Decorating with Sheets

by Michelle Howard

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When the season changes, a quick fix in our home decor can give our spirits a lift. Yard per yard, sheets can be the best fabric buy for decoration projects. January seems to be the best month for white sales, but bargains can be found any time. Sheets come in an array of colors, patterns, and sizes, and the hemmed ends and neat selvage edges keep finishing to a minimum.

In the Bedroom:

When my daughter outgrew her Barbie decor, we hunted for a month before we found something we could agree on. Weekly checks at near-by discount stores and outlets soon led us to discover when the new goods arrived so we had first pick. Finally, she found the perfect bedspread in blues, greens, and purples. Joy of joys, it came with a dust ruffle, pillow sham, and sheet set. However, the matching curtains were almost as much as the bedspread set. Instead, we used the coordinating top sheet to make a curtain, and purchased an inexpensive, solid blue sheet to take its place.

Flat sheets usually come with a wide top hem. To turn it into a curtain, use the hem for the curtain rod casing either as is for a wide rod, or run a seam straight down the middle. Use the lower casing for the rod, and the top casing forms a small ruffle. Hang and measure for a hem. The sides are already finished. To make tie backs, take the few inches cut off the bottom, cut two pieces 24 by 6 inches (or whatever you can get from the fabric), fold in half lengthwise and sew the long edge and one end in a narrow seam. Turn and press. Tuck in the remaining raw edge and topstitch.

Later, my daughter decided she wanted the curtain shortened to windowsill length. The fabric we cut off was used to make matching throw pillows. Extra fabric can also be used for other accessories like covered boxes, photo albums, picture frames, chair cushions, or even matching sleep shorts.

Two flat sheets can be used to make a quick and easy tied quilt. Use two matching flat sheets or coordinating sheets for a reversible quilt, twin or double depending on bed size. Pre-wash and cut off top and bottom hems. (You can try taking out stitches and pressing flat, but I have found it impossible to get rid of the holes left by the stitching.) Cut a piece of batting to the same measurements of the sheets. On a clean floor or carpet, place one sheet right side up, batting next, and then the other sheet right side down. Pin around all the edges. Sew around leaving an opening to turn. Trim the batting close to stitching and turn. Slip stitch opening. Spread back out and pin through all layers in several places to hold layers together. Cut 6-inch pieces of yarn, crochet thread, or embroidery floss to use for ties. Ties can be randomly spaced 6 to 8 inches apart, or mark a grid with a fabric pen or chalk. Thread a sharp needle, and at each desired point, go straight down through all layers and back up an eighth of an inch away. Tie securely and trim ends to 1/2" to 1".

Another single flat sheet in a complementary solid or print can make a pair of easy balloon valances. Cut off the deep, top hem and re-hem to match the bottom. Fold sheet in half lengthwise, press to mark, and cut along the fold. Take one half, fold lengthwise with right sides together and seam. Turn right side out. The seamed edge will be the top. Press if needed, but do not press a crease in the bottom so it will fluff out when you are through. Make a seam about 1 to 2 inches from the top to form casing for curtain rod. That's it! Now make another valance with the other half-sheet if you have two windows.

In the Kitchen:

A single sheet can go a long way towards spicing up your kitchen decor. From a twin sized flat sheet, make a pair of balloon valances for over the window and back door. Another sheet can become a tablecloth or placemats. To make a tablecloth, a twin is just the right width for most rectangular tables. Just re-hem to the right length. If you have a tablecloth that fits, use it as a guide. For each placemat, cut two rectangles of sheet and a rectangle of very thin batting or flannel, each 17" by 13". Sew together as for the quilt above. To finish, you can tie or topstitch 1 inch from the edge. Smaller pieces of sheet and batting make wonderful matching potholders. Old ironing board covers also make good filler for hot pads. Make like mini quilts or edge with double folded seam binding.

In the Baby's Room:

A double flat sheet is just enough fabric to make a balloon valance and a crib quilt. For the valance, measure 33" along one long side of the sheet and cut. Follow the directions above to complete. To make the quilt, trim the hems off the remaining piece and cut in half. Each piece will be about 48" by 50". Cut a piece of batting the same size and follow the quilt directions to finish. Of course, if you are really ambitious, you can use another sheet and commercial pattern to sew a matching diaper hanger, crib bumpers, changing table pad, and maybe even a stuffed toy.

In the Living Room or Den:

Quick curtains or a new valance with a couple of throw pillows to match the season will make you want a set for every occasion. A lined basket for magazines, books, or needlework can also add a splash of color. Measure the inside of the basket from one rim, down the side, across the bottom, and up to the other rim. Measure across in the other direction in the same manner, and cut a rectangle of fabric according to dimensions. Use a plate as a guide to round the corners. Run two rows of gathering thread around the edge. Pull threads to gather to fit just inside the top rim of the basket and tie off. Turn the gathering stitches under and hot glue to basket.

Sheets are an economical way to give any room a facelift. Their versatility makes it hard to stop once you get going! Whether you start small or go all out, you'll enjoy your fresh, new look as well as the money you'll save.

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