Tips for Shopping, Caring for and Sewing with Vintage Bed Sheets

With the sewing bug well and truly caught, I’ve been reunited with my love of vintage floral bedsheets. I don’t have a huge collection and over the years I’ve been left with only a few pieces still in my collection but each piece is treasured. Throughout my social media posting, I’ve received loads of questions asking how to identify, shop, care for and sew with vintage sheets. To keep everything in the same place, I thought I’d share everything I know about vintage floral bedsheets.

How to spot vintage bed sheets:
Vintage bed sheets are pretty easy to spot; look for obnoxious florals. Of course, if you don’t want floral, vintage bed sheets come in other prints and styles but floral is the most common and popular. The pattern on vintage sheets is generally a little busier than what we can find today so keep an eye out for strongly coloured and busy floral prints. Of course there are also subtle retro sheet patterns but the best way to tell if they’re vintage is by looking at the print on the flowers. Retro flowers just look different.
Most vintage sheets, especially from the 70’s, are made up of 50% cotton, 50% polyester for a soft, no need to iron blend. Today’s sheets are generally 100% cotton (or linen) so by having a peek at the label, you can use the fabric information to help you identify if the sheets are vintage or not. If you feel vintage bedsheets between your fingers, they generally feel soft, slippery and smooth without causing wrinkles.
If the original sheet tag is still attached, it will generally be a woven tag along the bottom hemline and not one of today’s modern plastic tags. Some vintage sheets may have plastic tags but they will still be newer (perhaps 80s or 90s) than say 70’s bed sheets.
If you shop for vintage bed sheets long enough, you will start to notice certain names of brands come up. Some of the most popular brands/lines include . Although most of these brands are no longer around, some still are. By getting familiar with these brands you can soon learn to spot them.
At the end of the day, when shopping for retro bed sheets, as long as you like them and enjoy the pattern, it doesn’t matter when they were released. If they make you happy, that’s all that matters.

Where to shop for vintage bed sheets:
I first started shopping for vintage bed sheets in thrift/op shops and second hand charity stores. This is the most common place to find them and they will range in price from just a few dollars to sometimes over $20. Besides second hand stores, I do see vintage sheets at markets, garage/boot sales and community market events. To accumulate a decent collection, it will take a fair amount of time.
If you are not on a time or financial budget; there’s the world wide web. Online market sites such as Ebay and Etsy and the most common places to find vintage bed sheets and they vary in price. I’d definitely recommend reading the item description as sometimes the sheets will be stained or damaged and a good seller will let you know. Also, the description should tell you what size the sheet you are buying is which is very important. Ebay and Etsy are great if you are a quilter and only need a fat quarter of vintage fabric; some sellers offer fat quarters of bed sheets which can be very convenient.
Some online vintage stores will also sell sheets but it’s been a while since I found one with consistent stock that isn’t a one off pieces.

Tips for shopping vintage bed sheets:
When you find your perfect bed sheet, there are a few things you should check before you commit to buy. First are stains; often bed sheets can have stains or even paint on them which can be an issue if you plan on using them for various projects. If the stains are really bad, you may not be ale to salvage it but if you think you are able to clean the sheets, continue with your purchase.
Check the middle of the sheets, especially on fitted sheets. As most people sleep in the middle of their bed, most wear and tear happens in the middle of the bed sheet. This can leave the centre thinner and faded. This may be an issue if you plan on sewing with the bed sheet so it’s worth checking.
Keep an eye out for a full bed set. Often second hand stores will try to sell bed sheets with as much of a set as possible so it’s great when you can grab some pillow cases or a fitted sheet to match. This means extra fabric so yay! If you can’t find anything extra, there are still loads of things you can do with your vintage sheets.
Lastly, smell the sheets. Yeah this might sound gross but some sheets may smell damp or mouldy (you never know what goes on in peoples linen cupboards), so if it smells awful, it might not be worth taking home.

How to care for vintage bed sheets:
When you first buy your vintage bedsheets, it’s best to give them a wash as you never know what they’ve gone through. I use either a Napisan or my Oxygen brightener to bring out the whites and colour in my sheets as well as bring them back to their glory days. I sometimes wash them in the bathtub and let them soak but most of the time I just chuck them into the washing machine on a gentle cycle.
When it comes to stain removal, it really depends on the stain. I normally either make a paste of Napisan and let it soak or I use my Exit stick and gently rub it until the stain lifts. If I still can’t remove the stain, I either try to avoid it being used on a pattern piece or I try to cover it up.
When my sheets are stored in my home, I like to put a dry bar of soap every few sheets as this keeps the moths away.

How to sew with vintage bed sheets:
I guess the fun part of shopping for vintage sheets is deciding what to do with them. Some people still use them for their intended purpose and If I had a spare bedroom in my house, I’d love to turn it into an obnoxious retro nook filled with eye melting floral patterns. As this is not my current state of being, my vintage bedsheets gets delegated to my fabric stash.
Vintage bed sheets are wonderful for quilters as there are so many ways to use their bright colours and with a quick google search, you can find hundred of quilts made out of bedsheets ready to inspire your next project.
Personally I use my retro bedsheets to sew garments, mainly dresses. Weirdly, I don’t have many photos of any of the dresses I’ve made with my retro bedsheets and most of the dresses I have made I have given to friends as it was still the early day’s of my sewing. Depending on the size of bed sheet you are able to hunt, a simple dress or retro dress can easily be made. I always try to make something as simple as possible and to save as much fabric as I can. This does mean you may not be able to pattern match as much but at the end of the day, it’s a fun challenge.
If you end up with loads of one type of pillowcase, they too can be turned into dresses, aprons, bags or other sewing projects.

Vintage bed sheets make for wonderful sewing fabric as they are generally soft, you get large pieces of fabric and they are so much fun to look at. Although I have a very small collection, as I slowly leave my house a little more, I’m hoping to return to op shopping and continue the hunt for vintage bed sheets. I hope this has been helpful to you and I wish you many fun hours of vintage hunting.

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Note: This is not a sponsored post. All opinions and thoughts expressed are solely my own and not influenced in any way. There are no affiliate links and I do not benefit from any link clicks or purchases made.

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