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!
After I sewed their three blankets, there were no sheets left. 🙂 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.
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. I did learn, though, that I think I get a bit more excited about browsing quilting fabric and seeing it come in the mail. So sewing with vintage sheets isn’t going to become my full time hobby job. 🙂
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.
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?
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.
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.)
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.
9. Finally, I mentioned above that sewing with quilting cotton is a little more up my alley, but 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.
(Please note that affiliate links have been used in this post.)