, with a bit of style thrown in. We were then hoping to start work on the downstairs and our extension plans for a nice open plan kitchen/dining/living area, but have been held up by a not-so-reliable structural engineer. So instead we turned our attentions to the bathroom.

When we looked round our new house, the bathroom certainly didn’t blow us away. But it didn’t send us running for the hills either; it was livable. At our old flat in Highbury the bathroom was a simple (pretty large, actually) cube with nice clean white suite, towel rail, large mirror and large well-laid tiles. Our new bathroom was quite a contrast – black mock flock wallpaper, a black rubbery radiator, tiles on top of tiles, black painted hearth under the toilet, two layers of cork tiles under mock tile lino and a filthy toilet.

We were the first people to live in our Highbury flat, so the bathroom was always clean and well maintained. But when we moved into our new house we realised how grubby the bathroom was. No amount of scrubbing, bleach and toilet cleaner was going to leave it fresh and sparkling. Everything had to go.

bathroom before 1bathroom before 2

Our plan: to create a simple, modern and light bathroom. 

I had been curating a Pinterest board of inspiration for some months and we had lots of ideas of what we wanted. But there was a long list of stuff to do to get to that. We had to have:

  • the ceiling brought down and a new one put up
  • two layers of tiles removed
  • three layers of flooring removed
  • the door removed
  • the bath, sink and toilet removed
  • the tiled concrete hearth under toilet removed
  • all plaster board replaced and walls and ceiling skimmed
  • pipes moved
  • a new boiler installed
  • a new electrics board put in
  • new lights and fan installed
  • new shower, toilet, sink and heated towel rail installed
  • new tiling done
  • a boiler housing and cupboard made
  • new flooring laid
  • new door hung
  • new accessories

Although we did have to endure several days of no ceiling (and thus regular showers of dust and dirt falling on us), a night without any hot water, several days with a toilet that could only be flushed with a bucket of water and a few days of no shower, luckily Jeffrey and I were in Cannes for our friends’ wonderful Anglo-French wedding for much of the messy work.

It has been quite a slow process getting it all done. The finished product? Well, see for yourself.

We decided against getting a bath – shock horror – and plumped for a nice large walk-in shower with drench and movable shower heads, large off-set rectangular white gloss tiles, a wonderful grey rubber floor, a simple white suite and a homemade (by me) roman blind.  We also bought a new Victorian style door to replace the 1960s monstrosity that was there before (sadly we couldn’t find an original reclaimed door at the salvage yard) and got the new boiler boxed in with storage by a carpenter. You can see a full list of items, at the end of this post.

There are a few elements still to be finished – a picture above the toilet and a small bit of boxing in of toilet pipes, for example – but we’re pretty much there. And we’re very happy with it.

List of items:


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New clothes for me

The last time I blogged about anything I made for myself, was way back in April 2013 when I shared this new dress.

Since then I have done a few bits of sewing – mostly girls’ dresses, tote bags, infinity scarves and zip pouches (which, consequently I haven’t shared on here – d’oh). But this year I found a renewed desire to get making for myself.

So here are three things I’ve made for myself:

A little African print jacket

I love this fabric, so decided to make a simple little item using just three sections and some navy cotton facing. I rustled this up in under 2 hours.

photo (31)

 

 

 

 

 

Another shift dress

Perhaps no surprises here. Yes, it’s another shift dress.

image

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A maxi

What’s that? Another purple and turquoise dress? Who’d have thought it?

This time it’s a maxi which I made specifically for two occasions: 1) the April Mouse-X premier which the hubby and I helped crowdfund, and 2) my lovely friend Emma’s wedding to Stephane in Grasse on the Côte d’Azur in May. I made this using my wonderful 30th birthday present from my husband – a Supafit dress form (best dress making accessory ever!)

maxi

image (1)

 

 


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New home: a few photos

Knitting and sewing has taken a bit of a back seat of late as we think about (and start work on) our new home. But the creativity has just been redirected.

Back in February I shared pictures of our sewing/spare room that we decorated almost as soon as we moved in. It’s proving delightful – cosy and practical – with lovely peaceful views of East London flight paths and sunsets that the hubby and I find ourselves frequently admiring.

Things have slowed quite somewhat after the loft decorating. We have plans to knock out a few walls and do a new extension for a kitchen/living space, but a dodgy structural engineer put a few hurdles in the way (subsequently, we can tell you who to use and who to avoid if you’re looking for London Structural Engineer recommendations!). But it hasn’t completely halted and we have made some progress (more on the in a future post).

But first, I thought I would share some images of our new home – a 1902 early Edwardian terrace in Walthamstow, East London – from when we moved in back in December.

Bear in mind, this is how we’ve set things up to make it as homely as possible until we tackle the decor, which isn’t at all what we would go for. But these things take time.


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New home: Sewing/spare room

Sewing has taken the backseat somewhat after the last Sophie Kingo market stall at Brixton Market in October 2013. But, fear not, I’m hoping to start up again thanks to a new and dedicated sewing space.

For the past four years, sewing has been confined to the dining table in the cosy living space of our one-bedroom Highbury Stadium Square home. But in December, four years and one week after moving into Highbury, the hubby and I waved goodbye to our first home together and ventured 4.9 miles north east to Walthamstow. To a house. With stairs. Three bedrooms. And a garden. And this means room for my very own sewing area. Score!

I will be blogging our home renovation progress – and heck, is there some work to be done?! – as we go. We will be knocking down a few walls, upgrading the extension, re-configuring and replacing the kitchen, refurbishing the sash windows, replacing the bathroom and decorating every room.

First stop, and complete two months after moving in – the room with the least work to do. The loft.

BeforeOn the left you can see the loft in the hands of a 21 year-old guy who lived in the house with his parents before we moved in. The walls – like most of the walls in this house – were a mucky beige, the floor was covered with dark brown lacquered cork tiles and the staircase was lacquered wood. Overall, the room was nicotine stained, smelled of stale smoke and had years worth of paint painted over everything.

It wouldn’t work as a sewing room as it was.

 

 

 

 

 

Our plan: to create a fresh, cosy and practical spare room cum sewing room cum office space. 

With a bit of elbow grease (read several days of painting walls and woodwork), a lick of paint (read three coats of pure white matt emulsion on the walls, three coats of eggshell on the bannister and three coats of floor paint on the stairs), a few minor electrical jobs (thanks to the hubby’s ever expanding DIY skills) and a dash of inspiration (collated on a Pinterest board) we created a spare room that is bright, clean and cosy, with space to relax, sew and admire the views of the top of the Shard, the Gherkin and the BT Tower. And, of course, in the on trend colours of grey, yellow and white.

loftWe bought most of the furniture from Ikea – bed, bedside unit, desk, picture shelf and storage unit, and painted the Ikea chest of drawers the seller left with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Paris Grey. 

In my many hours on Pinterest I stumbled upon the wonderful world of pegboards for housing all things craft. Feeling inspired by Slugs on the Lettuce’s home made pegboard, the hubby and I went on the hunt for materials. Unfortunately, it seems pegboards are confined to the shops of the yesteryear, with many now preferring to use slatboard or just plain shelving over pegboard. We couldn’t find any in any of the East London DIY shops. But my Dad wouldn’t have it, so took over the hunt up in Hull. Failing to find anywhere that would supply him with less than an inordinate amount, he set about making his own, marking out and drilling holes every inch along a piece of plywood before attaching it to a frame and painting it submarine yellow on my orders.

Add a few embroidery hoops of West African print fabrics and a flash or two of kente, a simple mirror, an Anja Jane yellow and grey owl print and the screen print of our wedding date my sister did at my hen do to the walls, and yellow Ikea bedding, a grey hare cushion from Habitat and my almost 30-year-old Popple to the bed, et voila. Our perfect sewing/spare/office room is ready to go. Now, while we wait for the builders to get on with downstairs, I’m going to set to sewing.

 

 

 

 

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