Sewing with Vintage Sheets: A Few Tips I Learned Along the Way

Over two and half years ago, my mom and I were getting ready for our annual combined garage sale. She pulled out all her sheets from her high school, college, and early married years. She said she hadn’t used those sheets in years, and she was going to sell them.

At that point two years ago in my sewing career, I had never sewn with old sheets. Little did I know her sheets were in spectacular condition. I sewed three rag quilts that year. One for my mom, one for my older sister, and one for my younger sister. All three were made with these sheets my mom stacked in the garage sale pile. They turned out way fun and quite colorful!

Sewing with Vintage Sheets; Everything I learned along the way. Lots of tips!

After I sewed their three blankets, there were no sheets left. πŸ™‚ All I had were a few pillow cases I chose not to use since they were so faded. I told them all it was a picnic blanket to keep in the back of their car. You know, those blankets perfect for pulling out at a park or fireworks show or family cook-out.

Ever since, I’ve wanted a fun patchwork blanket to keep in the back of our car. I had slowly collected a few sheets over the last year. Every time I made a trip to the Salvation Army, I’d quickly browse the linen aisles to see if there were any fun floral sheets to take home.

Sewing with Vintage Sheets; Everything I learned along the way. Lots of tips!

After a friend gifted me a few more sheets a couple months ago, I decided it was time to break into the stash. I learned a lot from sewing this picnic blanket. This was a fun experiment for me! I learned some pros and cons of sewing with the sheets.

Here are all the tips I learned after sewing my first quilt with vintage sheets:

1. The biggest advantage of sewing with recycled or vintage linens is the price. At our local salvation army, a set of a flat and fitted sheet runs about $2.99. You can’t beat that considering most quilting yardage runs from $9.00 to $12.00 a yard.

Sewing with Vintage Sheets; Everything I learned along the way. Lots of tips!

2. I’m not sure why this surprised me, but this vintage sheet patchwork blanket is exceptionally cuddly and soft. New quilts take a while to get that worn feel and look. But seriously, if you are looking for a cuddle blanket, this is the way to go.

3. No stress. You aren’t paying much for the sheets in the first place, and since you kind of have to take what you can find that day at your thrift store, you don’t really need to fret and stress over coordinating and matching fabrics. This blanket took me a bit out of my comfort zone because I had to work with what I had. I normally wouldn’t pair avocado green with bright orange, but it worked. It’s vintage, and green went with everything 40 years ago, right?

Sewing with Vintage Sheets; Everything I learned along the way. Lots of tips!

4. One of my hardest dilemmas during this process was deciding when too thin was too thin. Since the sheets I had were used, I had to cut around the thin parts. The fading on some of the patterns didn’t bother me as much as feeling like I could poke a hole through the linen with little to know effort. Yes, this is an upcycled blanket, but I didn’t want it to just fall apart in the wash. Be careful and use judgement working with worn sheets.

5. Be very careful ripping out seams. Even when I was ripping out a seam with a good quality used sheet, I realized these sheets tear way easier than high quality quilting cotton. When I rip seams out, I usually rely a bit on the fabric to help pull the seam so I can easily get the seam ripper under the thread. I had to stop pulling gently on the linen for fear of it ripping. And your seam ripper can go straight through a sheet and poke a hole without you even knowing it.

Sewing with Vintage Sheets; Everything I learned along the way. Lots of tips!

6. Also, if you are a basting spray expert, I advise using it instead of pins. I had a lot of puckering at seams and intersections. I think this could have been solved using basting spray or being extra careful during the basting process. (You can see what I mean in the below photo.)

Sewing with Vintage Sheets; Everything I learned along the way. Lots of tips!

7. Don’t expect your blocks to stay perfect. I spent time carefully cutting 6 1/2 inch blocks, but I noticed they tended to lose some shape. These worn sheets just aren’t going to hold perfect form like a quilting cotton. I highly advise against using upcycled or vintage sheets for intricate piecing. I think it could get frustrating fast. Simple patchwork probably is going to work best if your sheets are old and worn.

8. When you are shopping at thrift stores for sheets, be a little picky about the quality. While stellar looking vintage sheets don’t come in abundance, wait and be a bit persistent for decent quality. If the sheets are worn thin and you can barely see the pattern, maybe consider leaving it on the rack.

Sewing with Vintage Sheets; Everything I learned along the way. Lots of tips!

9. Know that sewing with these sheets was a great fun and whimsical outlet of creativity. Sewing with these vintage sheets was a new experience and expanded my eye for creative color palettes. I highly recommend adding this little experience to your sewing repertoire. These vintage patterns can’t be matched. Their uniqueness can’t be found in the modern quilting industry where yards and yards of repeated patterns are found. There is something nostalgic and comforting about these dreamy color patterns and combinations.

If you are looking for more inspiration on sewing with vintage sheets or fabric, Sew Sugar Bean’s blog and Etsy shop and Jeni Baker are all GREAT resources. πŸ™‚

Vintage Sheet Patchwork Quilt. Yellow, pink, blue, and green.I have also written a few other posts about sewing with vintage sheets. Here are two more posts about what I’ve learned as I continue sewing with these vintage beauties:

1. How to Use Vintage Sheets and Where to Search for Vintage Sheets

2. A Finished Vintage Sheet Quilt

3. How to Sew with Vintage Sheets

4. A Colorful Wedding Shower with Vintage Sheet Bunting

You can also follow my Vintage Sheet Pinterest board for some great inspiration!

Sewing with Vintage Sheets; Everything I learned along the way. Lots of tips!

(Please note that affiliate links have been used in this post.)

Sewing with Vintage Sheets; Everything I learned along the way. Lots of tips!

26 thoughts on “Sewing with Vintage Sheets: A Few Tips I Learned Along the Way

  1. (2. I’m not sure why this surprised me, but this vintage sheet patchwork blanket is exceptionally cuddly and soft.) I know what you mean. Sheets I’ve used are just so soft. I’ve made pillowcases with pieces I’ve had left over and they are so soft for pillowcases. Evan my husband loves them.

    1. Yes! Maybe it’s the previous wear and tear or the fibers used for vintage sheets, but I find these blankets some of my favorites for grabbing first when I’m a bit chilly!

  2. This is such a cute and ‘doable’ project! Like someone else mentioned, those sheets look awfully familiar!! In my case though, I think it was my Mother-in-law who had them! I’m so sad that we didn’t have the foresight to save any of her sheets — or my Mom’s! They took such good care of their linens. Never went in the dryer!! [in fact, my Mother-in-law didn’t even OWN a dryer until after my husband was born–having already raised 3 children!!] There’s nothing like the smell of freshly laundered sheets dried on the line in the sun!!

    1. Hi Debbie, I have seen vintage sheets sold in lots of places, but I don’t know the BEST place to sell them. And, I have never sold any. But here are where I have seen them sold successfully: Etsy, Ebay, Facebook garage sales, and via Instagram.

      I have never bought any off Ebay because they seem to be priced really high there, but I have been active with the other platforms for buying them.

      Hope that is helpful! πŸ™‚

    2. to sell sheet fabric. try the facebook selling and destash sites like destash divas.I think most reasonably priced fabric flies out the door with these sites. I have bought but not sold. everything I bought was nice.

  3. I LOVE this idea! I think I may even have some those exact same sheets that I just can’t bear to throw away…LOL I am definitely going to try this. Thank you for the great idea!

    1. Hi Marcia,
      After I started collecting a few vintage sheets, I started seeing the same patterns popping up in random places too. This blanket has been a fun way to see the patterns on display and being used.

      Please do send a picture over if you try sewing something similar with your sheets. I’d love to see your finished project! πŸ™‚

  4. Hi I love the blanket. I’m inspired to try and make one. Can you tell me how you sewed it together or if there is a tutorial that I can use?

    1. Hi Trenese! Thanks for stopping by!

      I use this method to cut 6 1/2 inch squares:
      http://www.thewillowmarket.com/how-to-square-up-your-fabric-and-cut-perfect-patchwork-squares/

      And I use these same principles to sew them together:
      http://www.thewillowmarket.com/a-throw-sized-quilt-made-with-five-inch-squares/

      I almost always use another blogger’s technique to bind the quilt:
      http://cluckclucksew.com/2013/01/machine-binding-tutorial.html

      Hopefully a few of those tutorials are helpful! I guess I need to do a post on a quilt from start to finish. Maybe that’d be helpful for reference. πŸ™‚ Someday soon!

      Enjoy you day!

  5. I just found your blog. LOVE it!!!! I love your style and attitude in making and using fabric. I am new to quilting. I saw a few quilts on Pinterest with vintage sheets a few years ago. I can’t get enough. You have inspired me to use my vintage sheets and stop saving them (I have a closet that is over flowing)!!!

    1. Hi Diane! You just made my day! πŸ™‚ I’m glad you enjoy the blog. The more sheets I collect, the harder it’s becoming to use them…so I completely understand! But I have no regrets making our simple picnic blanket. We use it all the time and it’s great having such a fun blanket to use!

      Happy 4th! And thanks for stopping by!

  6. I love vintage sheets and linens! I have quite a few collected and hoarded now. My Mom made quilts with sheets when we were younger. That soft, comfy feeling is something I will love forever and ever πŸ™‚ Your quilt is very pretty!

    1. Hi Christine! Thanks so much for all your encouraging comments! πŸ™‚ I’m learning to love the vintage sheets. It really wasn’t until I decided to break into my little stash to sew this quilt that I realized how fun this little creative detour was going to be. Now I keep my eye out for vintage sheets all the time.

      And, yes, soft and comfy is a perfect way to describe these blankets made with vintage sheets!

  7. Hello!
    I have been hoarding and sewing with vintage sheets for years!
    I would recommend spraying the sheets with a spray starch before cutting them into pieces. It makes the fabric a little stiffer and less likely to get pulled out of square. It also makes your seams crisp and not easily puckered…It washes out very easily from your quilt. You will never even know you used it. Vintage sheets in my area (NW Pacific ) are getting pretty pricey at the thrift stores, but still a better deal than quilting cotton! Thank you for shaing your tutorial!

    1. Hi Kathy! Thank you so much for your tip! I never thought of that, and with some of the softer sheets, I bet that will be very very helpful! I’m so glad you mentioned the starch.

      I’m still not sure how much to pay for sheets. I’ve just recently started collecting some here and there, and I’ve noticed it’s really hit and miss at the thrift stores. I’m going to try to hit some ‘older generation’ neighborhood garage sales this weekend to see if I find any there. Otherwise, I’ve been told estate sales are a good place to look???

      Thanks for stopping by!

    1. Hi! πŸ™‚ Thanks for stopping by! If you are indeed new to quilting, this is a great option for you! The sheets are such a small monetary investment and simple squares is a great place to start! Good luck!

  8. This is the sweetest project, Kelli! I’m now wishing my family had held onto some of our old sheets. These are great tips, and I love all the fun floral patterns in that quilt!

  9. Bravo, girl! I love this blanket! Thanks for calling out my blog and shop too; so sweet. Love your recommendations on vintage linens too. I’ve been fortunate to find some high quality vintage sheets on my thrifting hunts. I’m choosy and it pays off.

    1. Hi Susan, thanks for your encouragement! Your blog and Instagram feed has been such an inspiration to me! And, yes, I think I mentioned it in an IG post that I kept looking at your pictures examining the quality of sheets you use. I was debating on whether to use some that I had stashed, and I kept thinking to myself about how pretty & bold all your’s were. πŸ™‚ Good job re-using such great little beauties.

      Thanks for stopping by today! I hope you enjoy your week, friend!

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