Vintage Sheets: How to Rip a Fat Quarter

Hello vintage sheet sewing & Sew Thrifted friends! Today’s blog post is all about getting a manageable piece of fabric from a vintage sheet. In the video I show you how to rip and fat quarter sized piece of fabric out of this queen sized sheet. So let’s get right into the video (with a little pop in by James my son) and then I want to talk a little bit more about the grain and why I think ripping is best.

As you can see in the video the grain of the fabric is not perfectly lined up with the hemmed edges. By ripping the top and bottom hems off the body of the sheet we start with an edge that is on-grain and is therefore the most stable edge to sew with.

Just a note about the bias edge. The bias is at a 45 degree angle from selvage and it is stretchy, not the ideal for sewing quilt blocks from small pieces. Bias is great for sewing curves, for making bias tape & is an important part of garment sewing.

Thanks for watching my videos and playing along during Sew Thrifted (check out my first Q&A blog post here) Please leave me any questions, comments or tips you have about sewing with vintage sheets.


Sew Thrifted: Q & A

Hello! Welcome to the first stop of Sew Thrifted an inspirational challenge all about sewing with the thrifted & vintage fabrics you love but maybe hesitant to use in your next project. My goal during the next three weeks is to share with you my vintage sheet sewing knowledge and I want this to be a two way conversation! Please share what you know and your tips and tricks in the comments here or on Instagram; just search our hashtag #sewthrifted2017.

My partner in this endeavor is Amanda Ward from Gypsy Moon Quilts. Amanda has a knack for sewing up adorable projects using beautiful color palates all from thrifted textiles. Amanda is posting over on her blog too answering questions about how to get fabric out of garments and using different weight fabric in your projects. Be sure to check out her unique perspective too. I love that she has a passion for thrifted fabrics as much as I do but she’s got a different niche’ – more knowledge to share with you!

Let me introduce myself too; I’m Kelly the creator here at Vintage Fabric Studio. I have been thrifting longer than I have been sewing. One of my first memories is of my mom taking me to the Goodwill here in Portland, Oregon. This thrift shop was in a converted office building with all these different rooms filled with second hand treasures. One of the rooms held all the sewing notions, fabric, patterns & crafts. This place was heaven for me and watching my mom sift and sort through that room will forever be a part of who I am.

Fast forward to now, where I continue to sift and sort through the thrift shops in Portland collecting the best vintage sheets I can find and bringing them to you in a way that makes sewing simple, fun & adorable.

So let’s get into the Q & A session, shall we!

Q: Vintage sheets are a poly/cotton blend; what are some tricks for quilting with them.

A: Yes, vintage sheets are 50/50 cotton and polyester which gives them a different feel than the quilting cottons we are used to. I have found that using starch and an iron set to cotton or lower will help you a lot when piecing, pressing and cutting. (check out my homemade spray starch recipe here) Test out your iron temperature to get it just right; the cotton setting may be too hot for a the poly blend fabric.

Another easy trick is to use a sharp needle with a fine gauge like 11/75 if an 12/80 quilting needle is feeling kinda clunky in your machine. When it comes time to apply quilting the finished quilt make sure to baste thoroughly using spray baste or pins. The more the better in this case because of the polyester content there is more give to the fabrics and that can lead to puckering.

My best advice to sewing with vintage sheets is to let go of perfection. A seam may wobble even though it has been pressed well. Think back to the time when these fabrics were first created; there were no rotary cutters & self-healing mats. Remember the days of scissors, cardboard templates and un-even seam allowances.  Sewing with vintage sheets may not be what you are used to and that’s okay too. There is a bigger reason why I sew with vintage and that is my mission: Re-purpose with a purpose. Taking a piece of cloth with lots of life to give and letting it continue in a new form; a quilt, a pillow case, a tote bag, a pincushion…the possibilities are endless with a piece of fabric.

Q: Should I pre-wash all the fabric? What about pre-wash batting?

A: Yes, pre-wash any vintage sheets or fabric you bring home. Not only will it help get that thrift store smell out it also lets you know if those vintage fabrics are going to bleed. Vintage sheets are color fast but vintage fabrics are not and you will want to thoroughly wash before use. Check out how I wash all my vintage sheets and fabrics in my blog post: Super Wash.

Batting is a different story and you don’t have to pre-wash; although there are quilters that do and I think it is a personal preference.

Q: What about the grain of the fabric in the sheets?

A: Grain of the fabric is important when sewing because it determines how stretchy your edges are. If you cut on the bias (diagonal 45 degrees from the selvage edge) that cut edge is stretchy and easily manipulated. This can be good for sewing curves but in quilt piecing stretchy edges are not our friend.

There are two ways to cut fabric to make sure you get a stable edge. First is cutting on a weft edge (perpendicular to selvage) and the second is the warp edge (parallel to selvage).

When cutting vintage sheets I rip the sheet to make sure that I am getting a straight grain weft edge to start my measuring. If you start with an on-grain straight edge you can be sure that all subsequent edges are good to go. I will be posting a video on just how I get my sheets from a king or queen into a fat quarter size on-grain. Look for that later in the week (I will post a link here when it goes live).

Q: What about mixing vintage sheets with store bought fabrics?

A: Mix it up! I love to use solids with the prints of vintage sheets but anything works as long as you take a couple precautions we’ll talk about next.


Q: Can I mix old worn fabrics with new stronger fabrics? Will the seams pull or tear?

A: Vintage sheets vary in quality. Some are washed hundreds of times before they get into the thrift shop and others feel brand new. My best advice for sewing with these fabrics is make sure to choose quality sheets before you buy. That said if you start with a good weight of fabric and you are using a reliable sewing machine with an average stitch length there shouldn’t be a problem. If you are concerned with something in particular, like a loose woven linen and a vintage sheet, then decrease your stitch length and finish the seam with a zig-zag stitch along the edges.


Q: How do I find vintage sheets at estate sales/thrift shops/online and what are reasonable prices?

A: Thrift shops are my best bet for sourcing sheets at a reasonable price but there are other places like Ebay, Instagram sellers, Etsy, garage sales and even Facebook. If you are in an area with thrift shops then start looking there and know that you may not find any on your first try. Some days I find a stack of pretty sheets and other days, nada.

Websites like Ebay & Etsy tend to be on the high end of the price spectrum but if you are looking for a particular design new in the bag you will more than likely find it there. Garage or Estate sales are hit or miss for me. If you have the garage sale touch then try looking in older neighborhoods and be there early if you want to get the best pieces.

Prices can vary from 50 cents to $50 for a new in bag set of sheets so set a budget of what you are comfortable paying (including shipping if applicable) and then be patient. Collecting vintage sheets takes time. I started with a handful of prints in 2014 and now I stock over 100 different fat quarter prints.

Q: Where can I find vintage fabric online?

A: If you are in a location where the thrift stores are not happening then online is the place to look for quality vintage fabrics. I have had good luck on Ebay & Etsy for bundles of vintage fabric in styles I am looking for. The best way to search for vintage fabric is to go to the website (Ebay for example) and search for vintage fabric in a category that speaks to you. Also check what other items the seller has to offer and the feedback rating before you buy.

Searching for ‘vintage fabric’ through a search engine is also a good place to start but the search results can be broad. Try adding a search term to your inquiry like; quilting, cotton, garment, dress making, novelty, for sale etc. depending on what type of fabric and project you are looking for.

Q: How to tell if items are vintage rather than just thrifted.

A: Great question! With so much vintage inspired product out there it can be tough to distinguish between thrifted and vintage. For vintage sheets the tell-tale sign is the tag. The tag will say what the fabric content of the sheet is (50/50 cotton/polyester) and most likely (but not always) read percale or some variation of -cale. Also sheets made in this era will say Made in the USA.  See the photo below for some tag examples.

The other way you can tell is the design and feel of the sheet. I can rub my hand over a sheet and tell if it is a vintage sheet that I want to take home with me. This is where the discerning eye of quality comes in because even though it is vintage it might be too thread bare to make it into the cart. The motifs of the time were large scale floral, small flower bouquets, butterflies, bright colors, stripes and geometric angles. To get familiar with the prints search ‘vintage bed sheets’ in google images or #vintagesheets on instagram. There are thousands of prints to scroll through!

Q: How do I decide what to use when starting a project.

A: Jump right in and choose a pattern or a color palette first. When I start a project one of choices leads me to a design. If I have a pattern in mind I will choose my fabrics to best work with that pattern. I may use 3 fabrics or 10 depending on what feel I am going for. If I have a stack of fabric in mind first then I will search out a pattern to fit with those fabrics.

Using vintage textiles is no different than using quilt shop cottons; what is different is the feel of your finished project which will be unlike anything anyone has done.


Q: How do I know I am getting the right quantities of fabric for my next project?

A: When buying a vintage sheet you get a lot of fabric for a small initial investment but if you are wanting to make a scrappy quilt with lots of different prints it can start to add up – both in money and in extra fabric. A few ways to combat this problem would be to buy just what you need from vintage sellers online (hey that’s me!), get together with some thrifting/sewing friends and trade your vintage sheets finds, or stretch out your fabric over several projects (make a skirt, quilt back, matching pillow cases).  If you have a specific project use the guidelines included in it.

Wow! That was a lot of information in one blog post! I hope this post helped to answer your vintage sheet thrifting and sewing questions. If you have a thought about any of these topics or something I didn’t write about please leave me a comment and join the discussion and don’t forget to check out Amanda’s post too at Gypsy Moon Quilts. Let’s share our vintage sewing knowledge with each other and inspire each other to sew vintage with confidence!



All About Vintage Fabric Studio Sewing Kits

Have you ever wanted to try sewing with vintage sheets but don’t want to invest the time to hunt for them? Are you new to sewing and need a helping hand through your next project? Or maybe you are an experienced sewist who is looking for a fun and easy way to create. How wonderful it is to have a project all ready to go! The fabric is cut out, the materials are gathered and the pattern is already picked out; all the details have been thought out for you. Let me walk you through all the awesomeness that is a sewing kit.

Vintage strings make up the adorable design of the ::Pretty Pincushion Kit::

Each kits comes with a detailed list of materials included in the kit and supplies you need to finish the project. Think of sewing tools like a sewing machine, rotary cutter and mat, iron and ironing board. There are also optional materials that make the job a little bit easier like Wonderclips & spray starch (see my blog post with a spray starch recipe here). If you have been sewing for a little probably already have these notions on hand.

The patterns are the foundation of our sewing kits and they are written with a beginner in mind.  I want you to feel confident during each step of the making process. The patterns are detailed with photos and written instructions to guide you through every stitch. One of my favorite things is to teach others to quilt and sew. I love to see a face light up and catch that ah’a moment of learning a new skill or mastery of something sorta tricky.


The kit line-up just got a little bit bigger last week when the ::Summertime Picnic Quilt:: was released. In this vintage sheet patchwork quilt you will find 56-8.5″ squares of vintage sheet fabric, a large piece of nylon for the backing and a hand needle and cotton perle for hand-tying the quilt for a simple finish. The fun and easy sewing of this kit includes a handle and ties for keeping the quilt together when not in use. The nylon (rip stop fabric) helps to keep your bum dry even when the ground is damp. Finishing at 55″ x 63″ it’s the perfect size for your next outing.

   ::Summertime Quilt Kit::


The kit that started it all; the ::Pretty Pincushion Kit:: is the perfect little project to get your feet wet in the sewing and quilting world. The pretty design uses string piecing on foundation fabric, a technique you will be able to play with after you master the 4 blocks made in the kit. Use the pattern to make them again and again for you and your sewing friends.

          Lots of pretty pincushions

The best news is that all kits are on sale now through July 5th. Shop the ::Kit:: section before the sale ends  and get sewing vintage. 

vintage sheets charm pack

Everything Die-Cut

Hello! I am excited to share with you my big budget video featuring me using the Accuquilt Studio2 Fabric Cutter to create a whole stack of charm squares in about 45 seconds. Haha! Just kidding it’s me in my basement studio space cranking out what I do best, making vintage fabric pre-cuts just for you. Have a look and I will tell you more about it after the short (3:43minute) Youtube video (press the arrow to begin the video).

What do you think? Pretty slick, huh. The two things that set Vintage Fabric Studio apart from the rest of the vintage sellers is the variety of charm square prints we stock and the accuracy of a die-cutter. Every sheet that comes through the studio is first ripped into fat quarters and then put through the die-cutter. This gives you a new selection of prints every couple of weeks. The Studio2 is so fast and accurate. It has taken all the guess work out of 5″ squares! No need to line up my rotary cutter and get distracted in the middle of a cut. The way the die cuts everything precisely for the shop is just what I need to produce enough volume to keep my happy customers in charm packs!

Charm packs come in counts of 25, 50, 75 and 100. Color ways include warm colors (think yellow, orange, pink) cool colors (green & blues), low-volume (prints with lots of white in the background or very light colors) and rainbow which includes multi-color prints and every color-way.

When you order a 25 count charm pack I do my best to minimize repeating prints depending on our stock on hand (for example there are 33 cool color prints right now!). For orders placed with 50-100 count charms we minimize print repeat with 2-4 of each print included depending on what bundle you buy.

Charm squares (5”x5”) are a versatile size for crafting and sewing. Use one on the top of a jelly jar for a cute gift idea. 5” squares are a common quilters size and can be used to make half-square triangles. A simple patchwork baby quilt can be sewn up with a 100 count-charm pack (8 rows by 12 rows).

Have I convinced you yet that our charms squares are something you will want to get your hands on? Let Vintage Fabric Studio help get your project off the ground with a charm pack in your favorite colors. We know you will love the variety of the prints in each pack and appreciate the accuracy of your final project. Grab yours today in the shop. 

Kelly’s Custom Colors Fat Quarter Bundle: Video Review

Hello Vintage Fabric Lovers!

I am super excited to share this little video with you from Maddie at BadAss Quilter’s Society. Maddie is a lover of all things vintage and fabric might be at the top of that list. She placed a big at quarter order during our grand opening week and she took the time to record  this little video of her opening up her curated rainbow color fat quarter bundles just for you.

The video was super fun to watch and it gives you a great peek at what the shop has to offer. There is even a blast from her past near the end you have to see to believe.

P.S. Did you know that Vintage Fabric Studio is a Premier Provider to the Speakeasy Members of BadAss Quilter’s Society? That’s right; and members get a standing 10% discount everyday of the week plus extras along the way. Sound like something you want in on? Check out the website and sign up today.

Vintage Fabric Studio :: Super Wash

I get asked a bunch where I find the vintage sheets and fabric offered in the shop. The quick answer is that there are lots of sources here in Portland, Oregon to find vintage textiles but more to the point is that most are purchased as a second hand item. That gets the wheels turning and I can see the questions surface about what I do with the sheet to get it ready to become part of a custom color fat quarter bundle, a charm pack or packaged in a kit.

The process of making your fabrics ready to create with starts with quality control before I even buy a single sheet. In the store I inspect for major defects like discoloring, sheets worn thin or large stains. Fabrics like this stay at the thrift shop. The sheets that do make it back to the studio get the spa treatment before anything else happens. All the fabric gets a Super Wash.

The Super Wash is a mix of detergents and the way we wash. First the sheets are let to soak in hot water with the detergent mix for 12-24 hours depending on what the water looks like. During this soak the action of the soap gets into the fibers and releases dirt and odor that may have been lingering. Being a child of the 1990’s I love a good before and after picture of anything getting  a deep clean! (remember those infomercials?) Check out the before and after of the water during the super wash! WHOA!



The difference is pretty clear here, dingy brown water on the left. This load was pretty bad  so I put them through the Super Wash again for another 12-hour soak and the water came out much clearer after the second Super Wash soak.

After the Super Wash is complete the sheets and fabrics are tumble dried or hung on the line if with weather cooperates. The results are SUPER! I was given a couple pillow cases that were just too dirty to use in the shop but were too cute to let go of yet! So when I decided to share with you about the Super Wash process I thought ‘let’s throw these really dingy pillow cases in the Super Wash and see what happens’. I will let the pictures speak for the power of Super Wash!

I love these before and after pictures! The left hand pretty pink floral went from dingy tan with an off odor to bright and white with a fresh scent. The right hand pillow case I thought was a lost cause but after the two rounds in the Super Wash it is so much brighter and smells great. (click the photos for a larger view)

I hope you enjoyed this behind the scenes look at how to care for vintage textiles and what we do to make sure each piece of fabric you receive is up to your highest standard of quality. I want to make certain you are going to love each design and print we have and that you love the quality of the fabrics we offer. If you have other questions about our shop policies take a look at our FAQ page as well.

Please let me know if you have any questions about our process. You can now leave a comment by selecting the tiny link at the bottom that says ‘leave a comment’ 🙂