If you sew, you will know how expensive sewing materials can be especially when it comes to fabric. I’ve written about sewing on a budget before and one point I will continue to share is that bedsheets make amazing cheap fabric alternatives if you find them at op shops. Thrifted bedsheets are one of my favourite things to sew with as they are soft, wide enough for big pattern pieces and cheap (check out this blog post for more information about vintage bedsheets). Although I’ve written about my love for vintage bedsheets, I haven’t ever shared anything I’ve made with them so I thought it was about time I did. Today we are making a dress out of a pair of stunning 1970s floral bedsheets.
You’d think that by using bedsheets from the 1970s I’d pair it with a 70s sewing pattern, somehow this idea eluded me until I actually started sewing so instead, we are going to use a 1940s pattern instead. I wanted something summery, light and cute for this fabric and decided on Blackmore 8673. We’ve never sewn a Blackmore Pattern on this blog before and it’s about time we moved away from the big 3 pattern companies (Butterick, McCalls and Simplicity). There’s nothing wrong with the big 3 but I don’t want people to feel discouraged to try out patterns from other companies. Blackmore was a British pattern company based in Bletchley, latterly Bletchley and London – one source says it was started about 1845 and published patterns till the 1940s (source). When I originally found pattern 8673, it was listed as a 50s pattern but with sources saying Blackmore closed down in the 40s, I’m going to just assume this pattern is actually from the 40s but I could not find an exact date. Blackmore patterns can be found for sale on sites such as Etsy and Ebay as well as second hand stores or markets (if you’re lucky).
Todays pattern, Blackmore 8673 features a dress and jacket pattern. The dress is a front buttoned summer dress with thick shoulder straps and a sweetheart-like neckline. The dresses skirt has inverted pleats and a midi skirt. The jacket, which unfortunately we will not be sewing today, features 3/4 sleeves, a button down front and small collar. This dress reminded me of this McCalls pattern which we have made twice and as much as I love that pattern, I wanted to try something different for this particular project. I’m hoping this pattern turns out nice as for a cute summer dress, this combination of pattern and fabric will be perfect. My pattern was sized as a 36 inch bust which means it should fit my 28 inch waist just fine but I may need to bring the dress in a little.
The 1970s bedsheet we have to use today came from Facebook Marketplace and it is a Wabasso Marvel Press Twin Top Flat sheet for a 72 inch mattress. I am not sure what the name of this particular pattern or the year it came out but it features a green background with a large floral design of the colours purple, blue and white. The sheet is pure cotton which makes it really soft and the width of the sheet means my pattern will fit (for once). Vintage sheets like this can be found at op shops or online and I have a whole post about how to shop for them here incase you are interested.
Sew, let’s get started. Vintage Blackmore sewing patterns are a little different from modern patterns; the pieces come with no visible markings or labels as to what they are so you will have to try and match the illustrations on the back of the envelope and their notches to the actual pieces. This will tell you what the pieces are and how to identify what direction they are to be put. The illustration on the back of the envelope will also give you information as to where the grainline is to face. Vintage Blackmore patterns do not come with seam allowance so after pinning my pattern pieces to my bedsheet fabric, I used my water-soluble marker to mark out a half inch seam allowance on all the pattern pieces and then I cut them out. The joys of using a vintage bedsheet means that sometime you may need to get clever with pattern placement to avoid marks, stains and rips. My bed sheet had one large hole in it and several smaller holes plus a couple of scattered stains (try not to think about what kind of stains they are, it’ll ruin your fun). I used pins to mark out the holes placements so they were easy to see when placing my pattern pieces down.
Once I had everything cut out, I noticed something else about this pattern. All the instructions were on the back of the envelope and they were rather vague with no illustrations to help. This can be quite daunting to new sewers or visual learners such as myself. If you are new to sewing, it might be best to get some more experience before trying out a vintage Blackmore sewing pattern as a lot of the time, you will just need prior knowledge for some sewing terms and steps. I began sewing by sewing in some stay stitches along the tops of all my bodice pieces. I then sewed in my darts and attached the back bodice to the two front pieces leaving the centre front of the bodice open as there will be buttons going in at a later point. Normally, we would attach a facing at this point but we can’t do that until the skirt is attached so let’s move onto that.
The skirt came in four pieces and the instructions simply say to add an inverted pleat to each piece. To do that, I used the paper pattern pieces as they had markings for where the pleat should be placed on each piece. I used my marker to mark out these spots and traced out two lines (the edges of the pleat). These lines were aligned together and I pinned them together. To keep the pleat together, I sewed some basting stitches along the line and then ironed the back of the pleat to become a box pleat. These instructions aren’t the easiest to explain in a written way so I’d recommend you checking out my video (linked above) to get a visual reference. I repeated this process for each pattern piece; tracing out my pleat lines, pining then basting them together before ironing in the pleat to be inverted. I then attached the skirt pieces together leaving once again the centre front open as this would have buttons put in.
With the skirt attached, I stay stitched across the top waistline to secure the pleats and seams down before attaching it to the bodice waistline and sewing the bodice to the skirt. I now had the dress mostly together to it was time to focus on the facing. The facing had three parts, a smaller back facing piece which I cut out of the floral bedsheet fabric and two longer front/side facing pieces which I cut out of plain green cotton. If I was home and had interfacing with me, I would have added interfacing to the facing to add a bit of strength but I had none so I moved onto the next step. I had to turn my attention to the straps as they needed to be pinned into place before the facing was sewn down. I pinned the straps right sides together, sewed down the seam, trimmed the allowance and then turned them right sides out. I ironed them flat before deciding where to pin them along the dresses bodice. I couldn’t find any special markings to know where the straps should be pinned so I tried my best to figure it out myself. If you have a dress form, this would be the perfect time for it. I put the dress on and tried that way but in the end, they were still a little wonky but at least I got the length right.
With the straps pinned into place, I went around and pinned the facing to the edge of the dress before sewing it down. I trimmed and clipped the seam allowance before ironing everything down nice and flat. I went ahead and hemmed the edge of the facing as I didn’t want it to fray so a simple rolled hem was enough to keep it in good shape. By this stage, I realised I hadn’t even looked at the patterns instructions since it told me about the pleats so I figured I might as well just sew what I want at this point. I reviled in this freedom by adding some top stitching along the edge of the front and back edge of the dress. I really liked the complimentary green thread I had for this project so I wanted to add a nice top stitch which would look good and add a little extra support. With that done, it was time to focus on the buttons.
I had brought 12 wooden buttons with me so I evenly placed them down the left side of the front edge (well it’s on the left side when I’m looking at it but on the right side when wearing it). When I was happy with the placement, I marked where the buttons go with the marker and went about practicing how to use the 4-step button function on my new sewing machine. The Aldi Stirling sewing machine I was using at the time wasn’t the greatest and I wanted to make sure my button holes were the best they could be. The stitching wasn’t as condensed as I would normally like it but I planned on adding some fray check once I got home to better seal the button holes. My buttons holes took me a little time to complete but I kind of really like making button holes so it was oddly fun.
As I was still enjoying the joys of topstitching, I wanted to add another vertical row of visible stitches about an inch away from the side edge so the buttons and button holes would look like they were in panels. I got this idea from the original bedsheet which had a decorative folded edge with some lace. If I had enough lace I would have added it to the dress but I was a little short so I left it. The decorative stitching looked really cute and gave the buttons a more finished look. It would also prevent any shifting and add a little bit more support to the button holes. The final bit of sewing I had left to do that evening was to hem the skirt and a simple rolled hem did the job just nicely. I wasn’t going to sew on the buttons that evening as I knew the next day I had an appointment where I would sit around for around 40 minutes and that was all I needed to sew on all my buttons. Once the buttons were attached, all I did to the dress was give it a really good iron and I attached my new personalised fabric label.
Vintage floral bedsheets, especially from the 1970s make for some incredible sewing fabrics and as a result, really bright, fun and unique garments. I love how this dress turned out and although the pattern is from the 40s and not the 70s, it goes together perfectly and gives out summer vibes (perfect seeing as it’s almost winter on this side of the world). With all the imperfection in the bedsheet, it gave an interesting challenge to the sewing and although there are small holes in the skirt, I kind of like knowing the fabric had a whole other life before it became a dress and although I will go and patch up some of the holes once I’m home, I don’t mind imperfections in my hand made garments.
The overall fit of the dress was good and I didn’t have to worry too much about bringing in the sides as I just used the buttons as a way of tightening the dress. The straps were a good length but they were not put on straight or even which means I’ll have to go back at a later date and fix it up. Whilst cutting out my pattern pieces, I did make a pocket piece and cut it out but I was so focused on trying to get the skirt pleats perfect that I forgot to add the pockets before sewing up the sides. I do want to go back and add the pockets but for now, lesson learnt. I do like the skirt length but next time I make such a dress, I’ll add more skirt and make it fuller.
Sewing can create a lot of fabric waste which can be awful for the environment. Textiles take a long time to breakdown in the environment and textile waste has caused some devastating effects to our world; by using already made materials and textiles, this minimises landfill. With all the damage to this bedsheet, I don’t know what it’s future would have been but now it will be enjoyed for years to come and even it’s offcuts are all saved and will be used for further projects. I do want to sew with more bedsheets and other materials that’s don’t come straight from the fabric store so prepare to see similar projects on the blog soon.
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.