If you’ve read this blog for any amount of time, you know that I have a thing for sewing with vintage sheets. If you’re new, check out this robe, these shorts, or this top and you’ll see what I mean. So today, instead of just showing you my latest button up shirt (the Novelista pattern)to fit the month’s theme of wardrobe basics, I thought I’d also talk about how to sew with vintage sheets.
Where to Buy Vintage Sheets for Sewing
First things first - where do you buy vintage sheets for sewing? Here are my go to sources
- Thrift stores, though unless it's a thrift store that specializes in carrying antiques/vintage items, I haven't had much luck.
- Antique stores. Higher priced than thrift stores, but there are two good ones in the Austin area that I can always find vintage linens at.
- Etsy. The sheet I used here is part of a set I got on Etsy for $16. It included both the full and fitted sheet, so even after making my robe and this shirt, I still have fabric left. Not all sets are that reasonably priced, but you might be surprised. I search "sheet" then click the "Vintage" box instead of "Handmade" and then narrow it down to Craft Supplies > Sewing Supplies. That usually gets me into the 1000-ish item range. You can also try "sheet" > Vintage > Home & Living > Bedding but that search often returns more than 10,000 results for me. If you are in the sewing supplies section, make sure you check the size of the sheet you're buying; many people cut vintage sheets into fat quarters and sell those to quilters.
Vintage Sheet Sewing Problems
Typically vintage sheets are either cotton or a cotton/poly blend, which makes them super easy to sew with. However, you do have to be aware (particularly when buying online) that printed sheets will likely have uneven fading if they were ever used. You can see what I mean in the pictures below. These are from two sections of the same sheet. The upper picture shows a more worn and faded area, compared to a less worn area at the bottom.
In addition to watching for fading, there's also the ick factor for some people of sewing from fabric that strangers have slept on. For me, a good wash in hot water and sun drying sets my mind at ease about using this fabric.
Tips and Tricks for Sewing with Vintage Sheets
- Iron the sheets before folding for storage and/or cutting patterns. Also cut the boxed corners of fitted sheets so you can get them to lay flat for cutting or folding.
- Cut pattern pieces out on flat (not folded) fabric. This takes longer, and you have to remember to flip your pattern pieces face down for half the pieces (so you get right and left mirrored pieces for garments), but it also allows you to cut around faded portions or choose where they will be least conspicuous in the design. For example, fading on the inseams of pants/shorts will not be as noticeable.
- Lay your entire pattern out before cutting; remember you can't just go to the store and buy more of this fabric.
- Pay attention to sheet finishes and trims. Pillowcases in particular tend to have decorative hems, and even if you can't use that trim in one project, you might be able to incorporate it in another.
- Pay attention to the feel/drape of each sheet as you choose projects for it. Sheets with more body (like the one I sewed here) are more suited for structured sewing.
- Have fun!