Vintage Sheet Projects

This patchwork top was made for a lovely couple who wanted to bring a little part of the sea into their home.

…. and it’s just about big enough to swim in!  At almost 3m square, this will drape over the sides of their fabulous king size bed. They fell in love with my stash of vintage sheets (who wouldn’t?), picked some of their favourites, and we worked from there.

I’ve chosen a green polka-dot binding, but because it’s so big, this one will have to wait until I can book it some quality time with a long-arm quilter.  (Melbourne quilters — if you’re interested, let me know!)

This was a big challenge for me: my design wall (AKA 2.4m square piece of batting nailed to my studio wall) was too small and I had to work in quarters.  The first time I saw it whole was in GJs when I went to find some batting and backing.  I’m feeling pretty happy with it, all told.  It has the right mix.


Remember me?  No?  I don’t blame you.  I’ve been pretty distant from the blog lately, what with night school, homework, *real* work, keeping the house — well, certainly not clean, but at least mostly navigable and waterproof — and starting a small business!  Agh!  Oh, and there’s that wedding thing I should be planning!!

But I do have something to show for myself.  Would you like to make a vintage sheet cushion?  I’ve written a pattern and it’s over in my Etsy store now for the bargain price of $5.  The pattern is suited to any fabric, really, but I’ve developed it with an interfacing method that’s super-good for preserving and making the most of precious scraps that have seen better days.

Oh, and to all of you who are teeming over (yes, that’s the word I want) from — hi!  Stick around and join the conversation 🙂

Vintage sheet cushions, how do I love thee?  Let me string together some photographs of the ways.

You’re a ray of sunshine on a white couch.  But you’re also happy stacked up on a duster, ready to go to a new home.

You’re pretty even from far away.


And you just don’t have a bad side!


You even have a great back side 😀


I can’t stop sewing cushions.  Squeeeeee…. more, more more!   I’ve put some in the Etsy shop hoping that someone will love them as much as I do.  So that I can make more!!!!

Quilt a) — the happy scrappy

Quilt b) — the vintage sheet quilt.

I think by now almost everybody overseas has heard the tragic stories of Victoria’s bushfires.  Even in the outer suburbs of this city, people are losing their homes and their lives.  I’m not sure I can write a lot more about this.  I’m not eloquent enough.   What frightens me most is that they’re not finished yet.  Summer just  isn’t done.

We’ve all been doing what we can.  Giving blood, giving goods, giving time… I hear the most humbling stories from the firefront of people who’ve lost their houses and their whole families, and still help others.  But what’s needed most now is money to help these families get back on their feet, independent of relief stations and gifts of packaged foods.

I’m a student in part time work, engaged to a full time student.  I just don’t have that much money to give.  What I do have is a big stash of fabric, some time, and a knack with the Janome.  So I’m proposing that we (you and I, readers) make a deal.  I will make someone one quilt — either twin (single) or cot or lap size — in one of the two designs above.  It can be quilted or handsomely tied, your choice.  If you like the happy scrappy, I can personalise it for you with favourite colours or appliqued names — a perfect gift.  You can make a bid in the comments below.  Every cent that the winner pays will go to the Red Cross, who are getting families back together, coordinating tent cities, and making plans to get people into housing they can call their own.  The sale can be made by Paypal, or alternatively I’ll set up an uber-safe Etsy sale for which you can use your credit card.  I will pay to post the quilt, wherever you are.  It will be finished and sent no more than four weeks after bids close.

Bids should be made in Australian dollars.  As a rough guide, one Australian dollar costs 65 US cents right now, or 46 pence.  What a bargain for my overseas readers!

Bidding starts at 100 Australian dollars and will close at midnight, February 28, Melbourne Time.

Please tell any friends and family who might like to own a quilt and/or would like to help.   Link to this post in Facebook or on your own blog.  Send around some emails — please.

NB we don’t acually own the lovely cat pictured above, so your allergies are safe.   Our dog is a Schnauzer and doesn’t shed hair.

Edited 24 September to add:  if you like this tutorial, check out my new pattern for matching cushions!  It’s available as PDF or printed pattern, is in my Etsy store now and uses a new interfacing method which is not only quicker than most patchwork, but also super-good for supporting precious but aged scraps of fabric.

As promised, a post that is not about my garden. Nor is it about my wedding, a fact that will surely astound any friends and family who are reading this!

I made a custom order about two months ago from vintage sheets.  Much like my Grandma’s Vintage Sheet Quilt, these matching twin quilts are made from sheets and pillowcases from the 60s and 70s: the kinds of sheets we had in our house when I was growing up, as well as the kinds of sheets I wish we had.  I took pictures along the way and thought that others might be interested in a tutorial.

This is the simplest kind of quilt I’ve ever made and it can be constructed with nothing more than a sewing machine, a flat space, and an iron.  It breathes new life, beauty and strength into sheets that have worn in some places: worn and faded patches can be discarded, and the good fabric kept.  Experienced patchworkers might feel a little impatient to get past the details in these instructions.  I’ve deliberately tried to make it simple, because a vintage sheet quilt is the perfect low-cost, high-reward first quilt for a newbie.

First, cut out your pieces and arrange in a pleasing pattern.  I used a large square cut from an A4 piece of paper as my template, drawing around it with a soft pencil.  Those who have fast cutting equipment will doubtless prefer to use that at this stage.

Then sew some strips together and iron seams flat. In these single bed quilts, I went for eight squares across, so I built in fours. If placement is important, place a pin in the bottom right hand patch.  Then you’ll always know which way is up when you go to replace the strip in your arrangement.

Then sew fours together into eights, and so on…

…until you have one half sewn together! Again, use a pin in the bottom right hand corner.

Then pin and sew the two halves together. At this stage you can lay it over some batting and backing.  When putting your three layers together, tack them together in an all over criss- cross pattern, or use a series of safety pins (this last option is better for everyday use quilts than those you’d like to be *perfect*.  Now quilt it.

Alternatively you can lay it over a second full sheet and tie it together.  A lovely example of a simple, tied coverlet can be found here. I used soft flanelette for these quilts.  With any other style of quilt, I’d use cotton backing because flannelette doesn’t last forever.  But let’s face it: vintage sheet quilts aren’t going to last into your grandkids’ lifetimes.  They’re soft and they’re for enjoying now.

Bind the quilt with commercially purchased bias binding, or cheat by folding and sewing a pretty ribbon around the raw edges 🙂

That’s a whole quilt — or in this case, two quilts — made with no more equipment than a sewing machine and an iron.

Then find yourself a picturesque cat.

And you’re done.

Flickr set is here.

This is the first tutorial I’ve done at pinsandthimbles.  Did it make sense?  I’d be grateful for any suggestions you might have!

Some of you out in blogland and Flickrsville have been enjoying oh, fransson‘s Vintage Sheet Swap. I had a lot of fun with it myself, but I’ll also be the first to admit that postage to and from the US turns those pretty little fat quarters into some pricey vintage.

Would anyone care to try an Australian version? If you would, I’d be happy to co-ordinate it. Rules would follow oh, fransson’s general model:

You should send me as many fat quarter (18” x 22”) sized pieces as you want to swap, with a limit of 50 this time (this number may be highered or lowered depending on the number of responses). Fat quarters can be from pure cotton or a mix up to 50/50 percale; they can be from yardage or pillowcases or wherever you like, as long as they’re still in good condition. Fat quarters can be of any style and colour, but try to keep it clean and vintage (70’s and earlier, no solids or quilted fabrics, nothing overtly 80’s, no licensed comic/tv character sheets please). Please include a postpak with full return postage. Once I have everyone’s pieces, I’ll send each swapper a new package with the same number of fat quarters she sent. I’ll try to honour as many requests for certain looks or colours as I can, but you should expect to get a mixed bag back.
Of course, swappers from outside Australia would be very welcome, too. Let’s say, leave a comment here (make sure you tell wordpress your email address so I can find you), by September 1. I’ll send out my details to you soon afterwards. Fat quarters would be due by October 1, leaving everybody lots of time to collect and cut.
For ideas, have a look at the lovely pictures in oh, fransson’s dedicated flickr group. My own first try at a vintage sheet project is in this post. Are you in? Good. Let’s swap! As far as I’m concerned, if we have more than 10 swappers, we’re good to go.