Jul 22 2014

{♥} inside our house: mid century rocking chair refurbish

A few months ago I was cleaning out Dave’s sock drawer and found his old watch.  Upon showing it to him, he remarked “I forgot how much I loved wearing a watch!”  And all of a sudden, this spawned a whole new obsession interest in watches for Dave.  (**this is going somewhere, I promise**) One day, after he had just bought another vintage watch online, I told him that I didn’t think it was fair for him to be buying watches when I had been asking for an arm chair for the living room for two years.  Our old ikea tub chair was okay, but the slipcover was wrecked and in our tiny living room it made that corner feel very cramped.  Dave told me that if I could find a vintage armchair like I was wanting for under $50 (the price of a vintage watch) I could get it.  I think Dave sometimes underestimates how determined I am.

I kept a constant craigslist window open on my computer with two tabs: one searching “vintage armchair” and the other “retro armchair”.  I refreshed them regularly (read: hourly) and it paid off:  I found this one for $20!  Although…it didn’t look like the picture above.  It looked like this:

The vinyl was not only in bad condition, but it was a really poor upholstery job.  They made no effort to hide staples, and it was just all around gross.  The wood had also been “refinished” at one point and though you can’t see it in the picture it was pretty terrible.

So somehow** I convinced Dave to strip off the finish of the wood and refinish it.  I bought fabric to recover it (from the thrift store no less!  It cost me $5!) and though it was the first time doing a reupholster that was more than just stapling (ie, dining room chairs) I think it turned out pretty nice!

Our tub chair now lives in Lucy’s room which is a bonus for when she wakes up at 3:30 in the morning and we need a comfy place to crash.


**I told Dave that if he wasn’t going to refinish the wood, I would.  Because, after all, how hard can refinishing wood really be?


Jul 7 2014

{♥} inside our house: vintage high chair refurbish

Last week on Canada Day, Dave and I headed out to Granny and Grumpas (a local “antique barn”) in search of a high chair for Lucy.  Our house is very tiny, and so we like to be really intentional about the kinds of furniture that we use.  Baby furniture has a tendency to be clunky and mismatched, not to mention often cheap feeling (because it’s always plastic).

We came across this lovely high chair tucked away in a corner and smelling strongly of cat urine (yay!) but looking like it needed us.  I’ve done my share of reupholstering but using vinyl was new to me.  This also meant doing vinyl piping at the seams, which I’m also new to.  Dave and I are always ready for the challenge of renewing an old item though so we brought it home for $25.

Here’s the finished product!  I originally wanted to do it in a yellow, but couldn’t find the right kind of yellow.  I really wanted to stay true to the era though, so this sea foam green did just the trick.

We started by taking the entire chair apart and cleaning it all.  We used steel wool to clean up the chrome to make it shiny and new (in the pictures I forgot to wipe some sticky baby fingerprints off of it…oops!)

After it was all stripped of it’s original vinyl, I traced out the new pieces.  In total, I used 1.5m of vinyl to cover it, and 2m of vinyl piping for the edges.  We stapled the vinyl on, working from the centres to the corners making sure to keep it nice and tight.  When we got to the corners we stapled the center of the corner, then smoothed out the folds as much as possible while we stapled. After we stapled on the vinyl for the top of the seat and front of the back (?!) we stapled the vinyl piping on, making sure to keep it even and as close to the edge as possible.

For the back piece (below) we spray glued the vinyl to it.  When we folded over the edges, we made sure to notch out all the rounds to keep it smooth.  After that, we laid it on to the chair and hammered it on with the finishing tacks.  Not bad for our first vinyl reupholster!  We were really happy to save this piece, especially since it was made in Canada!

Scroll down for more pictures – no high chair post would be complete without pictures of a cute baby eating cheerios.

Oh, I should mention that we are planning on adding a seat belt.  This little girl likes to stand, and already has tried numerous times to stand in her chair. :S

1 comment

May 31 2012

1940′s inspired hair tutorial

I love wearing my hair in retro hairstyles, but most days I don’t have the time (or patience) to do anything very fancy.  My hair is very thick so complicated pin-curl styles take more effort than I want to put out at 7AM.  I get a lot of comments on my hairstyles, with a lot of those being that people think I must spend hours on my hair.  Very much not true. Unless I am going out to an event or performing somewhere, I can’t justifying spending more than 10-15 minutes on my hair.

This style is one of my go-to styles for retro.  It’s more of an inspired look than era-accurate, but it does the trick.  The time it takes me to do this is about 10-15 minutes (bear in mind, my hair is very thick too, so curling would probably take less on a normal head of hair.)

1 + 2:  I start by curling my hair loosely around the bottom with a small curling iron.  I curl about 4″ up my hair.

3: Pin the crown with a small amount of the side.  I take about 2″ from my hairline and back, and then twist it and push it forward slightly to get some volume.  Then I pin with a couple of bobby-pins.  4: Pin the side, leaving some hair down to cover ear.  Twist the hair, and push forward the same as the other side.  Pin in place.

5 + 6: Brush out with a medium round brush.  Brush the curls in the direction that you would like them to curl.  In this case, I wanted my curls to curl inward.

And we’re done!  Simple as that.  I will spray the pinned part, but I don’t normally spray the curls (I hate hairspray) and my curls will last the whole day.

If you are looking for amazing tutorials for retro hair, I’d highly recommend checking out “Vivid Makeup“s YouTube channel.  She shows how to do all the pin-curls, victory rolls, hair sets that one could ever want to learn about.  She is probably the best that I’ve found in terms of clear teaching and style accuracy.


Apr 28 2012


Thursday I made a skirt with some great navy blue polka dot fabric (that I found at the thrift store) following a tutorial on a fabulous new website I found called “Gerties New Blog for Better Sewing” (if you are into retro sewing, this is the place).  After making the skirt, I decided I also wanted a blouse out of the same stuff.  I found an etsy shop (Embonpoint Vinage) that sells PDF’s of out of print patterns.  It’s a whole drafting system, so you get instructions and a template, and you have to draft out the pattern yourself.  I’ve been wanting to learn a little more about drafting my own patterns, so I figured I’d give it a go.

Bigsby, on the other hand, figured it was a bad idea.  We had a stand off for a while, as I didn’t want to shoo him away and have him tear the tissue pattern paper.

I should have the blouse done on Monday, in which case I will try to make a point of sharing…something that I seem to have forgotten to do on this blog lately.  Apparently I don’t have much to share as of late.

PS:  I do often post to instagram.  My user name is “courteneyrodda”  Today is Caturday, thus, the above image of Bigsby.  Although…let’s be honest…every day is caturday with me.


Jan 11 2012

2011: The Year of the Thrifter.

(above–entire outfit: coat, dress, cardigan and shoes are all second hand)

Well, ladies and (er, gentlemen?) I have finally gotten around to writing some thoughts about the last year. And it’s only 11 days after New Years! I’m doing well. Heh.

This post is something I’ve been mulling over and planning for a while now.

This post is about thrifting.

You see, last year at this time I made a resolution of sorts. (I’ve never been one to make resolutions really, but it just so happened that I made this choice at the beginning of the year.)
I decided that I was going to buy all that I possibly could–second hand. If we were in need of a blender (which we were), we looked in the thrift store first (which we did–and we found a great one). If I needed fabric for a project (you can bet that happened more than once) I looked in the thrift store first. If I was in the mood for a new dress–you guessed it–thrift store. Now, I’ve never really been weirded out by thrift stores (RABBIT TRAIL: Often times I see people shopping for costumes at the thrift store. Presumably they would never set foot in one otherwise. Then they see something they like and exclaim “Oh! That’s really cute! …er…for being in the thrift store” and then they throw it back on the rack like it’s someone’s dirty laundry.) When I was a teen I frequented thrift stores and found many of my (still favourite) items there (*ahem* a beautiful red, fur trimmed swing coat from the 50′s for $7) However, it never occurred to me that I could look there *first*–and find what I was looking for. Thrifting was more of a hobby thing…like “Hey, let’s go to the thrift store and see if we can find something interesting”

But it turned into a lifestyle thing.

Let me tell you the top 5 reasons I go to the thrift stores for anything/everything:

1. COST.
Well duh. We’re on a tight budget. Thrift stores are cheap. Pure and simple.

When we were working down in South America, there was a market every week called the “American Market”. Locals would buy giant bales of clothing (that no one in America presumably wanted) for cheap, set up tents alongside the road and sell the items. When I heard about this, I wondered “What kind of clothes could these possibly be?” Well, the obvious…you know…last seasons Abercrombie or American Eagle hoodies, jeans that looked like they had been worn once or twice…”out of style” stuff. Um…yeah.
It really got me thinking about how disposable our clothing has become. It’s completely normal for someone to buy a number of items, wear them a couple times during the season, and then send them off to the thrift shop. It’s so easy to be drawn in by the giant window displays we see at the mall and think “I want to look just like that mannequin. But I can’t with what I already have. Must. Acquire. More. Stuff.”
Then when you think about all that, you think “Holy cow–every year we make more and more clothes…we harvest more and more cotton…concoct more and more polyester…” Pow. All that energy and waste going towards cheap disposable clothing items that we buy for $39.95, wear once and throw away. Yuck. I think I’d rather buy recycled clothes, thanks.

My favourite thrift shop in town is 100% volunteers, and all their profits go towards numerous places in the world helping people in need. I like that. If I can buy that blender and have the money go towards someone who needs food…hey, it’s a win win.

Do you realize that crazy interesting/exciting things I’ve found at thrift stores? My Melitta Coffee set, for one. Or my incredible mid-century modern solid walnut bedroom set (for $290) Most of the time I will go to the thrift store with a list in my mind of things we are currently in need of. (It can be easy to get carried away at the thrift store if you don’t have a list)
But sometimes, random things just catch my eye. I’ve got a really sweet impressionist style oil painting by a Vancouver artist for $6. The frame alone was worth more than that. Thrifting is most definitely interesting.

I put a lot of thought into what I wear (surprise!) I’ve always been a vintage/retro lover for as long as I can remember…unfortunately that’s not always what’s trendy for mainstream shops. I can remember being so frustrated sometimes, because I wanted to be classy and unique…but that can be difficult (*ahem* impossible) if you shop in mainstream stores.
I’ve noticed that since buying my clothes at thrift stores, I have become infinitely more happy with my wardrobe. It feels a lot more age appropriate, as well as unique to me. Dressing retro has never been easier. (Hah..because most of it comes from the 50′s-80′s anyway!) And because I’m not influenced by mannequin displays (thrift store mannequins are put together by 80 year old ladies. Um, no thanks, sweater sets and power suits) I can browse the product and grab things simply by a gut reacting of “I like!” rather than “Uh, I want to look like the mannequin.” I try not to think about fitting in to a current trend. I just wear what I like.
My home decor has also benefited enormously from the thrift shops. I feel like my own artwork – paintings, or photographs – don’t look so out of place with non-ikea furniture/decor.

So there you have it folks. Thrift stores are cool. Go support your local shop and fall in love with buying someone else’s old “garbage”.

PS: I also buy Vintage for more special items like a dress for an occasion, or my lovely fur-trimmed coat in the picture above. If you are interested in Vintage but don’t know where to start–I’m your gal. Give me a shout and I’ll direct you to–or heck, I’ll even take you to some of my favourite shops around.
PPS: No, I don’t buy socks and underwear from the thrift store.
PPPS: I do, however still buy the same cut of jeans from the Gap that I have for the last 100 years. If I ever see them in the thrift store though, you can bet they’d come home with me.