Can You Make Quilts from Bed Sheets? Quilting Friends Podcast #65

Hello my quilting friends! I have a new quilting debate for you today asking a simple question – can I use bedsheets in my quilts? Well, that’s where I begin at least! I also touch on using cheap fabric from big box stores, t-shirts, and weird fabrics like silk, wool, jeans, and cordory. Enjoy watching the podcast and my progress on the free form crochet sweater right here:

Or you can listen to the episode or download it to your computer here:

Quick Links to things mentioned in the show:

how to make a zippered pouch

How to Make a Zipper Pouch

how to quilt crazy ziggie

How to Quilt Crazy Ziggie

machine quilting rulers

Machine Quilting Rulers

more podcast episodes

More Podcast Episodes 

Should You Use Bed Sheets in Your Quilts?

This is a debate I’ve seen come up multiple times in quilting forums and groups and it really is a logical question – I need a giant piece of 100% cotton fabric that’s as big as my bed for the backing of this quilt. Well, how about this top bed sheet that’s already the right size?

Short answer: yes, that’s just fine.

can you make quilts from bed sheetsJust in case you've heard differently, here's a bit of background: Bed sheets have a reputation for being difficult to quilt through from hand quilters. It makes sense that a high quality, high thread count sheet would be difficult to stitch through by hand.

But doesn’t that mean batik fabrics are harder to hand quilt through too? I find my favorite Island Batik Fabrics often have a tighter weave than the sheets on my bed.

So if you've heard that using bed sheets in your quilts is a big quilting no-no, you need to consider the source. Is she a hand quilter? Has she ever used a sheet in a quilt personally?

Many times quilting lore is shared from person to person with no real-life experience behind it. This is why quilter's are still being told not to use polyester thread. It's a rumor that continues to be spread in the spirit of helping one another out.

I don't think using a bed sheet in your quilts is an issue anymore. Quilting has long since moved beyond hand-work only and most quilters machine quilt or have their quilts longarm quilted.

Are bed sheets an issue to quilt through on long arms? This is definitely something I want to test out in my next longarm quilt. I plan to pick out two top sheets – one super cheap, low thread count sheet and one high thread count, expensive sheet and quilt two throw quilts to see what happens.

The way I figure it – If my machine doesn’t try to eat it, I can quilt with it.

This goes straight into weird materials. Jeans, t-shirts, silk, wool, leather – you name it, quilters have made quilts out of it! If you’re feeling bored or you just have a lot of something weird laying around, why not try it?

Now there’s another thing that can be behind the whole – DON’T USE THAT campaign and it’s simply good ole fashion snobbery. Some people think buying fabric from big box stores is just plain wrong. I received several negative comments on this free pattern made for JoAnn Fabrics.

Dude, if you can afford $12 - $18 a yard fabric, go buy it! But please don’t tell someone it’s wrong to use it in their quilts.

Yes, the gray goods that cheaper fabrics are printed on is lesser quality. The weave isn’t as tight and the quality isn’t as awesome.

But any fabric you purchase today is still 300% better quality than the fabrics our grandmothers or great grandmothers were using in the 1970s. Before you turn up your nose at it, please consider that it doesn't matter what someone else is using. Worry about yourself, purchase the fabrics you want to use, and go make your quilts the way you want to make them!

Whew! So that's it for this quilting debate. I hope it puts this whole bed sheet thing to rest. I do plan to buy some sheets and try them out on the longarm to see what happens. I'll be curious to know how a 500 thread count sheet compares to a 200 thread count and also against my normal quilting solids, prints, and batiks.

Let's go quilt,

Leah Day

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Comments

  • Leah Day - September 26, 2018

    Hi Tanya – I completely agree! I do think a lot of the focus on quilting cottons has to do with making sales on the fabric. It’s certainly understandable from the perspective of a quilt shop that makes money mostly on fabric, but it’s ridiculous to say a quilt can’t be made from cheaper, upcycled materials!

  • Tanya Thackeray - September 25, 2018

    I make crazy quilts from old clothes, sheets, curtains – you name it, if I can cut it and sew it, I’ll use it. I made a rug for my partner and lined it with an old woolen blanket. It has been through my washing machine many times and is still okay!! I live in England and cannot afford quilting cottons. We don’t have many speciality quilting shops and fabric shops are few and far between. Sewing is enjoying a revival here. I learned to sew at school and with my mum and grandmother. I always wanted to quilt and it was only seeing a programme that demonstrated the EZ crazy template that got me started. since then I have bought the Accuquilt dies and have even pieced blocks using charity shop (you call them thrift stores) fabrics and have used sheets for the backing. When I started looking for information and help on the internet about quilting, I came across an awful lot of sites that turned their nose up at using thrifted materials and ONLY using quilting cottons. This is the first site that I have found that says it is OKAY to use cheaper materials!! Like you say, quilting in days gone by was using what they had. Here it was described as make do and mend. I stopped reading those blogs etc and did it MY way. I have even sold one of my quilts that was made entirely from upcycled materials. I love making my upcycled quilts and have now started making bags and other items from charity shop fabrics as well. I would say to anyone just use what you can afford and ENJOY what you make with it – it is YOUR creation and is unique.

  • Leah Day - July 26, 2018

    Mary Ann – That’s a great suggestion! I have a lot of tapestries from college which are basically the same thing – printed cotton fabric from India. So far I haven’t wanted to use them as backing because they’d make such great quilt tops too! LOL! Thank you for reminding me I also had those still on hand.

  • Mary Ann Hayre - July 25, 2018

    I have found a wonderful backing in Indian handprinted bedsheets. They come in many sizes and wonderful colors. Not as densely woven a regular bedsheets, and my longarmer says they quilt just fine.

  • Deborah Rhodes - July 23, 2018

    Cheers !!

  • deb cripps - July 20, 2018

    I so agree about using whatever. I have saved and used husband old cotton shirts to make quilt tops for grandkids. And have used my son’s old college dorm sheets to back his son’s toddler quilt. Used my Mom’s old sheets to back granddaughters baby quilts. I liked the memories being handed down part of quilting. That feeling of being connected to prior generation’s lives.

  • Lorie Kreppel - July 20, 2018

    I have made a whole queen size quilt in flannel top and bottom. I used the Yellow Brick road pattern. It can only be used in the winter as it is heavy. It was also my first quilt to have longarmed. I didn’t figure I could get it under my domestic machine because of it being so heavy. My daughter loves this quilt.

  • Lesley Morris - July 18, 2018

    ALSO, another debate… I use MATTRESS PAD COVERS for batting!!! And, yes it works great. Of course I bleach the cover before using it, and at times I’ve had to rebuild and or re-quilt on the cover if it’s been damaged. I free-motion, and tend to densely quilt, I’ve had no problems. I always use a test piece the size of a pot holder to work our tension, if need be. Thrift shops are a great source. Thank you Leah for the sheet debate, I’ve used sheets for backing and it hasn’t been a problem, my conscious is clear!

  • Maureen - July 18, 2018

    Thank you so much for debunking such a touchy subject.

  • Aric - July 13, 2018

    I have always used a cotton bed sheet for my backing and using batik squares on the front. In our desert heat a cool sheet is the way to go, especially in a warm winter.

  • Nelda Evans - July 13, 2018

    Thank you!
    One of my favorite quilt memories is getting to use a “britches” quilt at my grandmother’s. Britches quilts were made from worn out men’s wool/wool blend or gabardine pants. The quilts were warm and heavy….perfect for making pallets on the floor for sleepovers or bundling up around the heater in winter before central heat. Our mothers and grandmothers made do with what they had….one of my favorite dresses was made from a flour sack! Thank you for reminding us that the love and creativity we put into our projects is what makes them so special….not the high end fabrics, etc. Keep making it real and encouraging us to use what we can afford to express ourselves.

  • Franny Rose - July 13, 2018

    Thank you for these thoughtful comments. Our grandmothers used old clothing and flour sacks for their quilts. That’s all they most of them could afford. I live on a retiree budget. I can’t always buy $15/yd. fabric. Quilting is for all ages, income levels, etc.

  • La Juan Holjand - July 13, 2018

    I have used sheets, very successfully. Notreal cheap ones. Sheeting from fabric store. I free mmotion and use my embroidery quilt as you go. Enjoy your work, thank you. Very smart lady.

  • Candace Hyatt - July 13, 2018

    Can’t wait to read Malley.

  • Amy - July 13, 2018

    Leah, enjoyed your podcast today, and I agree that its fine to use sheets for quilts, especially for backs. I must admit that I am stuck in my own sort of box about this because I have some quilts handed down in my family that were made by my grandmother’s grandmother with her daughters and some made by my great-grandmother and grandmother. Since they were poor farming folks, they used what they had, worn out shirts, old overalls, feed bags. We even noticed that the “thread” used to sew and quilt them was exceptionally heavy and finally realized that it was actually string, most probably from feed bags. My grandmother always kept a ball of string and told us to bring string to her whenever we found a piece. It must have been hard work to pull that stuff through the fabric so I find my nose working up my face when I hear people demanding that you should ONLY use the best quality quilt fabric from a LQS. Somehow that disparages the hard work of the ladies in my family. They didn’t have that choice, but they created some of my most cherished heirlooms. I don’t think that we should confuse quilt art with functional quilting. Truly, there are many quilts that are still functional items. They will be used for some number of years and then most likely downgraded and eventually discarded so they should be made from materials that suit their function. Yes. If you’re making a quilt for someone, and you think that they will appreciate it, then feel free to spend $50/yd on the very best fabric, but don’t require everyone else to do the same for a quilt that the kids and dogs are going to wallow on. The wallowed quilt may very well do more for the family than the quilt that is too expensive to use. Happy quilting!

  • Dar Farmer - July 13, 2018

    What a wonderful message! Just shows what a sweet non-judgemental person you are. I so agree with you. When I’m showing people how to quilt and they ask about things like color I say ‘no rules’. Then my student says but you said most important is a quarter inch seam. That’s a rule😅. By the way, when I was first quilting I bought bed sheets and didn’t have a problem hand quilting them. Of course I was buying them because I was frugal so probably not the best quality. That was about 50 years ago! This was one of the best posts I’ve seen on the subject. Thank you!

  • Marie Addison - July 13, 2018

    If I was a quilt shop owner, I would not endorse this theory but since I am a quilter of lots of quilts, I am using sheets from here on! I have always wondered the reasoning on not using sheets so I commend you for your bravery on tackling and explaining this old wives tale!

  • Marie Addison - July 13, 2018

    If I was a quilt shop owner, I would not endorse this theory but since I am a quilter of lots of quilts, I am using sheets from here on! I have always wondered the reasoning on not using sheets so I commend you for your bravery on tackling and explaining this old wives tale!

  • Linda Horton - July 13, 2018

    So very glad to learn you feel that one should aim for the best they can manage on their quilting journey. I was always intimidated by the high cost of everything quilting connected when I first started. Almost quit before I began! Then someone said “done is better than perfect” and “quilts can be made from almost anything, more costly is not always better or the only way to go”. Thank you for your talent and generosity of heart and spirit❤️

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