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Mar 26, 2010

Not for the squeamish -- with POLL

I saw this photo on Sartorialist yesterday and thought (as I often do): Why not me?

Then it hit me: 

Eureka -- I'd make myself a club-collared shirt!  I had the pattern: McCalls 6890, a vintage mens shirt pattern from 1979.  All I needed was the fabric.

I rushed to my local Salvation Army and picked up a lovely, creamy-white, all-cotton flat sheet, neatly folded and smelling of dryer sheets.

I was ready to roll.

As I was ironing it, however, I noticed something rather unfortunate.  This sheet to say it...not perfectly white.

Oh, heck, we're all adults here:  This sheet had been well loved -- or rather, someone had been well loved on this sheet.

This sheet had a few other annoying (albeit less embarrassing) problems, like these:

I am nothing if not forgiving (we all have a few flaws, right?) and I managed to cut around most of the abominations imperfections.  I certainly wasn't going to let some stains ruin my sewing day, nor discard a perfectly good $1.99 bed linen; do you think money grows on trees?

I cut out my fabric -- strategically -- and got to work.

As of last night I had finished everything but the sleeves, hem, cuffs, and buttonholes.

I'm particularly proud of this:

The question of the moment is, will this shirt be ready to wear to lunch today with the Slapdash Sewist and her entourage?  I have many other sheets shirts to choose from, of course, and I hate to rush.

A second question might be, if I do wear the shirt and Slappy's read my blog, will I be banished to the far corner of the room?

Consider this the first Male Pattern Boldness cliffhanger!

Honestly, readers, was I wrong to just work around those stains?  It's not like the sheet hadn't been laundered; it was simply beyond laundry.

It HAD found its way to the thrift store, after all.

In your own words:


  1. Great job on the top stitching! I prefer the old (high quality) sheets for test runs/fitting. It's nice to have a stable grain for such things.

    Stains are a part of life, no matter where they come from. Just cut around and toss the ugly spots. :P

  2. I say if you can't see then who cares. Another option could have been dying it to a color more forgiving oh stains (but that's a whole other hobby). Also, I've picked up some vintage men's patterns for you if you want them (how weird am I to shop for a total stranger, well two if you include Car

  3. Lol, great post. Who's to know your shirt was made from a well-loved bed sheet, and how rude of anyone to ask!! You cut around the bits that mattered, so your shirt is fine.

  4. Oh, Peter! You are fantastic! I adore you blog and you, too! Bedsheets are fabulous fabric...I would have proceeded just as you did.

    Can't wait to see you rockin' your new creation. :)

  5. I'm from the reduce/reuse/recycle ethos (hell, I live in Portland!) so this made perfect sense. I have made kilts from drape, coats from dead kimonos, and lined evening bags with scary neckties. As long as it doesn't show in the final project and doesn't smell, go for it!

  6. very nice work on the pocket...i'd love to see you in the whole'd be smokin'

  7. I would have tried to convince myself that those were not what they look like. Maybe the previous owners dog was a dribbler, or the owner was, or he spilled something that isn't any kind of bodily fluid. The Nile isn't just a river in Egypt, you know.

    Shirt's looking great so far by the way. Never seen that kind of collar on a mens shirt before.


  8. Fer cryin' out loud, regarding recycled fabrics, if any of us stopped and gave serious thought to the stories they could tell, we'd never bother to use them. That's why they invented washing machines and hot water and laundry soap! Nice job on the pocket, I don't know how you do it . . .

  9. I probably would have embarked on a lengthy mission involving some Oxiclean, but I certainly would not have abandoned the project. I am looking forward to the finished project, as I have that same pattern for Andy's next shirt. Incidentally, I tried buying a sheet at the Salvation Army for use in a similar style shirt, and the shirt was brand new in the packaging. The end result was something very stiff and unwearable - perhaps not a good quality sheet?

  10. Peter! My "word verification" for my last comment was "menses" appropriate!

  11. Impressive pocket — I can't wait to see the whole shirt finished, even with the fabric's shady and (perhaps) lurid past ;) I say, wear it with pride!

  12. I saw that shirt collar on the Sart yesterday and loved it! Why don't we see more of those around? I'm so glad you are making one.

    I would NOT donate a stained sheet to the thrift store, there are plenty of uses at home for linens whose time is up. However, the stains are nothing but a chemical constituent of the original compound so any thought of grossness is but a figment of the imagination.

    Can't wait to see the new shirt on you!

  13. I have learned many things about stain removal since I started researching how to clean antique linens. (We have a 98 year old christening dress that I wanted to get the age spots, etc out of. It's now bright white and perfect. I've used this to get out stuff like five-year-old bloodstains from bloody noses and such , too)

    And this one I'll share with you. Get a large stainless steel or ceramic-lined pot. Canning pots work best, and under no circumstances use aluminum, because the chemical reaction will badly stain what you're trying to clean. Fill it about halfway up and set it on the stove to boil. You'll also need to have your vent fan on, rubber gloves to be on the safe side, a wooden spoon to stir with, and Oxyclean.

    Wait until the water comes to a boil and pour in two scoops of oxyclean. It should foam beautifully. Now dump in the stained items, stir, and boil them for fifteen-twenty minutes. After your time is up, remove the pot from heat and allow it to soak (and cool down) for a few more minutes before taking it out of the pot and dumping it in the sink to drain. After it's not drippy, just wash it as usual. It should make your shirt bright white, Peter. And remove any stains you have in it. The only stains I've been unable to get out this way are glitter glue and badly-stained motor oil.

  14. Nice work on the pocket! I should start practicing my mens' shirtmaking as it's the thing my boyfriend is most anxious for me to tackle. Do you have a favorite pattern?

    I locked the Slapdash Sewist out of her home within 15 minutes of meeting her. I suspect she would be equally gracious with regards to your shirt. Have a great time.

  15. Second the vote for Oxiclean - I just use the hottest tap water, the utility sink in my laundry room, a heaping scoop of Oxi, and a 24-hr soak. It removed "storage stains" (yellowing of white shirts around the collar) and baby spit-up stains incredibly well. I collect weirdly stained clothing now and do an Oxi wash 1x a month or thereabouts. Fantastic stuff.

  16. I love, love, love my thrift stores, but you have just outlined the reason why I don't buy bedsheets there.

    However, yours and Briansews' shirt projects have inspired me to do some sheet-shopping at the local outlet store which sells luxury linens at bargain prices. :)

  17. I would have done just as you did, Peter. But I love the oxyclean tips - glad for this topic and its advice.

  18. I have to admit, it's kind of creepy. What's even weirder is that I'm fine with making something out of something like that and just cutting around those parts, like you've done here. But to actually put that sheet on my bed and sleep in it, NO WAY! To me, if you give it a little bleach love, which will disinfect, there's no problem recycling it for something like a shirt.

    I imagine a CSI guy coming and spraying you down and then putting you under blue light and there's all these spots of the things you didn't see. Ha ha ha.

  19. Great looking pocket!
    I would probably have done what you did, cut around the crud, but not before I screamed out a big, fat, "WTF".

    Your shirt is going to be gorgeous.

  20. Yikes! I think you're fine so long as you haven't featured a spot on the chest pocket (you obviously didn't - it looks so great!).

  21. I use vintage fabric for things all the time, nbd.

    My friend, who ran a charity thrift store, shared her recipe for a stain soak that she used VERY successfully on many of the donated items that came in. I LOVE it!!!

    1c powdered dishwasher detergent (generic works perfectly for this!)
    1c powdered color safe bleach (I use purex 2 b/c it's the cheapest, but clorox 2 and BIZ work, too)
    5 gal bucket.

    Put the powders in the bucket, add the hottest tap water you have, then the stained or discolored items. Soak for up to a week (more than overnight, tho, for badly stained items). I usually add things to the bucket as the week progresses.

    Dump the entire contents of the bucket into the washer, don't add soap, and wash away! You may need an extra rinse. Voila!!
    **do not add things with red or navy piping or trim to this bucket or REALLY bad things will happen**

    good luck!!

  22. I use a lot of vintage sheets in my sewing, and these sorts of things haven't stopped me yet! I just cut around and remind myself that I had an incident on my bed with nail polish that looked like something else completely after being washed. That's all it is, yes, nail polish!

  23. Honestly, my poll answer would be: G. All of the above.

  24. Having kids and a dog has probably desensitized me a bit, though the ick factor can certainly be higher when you don't know exactly where the stains have come from!

    A two-hour soak in vinegar and hot water followed by an overnight soak in oxygen bleach and hot water can remove almost any biological stain. Our mutt, Lola, loves to drool and leave weird stains on our light bedding, so I've used it quite a lot.

  25. I love the pocket detail!

  26. A shirt with a Past! How intriguing. Very nice pocket. Please let us see the finished shirt too!

  27. I probably would have quickly washed the sheet with some bleach to kill anything that might be lingering, just in case, and then strategically cut out my pattern. However, knowing my luck, there would be a spot that I didn't see that would have ended up on my shirt.

    Your shirt looks great, btw, and you deserve to be proud of that pocket!

  28. Can you imagine the original owner of that sheet standing next to you on the subway, recognizing it on you, and being secretly horrified knowing that YOU know what HE knows - and he knows that you know he knows?
    His eyes meet yours. You smile. His face turns alternately red, then white, as he wishes to GOD that he had burned the blasted thing instead? You look at him questioningly and he nervously says, "Uh, nice topstitching. Oh! This is my stop!"

  29. It's cool you let your inspiration get the best of you. What's in the works looks great!!! Great idea about using sheet fabric from the Salvation army. I'll consider that the next time I have to do muslin for a garment:)

  30. The shirt looks good but the ick factor is off the scale for me.

    I worked for toxicologists for too long to ever be able to do this.

  31. If there is so much evidence that someone has been well-loved (and often) on this sheet, doesn't it mean it has great karma?

    Perhaps it will become your lucky shirt. ;D

  32. I can't believe they put this sheet up for sale in the first place, but you're doing a good job with an otherwise unusable piece of fabric!! As long as you don't walk into a room which has one of those lights that show up "those" stains as a bright iridescent blue blob of light....! conversation starter!!

  33. I wouldn't be able to get the sheet's past out of my mind and thus wouldn't be able to wear the shirt.

  34. My god that dude from the Sartorialist looks good enough to eat! Nice inspiration

  35. That pocket looks fantastic! I think I might have been a bit skeeved out by the stains, but I admire you for cutting around them and still getting the shirt out of the fabric.


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