Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Vintage Sheets

I have been seeing a lot of pretty vintage sheet quilts all over in "blogland" lately. I love these and since I love to "thrift", I had already bought a few sheets. When we go out of town, I always look up the local thrift stores and make Paul take me to them. (Better yet, I ditch Paul somewhere and go on my own.) My collection is getting bigger now, but I have yet to make a quilt entirely from vintage sheets. I have used them in other quilts, but I basically just view them as more fabric. I also have been buying old clothes when they are cheap enough. I have a little litmus test: if this was a fat quarter, would I buy it? If the answer is yes I will pay up to a dollar for a shirt or pillowcase or set of napkins or what have you. Any more than that and I will usually leave it there.
This sort of quilting makes me think of the "old ways". My great-grandma, Nanny, was a very prolific quilter. She made what we would call utilitarian quilts and gave them away to anyone in the community who was having hard times. When she was older, she suffered from macular degeneration and was considered legally blind. Her quilts showed it. However, she didn't let a silly thing like blindness stop her! She kept sewing away even if the seams didn't always get caught. I have one of her quilts and even though my mom went through it and tried to fix all the open seams, there are a few areas that are going to need some attention. Nanny used old clothes- polyester, cotton, blends, whatever she had on hand. People would bring her bags of old clothes and she just cut them up and sewed them right up into quilt squares with no thought to color placement at all. Christmas fabric, Halloween fabric, baby prints- everything went together.
Nanny tied most of her quilts, except for the "nice ones" which she would hand quilt. I can remember playing under the frame in her living room- her house was tiny and when the grownups were tying off a quilt there was literally no room to walk around the quilt. If you were on the "wrong side" and wanted to go to the kitchen or bathroom, you had to go out the front door, around the house and then go in the back door. I love that this is my heritage- making do with what you have, making old into new, giving a new life to something destined for a landfill.
Here are some pictures of my vintage sheet stash. There are some pillowcases and tablecloths in there too. The cabinet that I store them in is also my ironing station and it was given to me by my dad's mother. One of my uncles made this in shop class before I was even born. They just don't make things like they used to! Our table which is only 2 years old is in worse shape than this cabinet!
I pulled some of my favorites out and took pictures of them. Since I am poor (lazy) and didn't have (want to run downstairs and find) a quarter, I used a clothespin to show scale.
Can you see the polka-dots in this one? They don't show up true- they are pink like the flowers.
This may be my very favorite.
It says "Oleg Cassini" on it. I googled that but can't find anything that tells me about his vintage bedding. All I find are references to clothing. This is one that will be hard for me to cut into.
I like florals.
I am drawn to butterflies, too. This one is perfect for fussy cutting.
I have three of these- each one is a bit different, but they obviously came from the same line. I have a couple pillowcases in similar patterns also. I plan to cut the squares out and use them basically as a charm pack. The blue ones will go into the centers of some "squares inside of squares" blocks for the back of my quilt for my bed.

This pile is a set of homemade curtains and a "spread" as they called it at St. Vincent DePaul. I got a TON of fabric for $7. I am going to use it as a kind of stack and whack, but instead of squares I will make large Dresden plate type wheels and applique them onto alternating blue and green solid squares. I have some linen tablecloths that match the colors and will use those. I am going to end up with a VERY cool, wild quilt top for around $12.

.This sheet is not very old, but it was so cute I couldn't leave it there.

This floral is "Aunt Grace Ties One On" (I think) and it is a new fabric, as is the black and white polka dot. The green and yellow are vintage sheets, though. Don't they look nice together? I have no qualms about mixing new and old.

These are newer sheets, also, but they are cute. The green whales on pink is a Tommy Hilfiger sheet. It is a bit worn, but I will cut around those parts. Once again, these were too cute to leave there.

The orange and pink sheet is a vintage find, but the white with polka-dots is newer. I got the pink and orange (fitted and flat) from an estate sale down the block from my house and the pink one was a dollar at Goodwill. The pinks match perfectly. (The white and pink one is a Disney sheet and has a ruffle at the top with Baby Minnie on it.)

This blue and yellow pile is all shirts, pillowcases and a set of napkins. I want to make this quilt as sort of a tribute to Nanny and will use her favorite quilt square (churn dash) but I will make it wonky so that it will reflect my style as well. I will use a thrifted white sheet for my setting fabric so this will be another VERY inexpensive quilt top. I am still collecting fabrics for this one.

I hope this post inspires someone to think outside their fabric box. I do buy designer fabric, too, but "reclaiming" fabric makes those pricey fat quarters and half-yards go a lot further. Just don't start shopping at MY Goodwill. Or if you do, leave some good stuff for me.


  1. As somebody who does lots of sewing with vintage linens, I'm SO jealous of your stash. You should start making some quilts already! :)

  2. What a great collection you have going! Those are going to be some great quilts. Can't wait to see how they turn out.

  3. I like the black, yellow and green combination a lot, but I'm not sure where you'd put something that bright once you made it.

  4. I've been buying sheets and pillow cases too. Im currently cutting them up into FQs. they are glorious aren't they? I am in love with the florals!

  5. Wow...what a great 'sheet' stash!

  6. Wow you have an amazing collection of vintage sheets! I am quite envious :) I don't have a single one. Shameful, I know. I am trying to remedy that though!

  7. Wow what a fabulous stash of linens... I am going to have to start frequenting my local thrift shop and see if I can find some vintage sheets/linens there.

    So cool.

    so hurry and make some quilts, can't wait to see them.

    warm quilt hugs, sue in CA


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