Sophie Kingo Blogs

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


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New home: Garden

This one really has been a long time coming.

When we moved into our new home in December 2013, our new dinky (but manageable) garden was overgrown, with a half-collapsed fence, domineering tress and bushes, a leaky shed and worn and impractical landscaping. But it had to make do. There was no point in tackling any aspect of the garden till we did our planned extension. And even then, that would wipe us out funds wise, meaning a longer wait for a lovely garden was on the cards.

The garden when we moved in

The garden and shed when we moved in

The garden and extension when we moved in

The garden and extension when we moved in

But we picked away at the garden bit by bit. The first job was to bring in an arborist to remove the badly maintained and imposing tree which was covered in ivy and wisteria, the withering ceanothus and the rampant evergreen bush with the name I fail to recall. Our neighbour wasn’t happy about us removing the tree – he doesn’t like felling trees and had previously campaigned the council to plant a new silver birch in a gap in the street. I’m with him there; I don’t like the thought of felling trees unnecessarily, and I do like the extra privacy and flying visitors to the garden that trees bring. However, this one had never received a proper trim and had become so overgrown it was causing problems for the neighbours and casting our and our other neighbours’ west facing gardens into shade for much of the day. So it had to go.

As soon as the tree had gone, the garden felt much bigger and airier, and was no longer going to cause bother for our upcoming building work. However, it did mean the already collapsing fence really wasn’t going to stand much longer. It did stay up during the building work but came down straight after, meaning we had to make do for a couple of months with no division between us and our neighbours – not ideal let me tell you!

Eventually, the next job on the list was to lay some decking (the step from the new extension to the ground was too large and we definitely wanted a deck for plants and a table and chairs), put up a new fence and spruce up our old shed. One coat of paint on the shed and one fence installation later and the shed was collapsing; the base had been rotting away and it was doomed. But again, funds and time didn’t allow for a new one, so we made do from last July till just last week, when eventually – hooray – my Dad and Jeffrey took down the crumbing, leaky old shed and put up a nice new one (which was apparently “a right bastard” thanks to the double doors but got completed just in time for a trip to the pub to watch Hull City get promoted to the Premier League).

The next day it was onto the last major job – the lawn. We had made do with our nice new decking leading to some click together decking from Ikea that the previous owners had laid. This had started rotting and, as well as not being very inviting for toddler feet, looked rubbish. 1 tonne of topsoil and 11m sq of turf along with some lugging and raking later and we had a lawn, which Jeff is very pleased with himself for being the master layer. A few stepping stones help get us from the decking to the shed and along the length of the washing line when the lawn is damp and while the turf is getting established. Throw in a new olive tree in an old galvanised wash tub from my parents’ old neighbour, some bamboo in an old galvanised feeding trough and a selection of new plants in pots and in the borders and the garden has become a wonderful extension to our kitchen/living/dining room. A space for Finlay to run around – and boy does he have some energy for that – and for us to sit out in this glorious weather. Now we just need some of our plants to grow slightly taller to hide the fences (I hate that exposed fence look that so many people have going on) and provide us with a bit more privacy.

This final job makes the downstairs of our home complete – though there are a few decorative tweaks I want to make to the back room and the hallway and I am planning on painting the shed late this year or early next – and, as Jeffrey put it last night, makes it an enjoyable stroll from the shed, along the stepping stones, over the decking, through the living area and kitchen, along the hallway and into our cosy living room. Lovely!


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Up and away wall chart

imageI have regularly browsed Pinterest for inspiration for our home, sewing, knitting and crochet. But since Finlay has become more engaged in the world (and I’ve managed to acquire more freedom alongside) I have used Pinterest for homemade baby play and development ideas.

First up, a wall chart to measure Finlay against now that he’s steady on his feet.

I asked my dad to buy the timber for us; his estate car is a better size for a length of timber than our car. He had to get it in two pieces in the end and decided to round the top – I think he quite fancied a project, though that’s where his project ended.

We took a little while to work out a design that used the round, then plumped for a balloon rising into the sky – much like Finlay will one day when he undoubtedly grows taller than the two of us and leaves us looking up to him.

I’ll leave it there and let the pictures show the creative process.

By the way, in case you were wondering, Finlay measured 81.5cm last Monday when he was measured at a check up. But his first mark on the chart is at 80cm from last Tuesday (we’re all taller when we’re lying down).

 


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New home: Living room

We moved into our lovely little terraced house in December 2013. I was thinking about why we renovated the house in the order we have, despite the rooms we haven’t decorated being uninspiring, tired and impractical.

I suppose it’s because the loft (Dec 2013-Jan 2014) was a quick and easy fix and a nice room to start with; the bathroom (May 2014) was pretty grotty and, while needing an overhaul, wasn’t too expensive to get on with (and fitted in nicely with a trip to Cannes while the majority of the messy, toilet- and shower-less work was done); the nursery (Dec 2014-Jan 2015) needed to be refurbished in time for the lovely Finlay’s arrival; as did the kitchen/living/dining room (Jan 2015-Feb 2015); and finally the hall and landing needed a makeover after it took a battering during all the other works. The master bedroom and front room were the obvious candidates, unfortunately, for later refurbishment.

But at last we’ve got around to the front room.

Making do

Making do after moving in

Previous owners' version

Previous owners’ version

temporary heart of the home

Temporary heart of the home

When we moved in, the front room was a lovely mix of milk chocolate brown walls with gold stenciled Greek Fret motif border (annoyingly inconsistently stenciled), dark green carpet and imposing tiled post-war fireplace with gas fire. It’s had a few iterations in our time here. At first we just moved our stuff in and made do. Then, during the major building work at the back of the house, the front room became our kitchen/dining/living room and the room we spent most of our time in. After that, we ripped out the grotty carpet, which had got grottier over time thanks to the building work, and the mismatch shelves, and put down an old rug and put up Ikea Billy bookcases in the alcoves. That was how it was to stay for a year, until this February when it was time to get ripping things out again.

Our plan: a modern African-Scandinavian living room

First to go was the brown-painted fan-textured wallpaper with naff gold stenciled border. Following that, it was time for the fireplace to go – a tough and dirty job for the hubby and brother-in-law on the first Monday of the February half term holiday. Then it was onto papering. We couldn’t afford to get the room completely replastered despite the walls being lumpy and bumpy in places. So, we chose a really nice modern textured anaglypta wallpaper that would hide imperfections and add interest. My dad came down from East Yorkshire to teach Jeffrey the skill of hanging wallpaper (minus the chimney breast which wasn’t yet ready for the wallpaper), and then Jeffrey and our kind neighbour Omar dug out the old concrete hearth and laid a new one to take the slate tiles we are yet to lay. Removing the old fireplace had left a messy, unsightly opening which needed plaster boarding and skimming. As it was only a small section, Jeffrey decided to tackle it himself – learning another new DIY skill (by this point the new skills learnt were really stacking up – 1. removing a fireplace, 2. laying concrete, 3. wallpapering, 4. fixing plasterboard, 5. skimming).

Fireplace removed

Fireplace removed

Patching up with plasterboard

Patching up with plasterboard

Filling and skimming

Filling

Papering

Papering

 

 

 

 

The next job was the floor. The original wooden floorboards are in good nick, so we decided to sand them back and leave them exposed. Sections of the floorboards had been painted with a dark paint which has left them partly stained, but it all adds to the character. They are 114 years old, after all.

image1

Papering

Painting

Painting

Eventually, it was onto painting. We knew we wanted to brighten up the room, but we didn’t want to leave the room completely white. So we decided on a lovely warm slate grey emulsion by Homebase for the chimney breast and alcoves, and pure brilliant white (why would we choose anything else?!) for the other three walls.

 

Hanging the blinds

Hanging the blinds

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Fitting the shelves

After painting the walls, ceiling, skirting boards, architrave, door and sash windows (new DIY skill number 6), Jeffrey fitted new Venetian blinds (those plantation shutters we have been lusting after for months will have to wait) ahead of another visit from my dad to crack on with the floating shelves in the alcoves. By this point, it was the day before Good Friday. After about 5 weeks of picking away at the long list of DIY to get the room done, the finishing line was in sight. And Finlay was overseeing the installation of the shelves just two days before we were due to welcome family for a first birthday celebration.

At last we’d reached the time to dress the room. An oversize 1959 school map of Ghana bought for the bargain price of £20 for Jeffrey’s birthday, a woven wool rug from John Lewis, some cushions by John Lewis and Orla Kiely (and two homemade cushion covers – one made from Ghanaian Kente cloth, the other from cotton from John Lewis), a new floor lamp and pendant from Nordlux, and a great new Ikea mirror were the last finishing touches. While there are still a couple of things to do – two small pieces of skirting board, tacking and painting unsightly TV wires, the laying of the slate tiles for the hearth, a small log burning stove, tidying up a Ghanaian wooden stool, and some more art for the large white wall (we’re awaiting a couple more Ghanaian masks and some Bolga baskets and fans from Jeffrey’s mum’s next visit to Ghana) – it’s pretty much there. And a vast improvement on the previous living room. Safe to say we love it.

Six rooms down, one to go.

Pinterest mood board

Items


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Finlay’s makes – Christmas cards

It’s New Year’s Eve. A week ago today it was Christmas Eve. 9 months ago I was still pregnant. Just. How did that happen?

Since Finlay was born we’ve done a surprising amount.

We’ve decorated the hallway and landing and had decking and fencing installed in the garden. We’ve (as in, my Dad has) fitted folding doors to our under stairs cupboard. And we’ve fitted baby gates to the stairs and living room.

We’ve been on walks in Epping Forest, long family visits to Yorkshire and day trips around London. We’ve been to visit friends and family in Yorkshire, South London and Surrey. We’ve been to Christenings and 1st birthday parties. We’ve had friends visit us for weekends from Hull and Cannes. We’ve been to the beach and out for meals. We’ve had a Yorkshire garden party.

We’ve been to baby rhyme time, baby swimming, baby massage, baby signing, baby sensory.

Finlay has learnt to roll, babble, eat, sit, crawl (well, his is more a crawl-cum-shuffle-cum-bunny hop), stand… the list goes on.

Finlay has even learnt to paint.

So for Christmas we decided to let Finlay make the Christmas cards. I say we let Finlay make them. What I mean is, we let Finlay paint some bits of paper which I (Mummy) used to make Christmas cards. But I’m sure if Finlay could have seen the whole process through these cards are exactly how he’d have imagined them.

Here’s to a creative and eventful 2016.


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New home: Hallway and landing

One of the things about doing major building work is the impact on the rest of your home. As part of getting Finlay’s room sorted involved moving the door from the middle of a wall into the corner, we ended up with a part of the wall plugged with plasterboard and plastered on both the nursery and hall sides. This meant we had to strip the wallpaper and carpet from the landing. Then, of course, our subsequent major building work downstairs at the back of the house to create our new kitchen/diner/living area meant that, what with living in a mid-terrace with no rear access, everything – including excavations for the foundations, garden waste and building materials – had to come through the house. We also blocked in the old doorway to the kitchen, so were left with another plugged and plastered wall in the hall downstairs. So it made sense to add the hallway and landing to our spring renovations list.

Hall/landing beforeWhen we moved in, the hallway and landing were a delightful mix of pale yellow wood grain effect anaglypta wallpaper, a mix of original and unoriginal grey/lilac painted paneling, a pale laminate floor in the hall and dark brown polyester deep pile carpet on the stairs and landing.
The unoriginal paneling in the hallway had been badly installed. When these houses were built in 1902, beautiful wood paneling was installed over bare brick – there was no need to plaster to the floor, but instead just from the ceiling to the top of the paneling. For reasons I can’t quite fathom, when the original paneling was stupidly removed from the hallway at some point in the house’s history, the owners decided to put chipboard behind new cheap paneling. This chipboard was taller than the paneling, leaving an unsightly seam about 10cm above the paneling. The panels were also narrower than the original paneling on the stairs and applied unevenly, showing it up as a cheap replacement.

Our plan: a light, bright, Arts and Crafts hallway

First, it was off with the not-so-old old paneling and the chipboard behind. We had to make a decision about whether to replace the paneling or plaster the wall instead. However, a tight budget meant that the most cost effective solution would be to replace the paneling with replica paneling with panels the same width as the original and running it above the old unsightly joint where the plaster ended.

The only thing we knew we wanted to do once the paneling was on and the walls were plastered was lighten it all up. Being a mid-terrace house there is no window on the landing, so the dark brown carpet and wooden front door and banister weren’t doing it any favours. Jeffrey was inspired by the beautiful White Drawing Room at Blackwell, the Arts and Crafts House in Bowness-on-Windermere for our own Arts and Crafts movement house in Walthamstow, so it was on with the white paint to the walls, woodwork and paneling. Then we chose a grey wool loop carpet for the landing and stairs and engineered oak wood flooring to carry through from the kitchen/diner/living room to the hall.

We also stripped the chipboard panels that had been covering the panels of two of the original interior doors since the 1960s and moved the one from upstairs downstairs, leaving us with two matching original doors downstairs.

We would have liked a seating and shoe and coat storage area but, being a young family, space for the buggy took precedence, pushing any hope of that out of the window. But my dad – being a retired cabinet maker and joiner extraordinaire, knocked us together a great wall hung coat rack, giving us great storage for coats, scarves and other outdoor essentials.

To finish it off, we framed some samples of a few Morris & Co fabrics, including my favourites the Strawberry Thief, Brer Rabbit and Bramble, to form a little Morris collection in the entrance and took Finlay’s first three artworks to create a cool little tryptych on the landing. A duck egg blue coat of paint on the original front door, and a full length mirror on the landing finished it off nicely. Now we’re just waiting for a cool Flensted mobile for over the stairs and we’re done.

After

 


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Baby knits – pom pom beanie

If there’s one thing babies need (there isn’t by the way – babies need shed loads of stuff), it’s lots of hats.

Finlay received a lovely 6 month sized hat and cardi combo from the mum of one of the kids at the hubby’s school when he was born. But other than that, he’d grown out of his newborn hats well before the cooler weather struck. With autumn really setting in, a warm hat is a must for Finlay’s walks in the buggy and swings in the park.

I bought Max and Bodhi’s Wardrobe pattern ebook from Tin Can Knits, which included the lovely cardi pattern I shared last time. I was planning on making the Bumble beanie. However, after realising I would need to go and buy myself 3.75mm and 6.5mm 40cm circular needles and 6.5mm double pointed needles (plus extras a little larger in case my gauge came out small as they often do) I decided against it. I couldn’t be doing with the expense. But more importantly, with no decent knitting shop in Walthamstow and the desire to get going with the knit as soon as possible setting in, I didn’t want to wait for an online delivery or make my way to John Lewis in Stratford City hoping they had the right sizes in stock.

Instead, I reclaimed a lovely little baby knitting book from my sister – Sarah Hatton’s 10 Simple Projects for Cosy Babies – so I could knit the Moss Stitch Hat. I love this pattern. It’s quick and easy and leaves you with a great little hat. I have made this hat a few times now for various babies, including Adam and Oliver, two lovely little boys up north in my hometown of Hull. And I think it’s always a hit.

I bought yarn from Drops again. I think Drops merino yarns are great value, great quality yarns. And with no synthetic fibres, they’re warm and cosy and lovely to knit with (Just an FYI – I hate synthetic yarns. I just don’t get the appeal. They’re scratchy and shiny, look cheap and are just not as warm. I don’t wear synthetic fibres, so why would I use them for my baby? They’re also not enjoyable to knit with.)

This hat required a double knit yarn, rather than the 4 ply Finlay’s cardigan required, so I bought Merino Extra Fine in mustard and north sea.

I knitted the main body of the hat in mustard and added an oversized pom pom in the contrasting teal, made using a cardboard ring like this one, to avoid the annoying, time consuming stuffing yarn through a hole over and over again method of days of yore. Boy, did that use a lot of yarn?!

I think it works. And Finlay loves it too!

Next up – switching the colours.

 


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Baby knits – cardigan

Colourblock cardiganBefore Finlay was born, I started knitting some cute little newborn trousers and a tank top in gorgeous baby cotton. For several reasons – baby coming a bit early, illness and finding our feet as new parents – I didn’t get these items finished until Finlay could no longer fit into them unfortunately.

Since then, I had done some crochet; crochet being much easier to pick up, do while breastfeeding, and put down again. But now, after six months of getting to grips with our new life as a family, I have finally found the time to knit. My first project? A cardigan. I love cardigans for babies. They’re practical, easy to put on and take off and so damn cute. Finlay already had a few cardigans in his wardrobe – four from his Mormor and one from the mum of one of the hubby’s students (you can see those, on Instagram at #knitsforfinlay) – but as we’re now going into winter and Finlay continues to grow, he needs more.

I came across the Playdate cardigan from Tin Can Knits on Ravelry and thought it looked lovely. It was also seamless, meaning no annoying sewing up of different parts after all the knitting – my least favourite part of knitting clothes. But it did involve a couple of new methods that I had never tried before – pockets, and sleeves using double pointed needles.

I wanted to make the cardigan in a colourblock design and chose Drops Baby Merino in four bright colours – orange, vibrant green, turquoise and electric blue – suitably not babyish, nor particularly boyish. After choosing in what combination to use the colours I made a start. And after a good few hours of knitting, hey presto – a super cute cardi for a super cute baby. Even if I do say so myself. And for just approximately £5 in yarn and a few evenings of knitting.

Roll on the next one.