“A society is defined not only by what it creates, but by what it refuses to destroy.” -John Sawhill
My husband and I visited friends in the northern part of rural Illinois. As with most retirees, the endless battle of getting rid of a life time of accumulated treasures goes on in their house. Charlotte brought me to two large drawers in a built in cupboard at the top of the second floor of their four-square home. Each drawer was filled with linen. The scent of sun dried cotton wafted upward to my nostrils while the image of my mother hanging sheets on a clothesline breezed into my mind.
“We bought these new beds with thick mattressres.” Charlotte reached into the drawer and held up a vintage pair of sheets with a lime green and peacock blue circular design so popular in the seventies. “None of our bottom sheets fit over the deep mattress. And our daughter wants us to put a memory foam pad on top of that.” Her other hand gestured to piles of textiles neatly folded in the drawer.
Enter the World of Sheet Quilts
The answer to this dilemma is a boon for a niche group of quilters. These are the stitchers who browse the aisles of thrift stores in the quest of finding sugary florals, prim striped, or even fun print cotton sheets. A cache like Charlotte’s would send sewing machine bobbins into a frenzy of rhythms. Quilts pieced from the unworn parts of linens with designs long-loved and almost forgotten is the passion of these patchwork artists.
Kelli, from the Willow Mart, is a fan of sheet quilts. “I’m not sure why this surprised me, but this vintage sheet patchwork blanket is exceptionally cuddly and soft.” She explains. “New quilts take a while to get that worn feel and look. But seriously, if you are looking for a cuddle blanket, this is the way to go.”1
Who doesn’t want to cuddle a comforter around them when reading a book? A quilt that just wraps cozy around the body? Sheet quilts are sought after not only for their sentimentality, but as beach blankets or spare warming blankets in the car’s trunk.
Another vintage sewer is Susan, whose Sugarbeans blog describes the steps in making a patchwork sheet quilt, one square at a time. Susan sews for her Etsy shop also, so purchasing one of these masterpieces in nostalgia is possible for those of us with more money than talent or time. 2
Reuse. Recycle. Repurpose. Vintage sheets provide the material for scrappy quilters to create useful, functional and beautiful quilts steeped in designs that stoke cob-webbed memories. What sweet dreams one will have while sleeping under a sheet quilt made from iconic patterns.
Let Me Sleep On That
Charlotte took a second glance at the folded textiles in her stash. She tenderly drew a set from the middle of the pile. Her fingers slid slowly and smoothly across the pink and yellow flower printed cotton.
“My oldest daughter nestled on these sheets,” Charlotte whispered. “Can you smell her favorite perfume-Highland Lilac?”
Leaning over, I breathed in the faint scent of lilacs infused into the tight cotton weave.
“Yes,” I whispered. As my hand stroked the cottony fabric, my mind caressed pleasant memories of the lavender colored flower. The overgrown lilac bush outside our mobile home when my husband and I just married. The fragrance from the flowers when our first born came home from the hospital. My neighbor and I in the alley cutting branches of blossoming purple to take home for decoration. The scent of lilac. The lingering reminiscences of happy times.
Wouldn’t it be peaceful to doze under a quilt pieced from these intriguing vintage sheets? The double size set snuggled under my arm as my lips spread into a grin.
“I love those random memories that make me smile no matter what’s going on in my life right now.” -Anonymous
1.The Willow Mart, by Kelli. “Sewing with Vintage Sheets: A Few Tips I Learned Along the Way”, May 17, 2016.
2. Sugarbeans.org: Creating Joy at Home
For the quilt lover who enjoys reading about the lives of fabric artists who stitch despite difficult circumstances. Available at the Liberty Creek General Store online, or at amazon.com.