Sophie Kingo Blogs

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


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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.

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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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African print autumn accessories

Last weekend I decided to experiment with sewing autumn accessories. I’d been admiring “infinity scarves” or “cowls” for a while now and decided to try making five up from my lovely African print fabric stash. Two use a lovely mustard, royal blue and grass green kente print fabric and have contrast yellow or green lining and one uses a lovely brown, green and black wax print fabric. Two others are made with a beautiful leaf print fabric – one pink and blue, the other orange, green and blue.

And the best thing? They’re not just for the ladies. As wonderfully demonstrated by my husband and me on a rainy London day, they are unisex. So men and women alike can bring a bit of bright Ghanaian colour to these miserable British autumn days. Oh, and they’re reversible. Bonus!

I’m thinking of making up many more to sell in my Folksy store, so do let me know your thoughts. And keep an eye out for another take on these I have in mind.

African wax print cowl

African wax print cowl

Kente print cowl with green contrast lining

Kente print cowl with green contrast lining

African wax print cowl

African wax print cowl

African wax print cowl

African wax print cowl


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Baby Elspeth and new fabrics

I’ve been making and selling girls’ dresses for a little while now. It doesn’t really supplement my salary from my full-time ‘proper’ job a great deal, but it’s a nice way of keeping up my dressmaking hobby without just expensively giving away dress after dress to family and friends or ending up with hundreds of dresses for me. Basically, I like to sew so I thought I might as well try to sell some of what I make.

Anyway, I’ve had a website- sophiekingo.co.uk – up and running since last year and have seen a few orders from people I don’t know – notably from Fuerth and Hamburg in Germany and Taunton in Somerset – via my Folksy shop. The mother in Somerset recently shared this picture of her lovely daughter Elspeth sporting a Sophie Kingo special with plenty of room to grow. Doesn’t she look gorgeous?

Elspeth in Pia

Elspeth in Pia with Malene trim

It’s so nice receiving images of girls in the dresses I make. I don’t have children of my own, so I often don’t get to see my creations being worn. But luckily, a few parents have shared pictures with me, and you can see the lovely Georgie, Matilda, Hannah and Romey enjoying their dresses on my website.

I have a couple of other orders to get on with this weekend – another for Hamburg and one for a friend’s niece in London – but had run seriously low on stock. So the hubby and I took a trip to Brixton yesterday to pick up some new fabrics. There wasn’t a great selection available and sadly one of the shops I regularly used – Freeman Textiles – has closed down. It’s the sad result of the gentrification of Brixton Village from a West Indian/African hodgepodge market into an arcade of trendy eateries and boutiques. But I managed to find some printed kente and a couple of other wax prints from African Queen that will look lovely when made up into dresses – either for me or for girls…

So, anyone wanting to buy their own Sophie Kingo creation for their little girl – or even just one they know – can now take their pick from 12 lovely colourful West African print fabrics. Summer is just around the corner – I promise – so why not get your order in while you can enjoy it?!

 


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A new dress (not a shift)

Back in July last year I made a new dress using a new pattern. I love it, so thought I’d make another.

This time it was a lot less hassle. I mean, I completed the zip first time. No fifth time lucky this time. I added contrasting fabric for the waistband, neckband and pockets to break it up a little. Et voila:

Dress Feb 2013


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Stockpiling

I’ve been hoping for a while to have a market stall to try out some of my items at. So, I’ve been busy stockpiling items to sell rather than plugging them online.

I’ve just put in an application for Brixton Makers’ Market on 8th June, so fingers crossed there’s space for me. I’ll keep making items to sell in the meantime and may even venture into the world of making ladies’ tops and skirts, so watch this space…

Here’s a taster of some of the things that’ll be appearing on the stall. More to come:

Lavender pouches

Lavender pouches

African print girls' dresses

African print girls’ dresses

African print shorts

African print shorts

African print dribblers

African print dribblers

 

 

 

 

 

 


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A new shift dress

A couple of weeks ago I bought an overlocker – just the cheapest Janome that John Lewis stocked – and went on an Overlocking for beginners workshop at The Make Lounge. I had been wanting an overlocker for some time, but horror stories kept putting me off. I had absolutely nothing to worry about. Yes, they’re scary with their four threads, but the overlocker has transformed my sewing life.

Ok, I’ve only used it once so far, but along with my first sewing machine sewn blind hem, it means I won’t be looking back.  This new dress is definitely my best yet.

I can’t wait to start using the overlocker on my African print girls’ dresses.

Homemade dress

Homemade dress

Blind hemming for the first time

Blind hemming for the first time

Overlocked edges along the zip

Overlocked edges along the zip

My new sewing setup

My new sewing setup

Two new fabrics

Two new fabrics