Sophie Kingo Blogs

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


Ghanaian Chic

Projectbrownman has been an avid follower of The Sartorialist for some time now and can often be found swooning over some of the outfits featured. In more recent months PBM stumbled upon Street Etiquette, my favourite of the two.

The owners of Street Etiquette “provide the vision [of menswear] from an urban perspective and look to connect with individuals worldwide.” The guys, Joshua and Travis, are apparently influenced by a variety of boundaries and eras. So it’s probably inevitable that PBM should enjoy poring over what the (rather handsome) boys of Street Etiquette offer us on the style front. As, to me, a similar style is evident in PBM’s wardrobe. He is a recently self-confessed slight dandy.  He has always enjoyed a good hat or two and has in the past year added a variety of silk handkerchiefs to his wardrobe which consists of beauties such as Uniqlo moleskin skinny trousers, TM Lewin skinny shirts, a plethora of ties from the heady heights of Tom Ford and Kenzo down to Pierre Cardin, second-hand Greenwich Market waistcoats, Topman tweed jackets, Zara blazers, Muji trench coats, Sophie Kingo scarves and Fred Perry shoes. In the summer PBM had also commented that he needed more accessories and elements of his background in his wardrobe and asked me to make a bracelet from him from leather thong and wooden beads. I did.

In November PBM started reminding me how much he’d like a quilted jacket. No wonder. He’d seen the boys of Street Etiquette looking fly in Ralph Lauren. So I made it my mission to buy him a quilted jacket for Christmas. But Barbour just couldn’t deliver, and my budget wouldn’t stretch to £400 for RL Polo. However, on the same blog post I came across a wicked idea for one of PBM’s Christmas presents, which also happened to fit with his desire to have more accessories and links to his Ghanaian heritage. And this is the photo that spurred it:

The present idea – watch with a Ghanaian cloth strap and beads. Not fallen leaves.

For the bracelets I already had the wooden beads from my jewellery making stash, and just had to order some elastic. However, for the watch I had absolutely zilch of what was required. This required some thought. eBay was the most obvious choice for a watch face as I couldn’t be doing with a December trip down Portobello Road. Buying a watch off eBay wasn’t too easy – many of the watches were either seriously nice and pricey vintage watches, brand new H Samuel types, or metal bracelet watches. I came across a few suitable specimens but kept either missing the boat or being massively outbid. Nice looking gold plated watches which wouldn’t break the bank were apparently not so easy to come by. I had managed to beg some proper woven kente cloth for the strap from Ma Mary, PBM’s Mum, but was massively failing on the watch face front. Eventually, a week or so before Christmas I got lucky and won a gold USSR Sekonda from an eBay seller in Hessle, East Yorkshire. I received just in time to cut off the new black leather strap and replace with the kente strip. And here’s the outcome, below. PBM likes it.


Gifts for Denmark

On 9 January 2010 I published the blog post D’oh where I listed all that I made for Christmas presents and mention that I forgot to take photos of them. Well, I’ve only gone and done it again this year. The problem is that I make Christmas presents and, as I don’t wear them, I forget to take photos, wrap them up, et voila it’s left to those who receive the presents to kindly take photos and send me them. Also, what with the days being short and the nights long, I complete many of the presents when it’s dark out and, as you’ll see from some of the following pictures, it’s not easy to photograph them in the dark.

This blog post lists what I made for my cousin Mie, her husband Dennis and their two daughters Ida-Maria (4) and Hannah (2) in Denmark.

  • Beige/golden bracelet for Mie, made with a selection of glass foil beads from Spoilt Rotten Beads and a variety of  stone beads
  • Striped beret for Ida-Maria, made from purple and wine merino wool yarn
  • Purple dress for Hannah made from Ghanaian wax print (here’s the grown up version)
  • Bird mobile from a mixture of Liberty and Ghanaian cotton for Mie and Dennis

I remembered to take photos of these items, though the beret is incomplete – the crocheted flower is missing – and Mie’s  bracelet was shot in the dark. But hopefully you can make them out.

And apologies to Mie and Co. if this is the first time you’ve seen these items. I posted the parcel 8 days before Christmas so I’m hoping they got to Åsum in time for Julaften.

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Sophie’s Homemade Christmas

Well, on this cold December afternoon I’ve stumbled across Kirsty’s Homemade Christmas on More4. I can easily trump Kirsty Allsop and her homemade paraphernalia. Not only am I making Christmas presents (of course, that blog post can’t come up till Boxing Day) but I’ve also made Christmas decorations for my and PBM’s first ever real Christmas tree. We gave in last Saturday when we took a walk to Highbury Barn. At £29 for a perfectly formed, albeit short, 4ft Nordman Firtree, we couldn’t resist and proudly brought it home to decorate.

So, here’s a few little, not so great, pictures of some of the decorations I’ve made.

I’ve grown up with Danish flags being draped on the Christmas tree every year and couldn’t let this go with our own tree. Of course, Jeff decided in that case it would be good to have Ghanaian flags on the tree too. However, while red, green and gold are Christmassy colours, as far as I’m aware, flags on Christmas trees isn’t a Ghanaian tradition, and I’m sure a string of small Ghanaian flags isn’t something we could easily get hold of. So, instead I created a string of bunting using West African fabric remnants to drape on the tree, which I think looks lovely.

Another traditional Danish decoration is the julehjerter (Christmas hearts). Normally these are made from paper, however I made some a couple of years ago from salt dough and decorated them with paint and varnish. Not completely perfect but isn’t that the point of homemade?! This year I also made hessian Christmas pouches with a julehjerte cross stitch design and filled them them with some wadding and a cotton pouch with ground cloves, cinnamon and cardamom.

Also featuring on the tree are pompoms made from red yarn, 3D Danish stars made by folding strips of paper, and baubles made by stringing together a few red Ugandan Mzuri beads.

Check out the photos above to see our Afro-Scandinavian inspired tree, and the links above so that you can make similar.

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My first commission sale

So PBM‘s mate, Miguel Juan Tuvera to you, came round today to make some new tracks. He and PBM got started on recording several weeks ago, and he features on the excellent Just a Mixtape that PBM has released for free download HERE. Maybe the song featuring him – Scratch Real Good, recorded last summer – isn’t excellent. There are a few bum notes in there and, well, you can’t really take on Take That and beat them with that one can you? But it’s a good laugh and worth checking out, along with many of the other tracks on the Mixtape.

My personal faves? Drive and Yes. The latter for obvious reasons perhaps. And the first too come to think of it. PBM’s first trip up to Hull, one week after we met, to visit me in November 2007, involved a cold walk around Spurn Point. If you don’t know Spurn Point then you’re missing out. It’s probably the only reason I could think of to drive all the way east along the M62, through Hull, out the other end, through Weeton, Skeffling and Kilnsea, and right to the edge of East Yorkshire, of the World, to the only place that matters when you’re there. It’s beautiful. Cold in November. But evidently beautiful, as the photo below shows.

That day, after having to bust out the earmuffs to withstand a biting north easterly (I easily suffer from earache) we took refuge with fish and chips in The Crown and Anchor pub where “track after track of Fleetwood Mac” were playing on the radio. If you’ve downloaded the Mixtape you’ll see what I did there.

And, just to indulge myself in my little trip down memory lane, here’s a photo taken that very day. It’s pretty hideous, but worth including nonetheless.

Anyway, I seriously digress. Back to Mike’s visit today. I’m not sure what the order of the day was for the blue room, but I believe PBM was trying to play some R-Patz (that’s Robert Pattinson for those of you not in the know). Mike had made up some new words to one of his songs apparently. I’m not sure how it went but maybe one day you’ll be blessed enough to hear it.

And back to the blog title. My first commission sale. A few weeks ago, via the Sophie Kingo Facebook page, Mike asked me to make him up a necklace. He described something that, for some reason, I just couldn’t picture. To be precise:

I have an idea for a commission! Long neclace that looks like it’s two… Beadie bits sporadic but more to one side so it hangs off the neck like a Jesus piece is weighing it down. I’ll leave the artistic flair to you. I’ll leave the artistic flair to you, nothing too feminine, though I could probably pull it off and make it look like something the kids would want to wear.

He went on to describe it some more to PBM over the phone, but PBM just couldn’t get past the jesus piece aspect. So today, when Mike got to ours he drew up a sketch of his idea. And, while they were busy making whatever it was they were making, I got to making his necklace. I used:

  • Mzuribeads/ Acholi beads – recycled paper beads handmade by a cooperative of women in Uganda
  • recycled vinyl beads made in by a cooperative in Ghana
  • stone beads made with bauxite
  • wooden beads
  • brass beads
  • coconut shell beads
  • glass foil beads

And here’s the finished piece. Modelled by Mike himself. Hope you approve.

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My Fairly African range

Well, I have been adding items galore to my Folksy shop. This is now becoming my full-time hobby, it seems. And, after buying a hoard of fair trade, ethical beads from women co-operatives in Ghana and Uganda, and making new pieces yesterday, I’m feeling very hopeful that I may get my first sale.

The beads I have bought are all made from either recycled paper, glass or vinyl, and all come from small businesses in Ghana and Uganda, with opportunities for the craftspeople to make their own living. The sale of these beads provides a wealth of opportunity to people living in very difficult, and often dangerous, situations.

For example, the Ugandan Acholi beads I bought, made by the Acholi women using recycled and rolled paper are supporting 22 women out of extreme poverty. After having to flee villages in Northern Ugandan, the women resettled in Kampala, Uganda’s capital city, where the only work can so easily be in a stone quarry, crushing rocks for 30 pence for a full hot, dangerous, dusty and unhealthy day’s work. With even children working in these jobs, school tends to be a distant dream. However, in producing these Acholi beads, the women in this co-operative can produce the equivalent of two days wages crushing stone in just two hours. An obvious opportunity for better health and opportunity right there.

What’s more, I’ve decided that I’m going to start donating 10% from all sales through Sophie Kingo Handmade Gifts and Jewellery to a Ghanaian charity. I’m yet to find which I would like to help, but I’m keen to be able to provide some of my takings to some social good. Put that down to my day job as researcher on YF’s CLG funded supporting local social enterprises project, and my trip to the oh so beautiful Ghana last year. So, if you are in want of any gifts or jewellery, then please do visit my online shop. And if you can’t find anything exactly as you like it, then drop me a line. I take reasonable requests. Oh, and if you have any examples of potential Ghana charities I can help (preferably with a focus on crafts as a means to address social issues) then please do drop me a line.

And here are some of my new items to whet your appetite:

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New bracelets and earrings

After a successful couple of hours of making necklaces I decided to make some bracelets and earrings. I quite like the muted tones of the beiges and browns. They make me think of my trip to Ghana for some reason. But then so do the bright orange and yellows so I don’t know what I’m talking about.

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