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Jul 9, 2013

Two wrongs don't make a right -- or do they?

OK, I need to talk about my second-hand Ralph Lauren sheets some more.

Look closely at the image below.  Can you see a subtle difference between the floral fabric on the right and the floral fabric on the left?

The fabric on the right has a faint yellow cast, and -- you wouldn't know this from the photo -- feels much softer and more luxurious.  This was the sheeting that had been turned into two double-sided something or others -- maybe blankets, definitely not drapes.  (I cut the seams off and opened the fabric up.)

The King size fitted sheet is on the left.  It, along with the pillowcases, is less rich looking and considerably stiffer.  Maybe it hadn't been laundered as much.  (Both have the Ralph Lauren label and were made in the USA.  The softer fabric says "King"-something but the label got pinked in whatever project it was used for.)

Now look at the wrong side of both sheets.

The stiffer fitted King size sheet is again on the left.  The wrong side is a pale gray.  The softer sheeting is on the right.  The wrong side is blacker.

Readers, I like the wrong sides of this fabric better than the right sides!

Here I am draped in the fabric:

Much less overpowering, don't you think?

Meanwhile, I found this shot of the sheets styled with gingham and solid white.  I think the combination works great, and helps to mute the intensity of the floral print.  I could certainly see a shirt combining the floral with simple black and white gingham, a la color blocking.  I'd have to sketch it out.

Anyway, there are many possibilities.

Readers, I don't know much about sheets, but is it possible this same print was woven in different qualities for different purposes, say, a duvet cover and a bed sheet?   Why would the wrong side of the fabric look so different?

I ask you:

1) Have you ever bought the same sheet at two different times and the quality was different?  (This has happened to me with underwear.)

2) Have you ever liked the wrong side of the fabric better than the right side and chose to use the fabric wrong side out?  (That's allowed, right?)

Have a great day, everybody!


  1. I came across your blog while researching vintage machines, even quoted a few of your reasons to own a vintage machine in a recent blog. :). As for your question today, my grandmother (who is 95) taught me to use the wrong side of fabrics when a softer value is needed. She said its cheaper than making a special trip into town in hopes of finding the right fabric. :)

  2. I agree that the wrong side has a much more interesting feel to it. More like a watercolor painting as opposed to an acrylic.

    What I hate about sheets is when people don't know how to make a bed properly and put the top sheet on inside out. It about sends me into a melt down.

    1. OMG, I think I'm one of those people...!

    2. that would be me top sheets have rows of tucks across them and if i don't put them on inside out, the tuck feature is lost when i turn the sheet down when making the bed.

      I personally don't believe there's a right or wrong way to make a bed - I just make it the way it appears to make sense and like - with the pin tuck on the outside when folded down and it really doesn't bother me that the sheet is inside out.

    3. What do you mean by "inside out?" I've always put the top sheet on with the pattern or what I think of as the right side down so that the pretty side shows when I turn the top sheet back, and also when I am actually in bed, I can look down the tunnel of the bedclothes and see the right side.

    4. I have been known to use two totally different patterns because I can't find a set that matches. Someone actually thought it was a great idea and I did it on purpose.

  3. I like the softer grayer tones on you.i also really like the gingham combo. That would look super on a sundress. Or you could do the same thing if you chose to make slipcovers, but I get the impression you aren't going that route. My grandmother used to change her slip covers every season (there were only two in Cuba, so it's not that extreme) and it really freshens things up.

    Printed designs often have a more pronounced color difference than woven in designs, but I think you probably already know that. Printing is cheaper than weaving. It's possible that one of the sheets was made for an outlet store. Outlet stores often (contrary to what we are led to believe) often have product lines made for them that are of a slightly lower quality in order to keep the price down. It could be that one set of sheets simply has been laundered more, but you would think that would make that set softer and more faded.

    You could also soften the fabric by soaking in salt water.The process is really simple. Fill a tub with 1/2 a cup of salt per quart of water. Submerge the fabric in the water and let it sit in the salt water for three days. After three days, wash it as you normally would. This shouldn't affect the color though.

    You can either just leave the fabric out for the sun to fade (I don't think you have this option) using lemon juice as an agent. Don't ever use bleach to remove or fade color since it damages fibers. That is why I used comercial color remover instead. It has a chemical smell that reminds me of when I used to straighten my hair, but at least it won't make holes in your material.

    I can't wait to see what you end up making.


    1. Agree about the outlet comment. Good idea for softening.

  4. Men's Hawaiian shirts use the "wrong" side of the fabric a lot. Especially bright cottons. So why not?
    Using the wrong side of the bed sheets sure beats over dying them for a softer color.
    Love the b/w plaid with the florals.
    Thanks for coming up with interesting subjects.

  5. I routinely choose to use the "wrong" side of fabric as the "right" side of a project. This often happens quite often when I use heavier weight upholstery fabrics or fabrics with a woven design or texture.

    As for printing the same pattern on different quality fabrics - happens all the time. Designers often license their same pattern with different vendors unless it is specifically limited for a proprietary line of goods.

    Printers also will print first run fabric designs on cheaper material to work out colors and justification/printing issues. These cheaper runs are often what appears in the "Clearance" section of fabric chain stores and outlet stores. Sometimes they do it on purpose to meet the market needs of various stores i.e. quality quilt shop fabrics versus cheap chain store 'knock-offs'.

    Perhaps a little sleuthing will reveal what products were available in this pattern that may answer the question of differences between your two fabrics.

  6. I believe the name brands such as Ralph Lauren are woven in different factories, hence the different qualities. Perhaps they also plan it so that the better fabric goes to the higher end stores and the lower quality fabric goes to other stores less picky with their quality but want the Ralph Lauren name to draw in customers.

  7. I have used the reverse/wrong side many times to make something. I often like the texture better. In your case, I agree, they look softer and not so in your face.

  8. Ralph Lauren has a line of fairly high end drapery/upholstery/multipurpose fabrics that are sold through the interior design trade. Those fabrics have the RL prints on 54" goods primarily and are pricey -- if your blanket or whatever was custom made from To the Trade fabric that matched the readymade sheets, that would explain the difference. RL may also have lower priced "home dec" fabrics with their prints sold through JoAnn's/Hancock Fabrics/Calico Corners type places, but even in that case the cut yardage fabric would be different from the fabric that prepackaged sheets were made from. Sheeting fabrics would have to come from a totally different mill and from much wider goods than 54" or else there would be seams down the middle of King bed sheets.

  9. The RL Sheet sets that I have purchased over the years all came from discount stores like Marshall's & TJ Maxx. I've seen sets in identical prints in different weights - 250 thread count all the way up to 600. Generally speaking those with the lower TC, from 250 - 300, were like the fitted sheet you described. I had a Full sized set in a yellow base with red peonies (the whole kit with fitted & flat sheets, duvet, gingham sheets, shams in the print & gingham, and the bed skirt! Yes that is a LOT of floral) - I'm assuming they came from closeouts at Macy's or Filene's. I have some sheets that are like your stiffer one and others that are like your softer. I would always look for the finer cotton - they last longer and acquired that patina and were so soft against the skin! Loved loved loved those sheets. When I purchased those sheets, I don't think I paid more than $10 per sheet and the Bed in a Bag set was maybe $30 on clearance in TJ Maxx in the mid 1990s. They seriously just don't make them like that anymore at affordable price points. Yet another reason to love the 90s!

  10. I don't know about sheets; but I know about wrong sides of fabric. I once bought a printed shirt in a thrift shop, with the intention of refashioning it or using it for patchwork or something - it's navy, with a tiny white floral pattern on the right side and, for some reason, little dotted "pattern" on the wrong side where the flowers are. I love the wrong side just as much as the right side, and have not decided yet what to make from it to make use of both...

    The "wrong" sides really do look nice here. I also think they look better on you. It might be your recent endeavour with a grey floral that makes me think it's a better look for you...

  11. I love the "reversed" Hawaiian shirts & I often make my shirts that way as so I can use a wild print and still be toned down enough for office work.

  12. I haven't had the quality change with sheets, but definitely with underwear. Even when I bought two packages of the same style at the same time, one of them had weird, wimpy elastic, and the other was normal.
    I definitely use the reverse sides of fabrics. I once bought a beautiful print crepe de chine online only to find that the bright colors made me look like a vampire. The softer colors on the wrong side were much more complexion-friendly.

  13. I use whichever side of the fabric I like the best. Different quality probably means a different sub-contracter as the manufacturer. That's why you can't count on brand names so much any more. If the actual maker changes, the quality can change.

    1. Good point. This has happened to us with Ikea furniture...

  14. I'd have to see it in person, but the more subdued sides look like the wrong side. I'd be mortified if someone thought a) I made a skirt from a sheet; b) the sheet was inside out.

    Love the Sound of Music, but I don't look like Fräulein Maria.

    You might consider using the pillow cases for dresses to send to little girls in nations with economic problems. I used to think that was a ridiculous (using pillow cases, not helping children), but that pattern might look cute.

  15. My mom would say you paid for both sides,so use whatever side you like best. I just made a Hawaiian shirt for my husband with the wrong side out. They are very popular where we grew up in Laguna Beach

  16. I have been pondering the 'wrong side' question myself. I have a piece of denim where I like the wrong side more, but I worry that'll wear wrong ... sigh ... I think you should go with the wrong side if you like it better. If you find after the summer that it wore differently or something, you can chalk it up as a learning experience, and if it didn't you won :-)

  17. Peter,

    I had a fabric that I used both sides of...

    I thought the contrast was interesting.


  18. Lone voice here it seems, but I prefer the intense colours of the RIGHT side of the one that got turned into something (i.e. not the king sheet).

    This also looks like the one that was used in the gingham/solid white styling of the bed. I think this is a great combination (though I'd choose solid black rather than white).

    Can't wait to see what you do with it.


  19. Ummm......I have some pretty fabric I am making curtains with at the moment. I have plans to turn the leftover yardage into a skirt or dress using the wrong side. :-)

    No one will know it is the wrong side unless I tell them. Or they are also home sewers but those a few and far between in my neck of the woods.

    So go for it! I really like the grey one on you. You should make the grey into a shirt and the black into pants- that would rock!

  20. Go ahead and use what ever side you like. I was always told "You own both sides of the fabric." Can't wait to see the finished product. Sincerely, Mary Kay

  21. I prefer the 'right' side of the fabric, but I used those quote marks because the right side is the one the sewer prefers to display. My first ever blog post was about using the other side of lace to make a vest ( Can't wait to see what you do with either side of the sheeting!

  22. I haven't had that happen with sheets but I did have a pair of bicycle gloves like that once. The pieces of grey material on the palms were of different quality, they were slightly different colours and one of them wore out much faster than the other. I think one was real suede and one was fake. The gloves were a matching pair in every other way.

    The wrong sides of the fabric do look very nice. The white line pattern that shows up on the wrong side sort of looks like rain.

  23. I use the wrong side of the fabric whenever it gives me the color value I'm looking for.

  24. Peter, the first picture of you here looks like "balding Jesus walks the desert in chintz".

  25. 1) Yes!
    2)Yes! Ive made a ton of stuff using fabrics in the "wrong" way, it doesnt allways work out very well Ill tell ya! Make sure to wash it a few times before, that ups the odds a bit. And cut a 4x4 inch testingpiece and batter it up abit by stratching a fork over it and running some sandpaper over it a few times to check for pilling, the wrong side of a fabric is often more prone to pill compared to the rights side.

    Ive notised that sometimes quality differs even if it is only a couple of weeks between buying the (supposedly) same product. No more of that "Ill buy one to try it out and go get more if its good." cause it doesnt work like than in many stores today..

  26. I'm working on a dress that uses both sides of the same fabric-- it's a sil...pewt... somewhere-between-silver-and-pewter satin that's this GORGEOUS purple underneath.


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