Hello everyone!  I’m Rebecca Jean.  A vintage-loving, plastic-hating, apron-wearing, environmentalist from the MidWest.  Nice to meet you.

Rebecca Jean

I write a sustainable lifestyle turned vintage/thrifted-fashion blog called Midnight Maniac.  I’m so honored to be guest posting here at Elegant Musings.  Casey’s blog was one of the first vintage-related blogs I started to read.  It’s no lie that she has greatly influenced my style.  Inspiring me to incorporate vintage fashion into my everyday life.  Now if only I could get some of her sewing skills to rub off on me!  Did you see that swing dress?  I’m in awe.

Being from the MidWest, Wisconsin actually, we have some loooong dreadful winters.  We still have snow on the ground!  And more coming!  Alas… when she suggested a spring topic I had a hard time wrapping my head around it.  Spring.  It seems like such a far off mythical phenomenon, I don’t know if it will ever get here.  But I do know this, after a long winter of being cooped up in the house I’m ready to do some redecorating!  Spruce the joint up a bit.

Our kitchen is a particular point of contention.

kitchen

I love the color, which it was already painted when we bought the place, but the rest?  Not so much.  The cabinets are builder-grade-Menards-special-light-oak wood and not at all our style.  The countertop I actually don’t mind.  Yes, it’s laminate, but I kinda like the color and we only have one small counter.  The sink that takes up one-third of it I hate.  It’s plastic.  From my introduction you already know I hate plastic.  No, loathe plastic.  I’m not crazy about the white tile floor that magnifies every spec of dirt either, but it’s livable, for now.

In a time of stainless steel appliances and granite countertops, I find myself wanting none of it.  They’re nice, don’t get me wrong, but they’ve become ubiquitous.  I choose to wear vintage, shop indie and accessorize with thrift to create a style different than the norm and highly personal to only me.  Why wouldn’t I want the same aesthetic for my home?

Call me crazy, but I want a 1950′s kitchen.

Mister put an ad on Craigslist and scored us some vintage steel kitchen cabinets.  They need a little work, but they were cheap.  I’m reusing while reducing waste and after a trip to the body shop they’ll be good as new.

Glass-front cabinet

[ I was so excited I asked him to immediately put this one up. ]

We recently purchased a new energy efficient dishwasher and found this retro door panel from Northstar.

Northstar dishwasher panel

[ In the prettiest Robin's Egg Blue. ]

I was really torn when it came to color.  Red or blue?  Eventually the blue won out.

While on their website I absolutely fell in love with their stoves and refrigerators. Gah!!! I was totally prepared to shell out the $10,000 to get me a set {ridiculous, I know} until one fateful day Mister and I took a thrifting day trip and came home with this.

1963 GE Sensi-Temp

Isn’t she gorgeous?  It’s a 1963 GE Sensi-Temp Range. *swoon* Incredibly clean, in perfect working order and only cost $50. Thud. {That was me fainting.}

I am smitten.  The extra workspace has been a dream.  The extra storage is nice too.  That smaller door on the left.  It’s another oven!  How fantastic is that?  I use the smaller oven frequently.  It heats up quickly and uses less energy.  How’s that for energy efficiency? ;)

This baby is loaded with options and is built like a tank.  You know, they just don’t make things like they used to.

vintage crystal dress

Take my dress for example.  It’s probably older than my stove, but it too, is in great condition.  Over 50 years old and not a stitch out of place.  Yet, I could buy a blouse from a store today and have the hem unravel tomorrow.  Ugh.  That drives me nuts.  Especially since I lack Casey’s sewing skills.

If you’re experiencing a little spring fever and feel the urge to shop {or completely gut your kitchen}, I encourage you to think outside the big-box.  Head to the thrift stores, vintage shops and reuse centers.  They’re loaded with high-quality, low-cost, custom style.  Find yours!

MM signature

March 23, 2011 · 55 lovely thoughts
posted in around the house,thrifting + vintage · tags: , , ,

02.11.11 | thrifty finds

vintage flat sheets I recently thrifted–love the florals!

Rather than my usual how-to or essay on something in regards to homemaking, I have a related-query for you today! This week I went thrifting for the first time in a long, long time (at least since before Christmas! Oh, how I miss it!) and found two vintage flat sheets that are in good condition and have darling floral prints. The thing is, I’m currently a bit obsessed with romantic, faded textiles and would love to fade these a bit if possible. One is cotton, while the other is a poly-cotton blend. I did a bit of research on bleaching fabric yesterday evening, and the only processes I could find seemed to be long, involved and require several buckets for the steps; which I don’t really have the room for. So, my questions are:

  • Is it possible to fade fabrics in the washing machine or at least a bathroom tub? Or does the washing machine leave the possibility of fabric fading unevenly?
  • Has anyone tried fading a poly-cotton blend? Does it do anything or should I just leave well enough alone?
  • I also read about dipping the fabric in a neutralizer after bleaching to stop the fading. Any recommendations on what a good neutralizer for bleach is? (I saw somewhere apple cider vinegar is a possibility…)
  • Would a color-remover like RIT work, or is this job best left to good ol’ bleach? I have a slight problem when around bleach, so if there are any good bleach-alternatives out there, I’d love to hear them!

I feel like a complete novice about this–dying and bleaching fabrics is something I haven’t explored extensively at this point. But I’m eager to learn! One of my goals this year is to thrift a lot more textiles for my fabric stash. Sometimes the thrift stores can be spotty, but other times they have some of the most charming fabrics in the household section! The possibilities are making me excited to thrift more often, just thinking about it…

And just so this isn’t a total question-post, here are a few other things I thrifted as well! Pickings have been a bit slim in the clothing department (admittedly, I’ve also gotten quite picky since my closet is in need of a thorough purging before I start adding too much more!), but other fun things like vintage sewing notions and brooches that I collect have been surprisingly (and happily) plentiful!

02.11.11 | thrifty finds

a handful of vintage patterns–I am especially intrigued by the fashion doll clothes booklet! I have a couple reproduction Barbies and have been thinking I’d like to make them a few outfits.

02.11.11 | thrifty finds

vintage notions are the best! who can argue when most of these pieces were 10¢ to 25¢?

02.11.11 | thrifty finds

two brooches I thrifted; not sure they’re technically “vintage”, but nice additions to my collection anyway.

February 11, 2011 · 50 lovely thoughts
posted in around the house · tags: , ,

11.12.10 {found art}

vintage, “everyday art”.

Even though we live in an apartment, hanging things on the walls is terribly important to creating a homey atmosphere. Between being stuck with “blah beige” walls (you know how I adore color from my previous living space!) and living in the same layout as at least a few dozen other people in the complex, injecting personality that makes our living space truly “ours” has been a top priority. However, being on a shoestring budget meant that it wasn’t as simple as taking a trip to the local high-end antiques shop or Crate and Barrel. I’ve collected a mish-mash of things over time to decorate the walls with in nearly every room (to the point where I now am thinking I need to put the brakes on it–we’re running out of free space!), most of which is “found art” or things that are not necessarily meant to be hung on the wall. My latest purchase is perhaps my favorite and I just had to share it with you!

11.12.10 {found art}

framed with a bt of felt behind to hold the pieces in place.

I recently spotted a few sets of vintage paper dolls on Etsy that I thought would be perfect for hanging over my workspace. I have a huge soft spot for paper dolls (I had a whole bin of them when I was little!) and these lovelies date to the 1940s so their adorable fashions definitely appealed! They were not expensive and somewhat show the wear of time and play (which I think makes them all the more precious), but for my purposes they are perfect. I framed a few with some spare frames I had stashed away and hung a few others along a piece of lace I have strung across one wall. It’s an easy way to add color, inexpensive, and is also quite unique!

11.12.10 {found art}

strung up simply with a piece of vintage lace for “string” and mini clothespins.

These dolls ended up in my sewing nook, a corner of the spare room, is my spot where I can let my ultra-feminine side go in decorating. (I try to keep it a bit more tempered in the rest of the house–since Sailor Husband, although he appreciates my girly side, isn’t as enthusiastic about old dresses hanging on the walls or pink as I am!) I especially like to hang pieces that inspire me; whether it be clippings from an old magazine, vintage button cards, bits of old dresses or lace, I find it helps create a creative vibe in my little spot. But I’m thinking that they’d eventually look just as at-home in a playroom in the future!

What are some of your favorite “found art” objects? Do you collect anything to hang on the walls as art? What sort of “everyday art” catches your eye?

More pictures of the vintage paper dolls (if you want to take a peek!) can be found here.

November 12, 2010 · 46 lovely thoughts
posted in around the house · tags: , ,

10.29.10 {thrifted treasures}

This somewhat worn old platter ($1 at a charity thrift shop!) now serves as a place to keep all my “vanity table” items, and also odd bits of jewelry.

Even before I had a place larger than a bedroom to call my own, I always found thrift stores a valuable spot to find so many odds and ends to add color and character to a space. I’m a bit of a magpie in that I pick up a lot of things that catch my eye; I’m not a very focused collector at all! Plus I tend to be drawn to pieces that are a bit less than perfect and are cheap… for some reason those are the ones that always want to come home with me. But I also like them even more if they aren’t just the sort of thing to sit around a “look pretty”–but can serve some other purpose, like being used as a container for other things. A nice marriage of vintage charm and practicality (and budget!). I thought I’d show you a few of my favorites and give you an idea of what I like to keep my eyes open for while thrifting. While giving you a sneak peek around the house! I plan on doing more interior decorating related posts going forward, since I enjoy it so!

10.29.10 {thrifted treasures}

It’s holding hats right now, but this estate sale find hat box will eventually be used to hold fabric scraps in my sewing nook.

10.29.10 {thrifted treasures}

Old tea cup saucers are really useful–I have a hole stack of them that I bought at 1/2 off day recently. This one holds some fossils from Sailor Husband’s collection.

10.29.10 {thrifted treasures}

I think this old crate came with me when I moved here (so it was my mother’s originally), but it now sits in the living room holding all my records.

10.29.10 {thrifted treasures}

This pretty china pot has a lid somewhere, but I have used it for ages to hold writing tools and scissors near my sewing nook. It’s a good weight for that, plus it’s pretty and colorful!

10.29.10 {thrifted treasures}

One of my favorite containers: this silver-plate bowl I found at Goodwill last year. It now holds our starfish and coral collection! I like to let silver go a bit tarnished; I’m not into the super shiny look.

10.29.10 {thrifted treasures}

Another inexpensive Goodwill find: a silver-plate tray. Originally purchased to put Christmas cookies on, this has worked well on the living room table since as a display piece.

What are some of your favorite household decor items to look for? Do you like thrifting/antique shops or discount stores best? Bonus points if you have pictures of favorite finds in your home!

October 29, 2010 · 21 lovely thoughts
posted in around the house · tags: , ,

I love tea, particularly loose teas. For years I was a coffee-only girl, but my mother slowly got me hooked on tea after it became apparent that I had a serious coffee addiction and the amount of caffeine I consumed in a day wasn’t doing my health any favors! I now drink about 2 to 5 cups of various teas throughout the day, especially as the weather starts to get a little colder. I look forward to starting my day with a cup of PG Tips tea (just my “everyday” tea–but I have quite a few other favorites with Earl Grey probably at the top!)–it’s definitely become a calming morning ritual!

For quite some time I’ve been using disposable tea bags to brew the loose tea in. But not only was it starting to get a bit expensive, but I felt it was slightly wasteful. I’ve used other things like tea-balls and such for brewing single cups, but always detect a slight metallic taste from the metal ones. (Yuck!) So rather than continue to (literally) throw money away and also add to our garbage, I decided to make some reusable tea bags! I found instructions here and here (I like the idea in the second tutorial on adding a bead to the strings for weight!) and found they are super simple and were a snap to put together.

Gathering up the supplies from around my sewing room.

I gathered up some loosely woven unbleached muslin, cotton string, thread and a few random beads (per the second tutorial’s suggestion–a good one I found!). I cut out quite a few bags, but ended up playing with the construction of them, so I ended up only with about a dozen. One thing I tried was serging the edges, but I didn’t like that it was actually taking longer to serge these tiny little bags than just to do it on my sewing machine! Oh well–not everything can look as pretty on the inside. I made these “production style”, which meant it cut down on the time spent fiddling. I also finally found my teenage obsession with quilting (not that I really ever made one!) coming in handy–I remembered watching quilt shows that demonstrated the idea of chain piecing fabric blocks together, and that really helped me blaze through these!

“Production line pressing”–rather than pinning each channel as the tutorial instructed.

Applying my tiny bit of quilting know-how to sewing a large quantity of these bags.

The stack grows…

A note on washing and such: I pre-washed my muslin and then washed all the little bags by hand again after construction (before I used them to brew tea). I figure going forward I will just have a little spot to let the contents dry a bit, toss that, and then wash the lot of used bags once a week (which is partly why I made so many!). Does anyone else use reusable tea bags and have tips?

Finally: what is your favorite tea? I’m always on the lookout for some new blends to try!

October 8, 2010 · 54 lovely thoughts
posted in around the house · tags: , ,