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Jun 18, 2011

Sewing with Old Sheets



Readers, as you probably know, I'm a big fan of repurposing old bedsheets.

I was going to say vintage bedsheets, but really, the age of the sheet doesn't matter, it's the cost that counts.  You see, the best thing about sewing with sheets is that they can usually be found in thrift stores for just a few dollars (if that) and they're generally huge.

A twin flat sheet has more than enough fabric to make a men's shirt, and with a king-size you can probably make a cotton ball gown with a luxuriously high thread count!   Always look out for prominent stains and fading, of course -- we want to avoid those.

I've found some wonderful sheets at the Salvation Army -- the designs from the Seventies are the most fun, I think.  The downside is that in that era, sheets were generally cotton/poly, and they can get smelly.  Then again, you don't have to iron them.

Here are some of my favorite sheet projects...

Shirts, shirts, and more shirts!









And even some of Cathy's outfits.  Don't tell Cathy someone slept in her dress -- besides her.







So yesterday afternoon, as I was finishing up my lavender cotton shirt, I had a vintage sheet epiphany.  As you know, I'd made the collar and collar stand white, which gave the shirt a nice crispness and highlighted the lavender.



Unfortunately, it also gave the shirt a banker-y formality I didn't want.  Plus, a white collar calls for white cuffs, which would only intensify the banker thing, plus, white cuffs show dirt.  What to do?

Then it hit me!  I dug through my collection of vintage sheets and voilà!







Sort of Lily Pulitzer meets Wamsutta, right?

Yes?  No?  Maybe, with a matching bowtie?

The big shirt reveal will be tomorrow but you get the idea.  The sheet -- which is pictured up top -- is a huge Seventies-era flat sheet I found at the Salvation Army last year.  Not sure what I'll do with the rest of it -- maybe a jumpsuit!

In closing, friends, do you ever sew with vintage (or just plain old) sheets? 

When you wear what you've sewn, do people ever guess that you're clothed in second-hand bedding?  (Do they inadvertently start yawning when you tell them?)

Is the ewww factor just too insurmountable?

Sheets-into-clothes: yea or nay?

72 comments:

  1. Your cuffs are Genius!

    I had a suit for years that I made from Ralph Lauren floral sheets that I got for free. I think the only thing I had to purchase for that project was some contrast trim so I didn't look like a full-on Birnam Wood. Only one person ever asked me if the fabric was from sheets, and I just laughed and said "I recycle!"

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  2. I like to use cool sheets for 50's dresses (fabric hungry ones especially), I recently finished another one. It has to be good quality, cheap, and I tend to stick to plaid/check/trellis type prints for some reason. I can't really rock psychedelic floral.

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  3. Love that lovely lavender shirt! You're right the floral cuffs balance the formalness of that white collar quite nicely.

    I'm always looking for interesting sheets at my local salvation army/goodwill/random thrift stores, you can't beat the price for all that fabric!

    Recently my own 400 thread count fitted sheet started to wear through in one spot, as of right now I have a pair of summer sheet shorts cut out for my boyfriend, I plan on making the Madeline bloomers from Colette patterns for myself, and with whatever is leftover I'll make some cage pads for my rabbits.
    What can I say?... I love sheets!

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  4. Those cuffs are fantastic on so many different levels...love the whole thing.
    I've made lots of curtains out of sheets & once made a swing coat for a costume out of a vintage bedspread from salvation army. I agree, great source for interesting affordable quantity fabric.

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  5. I used to be reluctant to buy used sheets but recently I bought some purple and lavender striped sheets, washed hem and used them as ...sheets! I would use sheets for sewing if I got my hands on the right ones.

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  6. You definitely need a matching bow tie to complete the look!

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  7. Inspired by you, I recently purchased a lovely pink floral sheet at Goodwill. I have a little girl's dress in mind for the sheet.

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  8. Peter, it looks really great!

    Valerie, haha, what a funny comment. :-)

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  9. Love the cuffs!!! I've used my worn sheets for muslins - since I have so many fitting issues, I have to make multiple muslins and I didn't want to waste all that good fabric! Since they are muslins, I don't care about the stains or fading...

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  10. I love your sheets shirts! I'm never inspired by the sheets I find at the thrift stores I frequent, sadly. But, I did see a whole row of thrift stores last night that I'd never been to. They're on my list for checking out next Wednesday! Thanks for the reminder!

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  11. Wow, Peter. What a cool idea. Love the cuffs - and all your other sheet-clothes. I'm a big fan of vintage sheets and curtains. I've made several sheet-dresses for me and my daughter.

    Hugs from Denmark,
    Trine

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  12. The cuffs are inspired! Now you need a breast pocket trimmed with sheet to tie it all together.

    I haven't thrifted sheets but only because I've not found any. I don't use topsheets from the new sets I buy so those get turned into muslins.

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  13. I like recycled sheet idea. Once they are washed, the yuk factor does not enter my mind (is yours in the gutter?). The old "away goes trouble, down the drain!"

    The first time I recycled sheets, I took one of my old bed sheets and made a crib sheet for my son. My sheet-making tutorial evolved from that.

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  14. I LOVE your cuffs, they add an element of fun to your shirt - which is really great, by the way. I will use anything I can get my hands on to sew. Sheets included. As a matter of fact, my MIL gave me an old sheet to use as the background for my gallery pics on my website...a project still in the works.

    I got to shop for fabric last night, and I hit the jackpot with a 60% off sale. Got some great chiffon for a blouse for $3.98, and a coordinating solid for the skirt for $7.98. I'll probably spend more on the notions!

    Happy sewing to all!

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  15. Peter, my heart skipped a beat when I saw your sheet (cuffs). Brilliant and absolutely perfect just as they are...no bow tie or other trim needed. The cuffs are the perfect splash of color, dash of spontaneity and pop of unexpected surprise I love about you.

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  16. I recognize shirt no. 3 as being from the early 1970's. It was a set that I had. My sheets get used as muslins when they are retired because they are too old and stained for regular clothing.

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  17. One of Marilyn's rags, he he...

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  18. This is just wonderful! Thank you for sharing! :)

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  19. I think a jumpsuit is in order.

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  20. ABSOLUTELY!! I sew with old sheets all the time... I completely agree, great source of fabric, ethical, cheap and some of them are beautiful and soft :-)

    and some of them are just plain funky: http://geekysweetheart.blogspot.com/2010/06/superman-dress.html

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  21. Ha shirt nº3! My mother has those sheets (still used regularly; they are unkillable), bought from an American PX store in the 70s when we lived in Germany (the PX always seemed so much more glamorous and fun than our own NAAFI stores).

    Love those cuffs! What a great idea. I don't have any objections to using sheets, especially those 70s ones as they wash so well. Nostalgia however would stop me from cutting into them.

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  22. Recently my grandson and I made him a robe from a heavy, woven plaid sheet. With solid fabric for the facing and belt, it is quite impressive. And it was his first week sewing and he did a fabulous job with only minor help from me. It has inspired me to keep on the look out for a project of my own.

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  23. I am definitely a sheet-sewer! I've made dresses for my daughters, skirts for me, used them as backings for quilts, and I've got a stash ready to go for whatever project strikes me next!

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  24. I though about it many times, but haven't yet. I think the only thing I ever did with sheets were making twin duvets out of them. Not very creative, but still a money saver.
    Your shirts are great!! Especially the orange flowered one.

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  25. You have found the source for vintage sheets! I love the prints. Just yesterday I used a sheet to line one of my daughter's sundresses.

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  26. Love the shirt! Needs a bow tie to go with it. I haven't found any sheets to use for real clothing, but I cut all of the batting out of an ancient comforter so I could use the fabric for muslins.

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  27. I esp. love using second-hand white sheets as material for historical undies (petticoats, chemises, bloomers, shirts). They material is so soft & worn in, it feels great as that first layer against my skin. I use thrift-store sheets as linings for the same reason.

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  28. Not related to this post, but in case you're not a regular TLo reader, I thought of you after seeing this post from them today and thought you'd like to see.

    http://www.tomandlorenzo.com/2011/06/debbie-reynolds-auctions-movie-memorabilia-today.html

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  29. I too love to sew with sheets. I make actual, wearable clothing from them, not just muslins. I don't really worry about the ick factor after they've been washed. I don't really think that bringing a sheet home and laundering it is any more gross than sleeping on a sheet in a hotel that you can only hope was washed.

    I love how you made the cuffs on your shirt. I think it has a "Studio 54" vibe. :]

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  30. Peter, you did it AGAIN!!!

    You have made "more thought than money" into a decidedly do-able way to sew.

    Enjoy your shirt with wild abandon!

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  31. I love all those shirts! Sadly, around here the thrift stores carry very little in the way of bedding, and most of it is nasty.

    Hubs, the cats, and I destroy sheets on the regular with all our sharp toenails. I've thought of using the ripped ones as muslins, but since the rips are small, I end up keeping them around for guests and the like. I'm frugal but more in the sense of "use something for its intended purpose until it falls to pieces," at which point there's no use sewing with it.

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  32. Thanks for this post! ^_^ A few years ago I made my son adorable safari-print curtains for $2 using an old sheet, and I'm about to make a shirt for myself out of another one. The lavender shirt is awesome (but I never expect less from you ^_* ) I'm a bit of a lurker, but want you say that Cathy is gorgeous, inside and out! My partner is MTF and we both admire her presence and style (HUGS)

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  33. It's because of you that I keep an eye out in thrift stores for old sheets! I haven't been successful yet though - most of what I find is too faded or too gross. But one day I will own a sheet-dress!

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  34. i adore the cuffs!
    from your influence, I ventured into sheet territory for muslins for my sweetie's negroni shirt. but despite two hot water washes, there was still some gross little stains, hardly noticeable, but present. i cut around each of them as i found them (they were hard to spot), because - even if it's just a muslin - i can't be putting someone's else bedstains on my fellow's body.

    so it seems i'm in the minority for being a little offput by used sheets (i also use mine to within an inch of their life. hot. i know.). i think that next time I'm near an ikea, I'm just going to buy a bunch of their cheap muslin... or cheap sheets!

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  35. I love using sheets for fabric. I wash them first thing (I find that our Goodwill has a very distinctive smell... and that smell stifles my creativity).

    I made matching dresses for my girls one summer using a twin-sized flat and fitted sheet. Some spots were worn almost through, so it took a bit of work. But the floral print was light and airy and they are one of my favorite sewing projects ever. I've been a sheet junkie ever since.

    I also like to check the linens section of TJ Maxx and Marshalls for already cheaper sheets on clearance. I have a great Ralph Lauren twin flat sheet that I got for $5. It wants to become a slightly fancy summer dress... it said so. :)

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  36. I use sheets for home sewing projects - curtains, drapery linings, throw pillows, stuff like that. Like you said, lots of fabric, ultra wide widths, a rainbow of colors. What's not to love?

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  37. I had a 'vintage' cuff idea recently, but have yet to do anything about it, love your cuff shirt, it looks fantastic. Big fan of re-purposing too

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  38. The cuffs are so awesome. They keep the shirt from looking too banker. I've made a purple leopard dress from a sheet and a Star Wars dress.

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  39. Definitely! Old sheets are a great value proposition.

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  40. I love using old or new sheets! So far people have only been surprised when I say a garment was made from a sheet. I even bought two Old Navy shirts once, just because they looked like they were made from 1970s bedsheets.
    The cuffs are amazing, seriously. Very Lilly. I may try and copy this, only in a women's shirt, obviously.

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  41. *grin* I just used a cotton jersey sheet as material for a wrap dress.

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  42. I haven't sewn with sheets yet, but it is definitely on my to do list. With cotton prices increasing, it's going to be an affordable way to buy 'new' fabric.

    I LOVE LOVE the contrast floral cuffs!!

    I bow to your sewing genius, Peter.

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  43. I love to find queen size fitted sheets at the thrift store to take home for my bed!! You can only find single sheets at IKEA in my experience. I don't like to sleep with top sheets, so I use all my flat sheets to sew together and use as duvet covers or summer blankets. Washing thrift store sheets in hot water and a hot dryer will kill anything yucky. I've made curtains with sheets, but never clothing, so far. But now I've seen your cute shirts, maybe.........

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  44. Oh, and I love your floral cuffs, and the whole shirt. Wish I could manage that collar stand perfection!

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  45. I have those exact sheets that are in your third pic!! Mine are still in sheet form, but might become a summer frock someday.

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  46. Yes, most definitely yes! I just made a dress this morning out of graffiti sheets that were on my dorm bed in college. Twin XLs can never be used again on normal beds, but I kept them because I knew one day I would have a fabulous dress!

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  47. never even occurred to me to use sheets for upcycling, but how brilliant! The cuffs look great, I don't think the shirt needs anything sels (add any more & you risk overdoing it or looking matchy matchy)... THe remaining fabric would also make a brilliant shirt, I love you in the florals! I can't imagine anyone ever guessing they used to be sheets anyway!

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  48. I just bought an indian print sheet. I thought of you and Oonballoona when I bought it. Exciting!

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  49. I love love love the cuffs; totally original.

    May i be so bold as to offer a suggestion for next time?

    Lynda Maynard in her book, The Dressmaker's Handbook of Couture Sewing Techniques (pp. 70-73), illustrates the technique of embellishing the collar band with ribbon. I think your shirts would be even more fabulous if you made a folded bias ribbon in the sheet fabric used on the cuffs. Essentially it would tie the cuffs into the rest of the shirt. This same theory is used in quilting; one generally never introduces a new fabric into the outer borders of a quilt. Instead a fabric that has been used in the inner sections is used so that the borders are 'tied' into the quilt.

    I LOVE the cuffs, but i think they need to be 'tied' into the rest of the shirt...a collar bias ribbon could do this successfully IMHO.

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  50. I use sheets constantly! It can be hard to find nice sheets in my local op-shops. Occasionally after digging through piles of stained and/or darned sheets I'll find something amazing. They're the best for muslins too!

    Love the cuffs :)

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  51. foxslane.blogspot.com makes things with old floral sheets all the time - her little girls' dresses are in hot demand in the Australian craft community.

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  52. Genius idea with the cuffs and the perfect choice of fabric - I think that it's Lily Pullitzer meets Marimekko (you could buy tableware to match!!). The good thing is that when you do get your job in Wall Street you can easily change the cuffs to regular white!

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  53. Hooray for vintage bedsheets! The cuffs look really nice in floral. I am currently sewing with vintage sheets, although I am making strings of pennants rather than clothing. They smell really weird when you iron them. Polyester! I wouldn't mind sewing a garment with them, but I prefer to wear natural fibers, as polyester doesn't breathe well. I live in Tennessee so that's a big issue for me!

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  54. When I buy new material, it tends to look like old sheets! I love those crazy patterns.

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  55. No thanks, I would not be comfortable using old sheets for clothing. I really think, because I was a teen in the 70's and remember all these patterns, I just don't appreciate the bright colors and bold florals. I will stick with new fabrics for clothing.

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  56. Yay, absolutely! I'm also a big fan of using charity shop curtains, because the material is often a bit more rugged and usually lined, so you get the pattern fabric plus some great lining cotton. Also, they're often sewn with plastic thread (for some reason), making them easy-peasy to take apart.

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  57. Check out this from Foxs Lane for sewing with old bed sheets .... new (old) doona covers for her upcoming trip around Australia! She is a genius and so are you! http://foxslane.blogspot.com/2011/06/counting-down.html

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  58. I still have some of those 70's poly cotton sheets - in the garden & kitty pile. Not because of the odor or stain problems, but because either they pilled badly or they feel like plastic. I might use them for a muslin, but definitely not for an actual garment. And I definitely would not donate them to a charity. And yes, our local thrift shops are short on nice sheets, or sewing items in general.

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  59. I love sewing with old sheets!

    I made this shirt from a 70s era cotton-poly blend:

    http://i.imgur.com/C6PeH.jpg

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  60. Oh, I love using sheets. I love the cheap material and the instant yardage, and honestly, it's too perfect for when I have a color in mind I can't find or don't want to spend money upon, because I'm a bold dyer with sheets and have produced many colors I adore on old bedding! Plus, it's better for the planet to use what you have then to buy something new.

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  61. Yay! I found my new favorite sewing blog!

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  62. Thank you ... Thank you.. Thank you... after much searching about recycling bed sheets... and being new to sewing .. you have told me and shown me that its ok to use sheets, for clothes, amazing stuff keep it up... x

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  63. Oh god. Those are the baddest ass shirts I've ever seen. I LOVE the heck out of them! I also totally dig those cuffs. The collar would be cool like that too.

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  64. I love the cuffs! Just today a co-worker gave me a few king sized white cotton fitted sheets she bought at a hotel sale, and I'm planning to use them to sew vintage 1940s blouses.

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    Replies
    1. Bravo, Bridget! I wish I knew how this turned out for you.

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  65. I've been looking through your blog, and came upon this picture. I have the same sheet that you posted in your first picture, and I got it at a thrift store. I tried to make some pj pants out of it (unfortunatley, it was a major craft fail), but I did make a wonderful baby blanket out of part of it, and the rest has gotten used in other odds and ends. I say YES to using sheets for whatever. (My 7-year-old is making me a dress out of another sheet we found.) :)

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  66. "Sheets into clothing!" Heck yay! After recently being teased about the concept by a girlfriend I am refreshed to read this post.

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