Tutorial: How to Cut Up a Vintage Sheet

Thursday, June 16, 2011

If you've ever tried to cut fat quarters or yardage out of a vintage sheet, you know how difficult it is. There is so much fabric, it is difficult to wrangle even on a large cutting surface. This method uses ripping and cutting to get more manageable pieces.

This tutorial outlines how to cut 19"x23" fat quarters from a flat sheet. I like to cut them a little big, because the ripping is not perfect. You are usually getting a straight rip, but because of shrinkage and potential warping, it's sometimes not exact. That extra inch gives you room to straighten and trim off the rough edges if you want!  It works best with sheets that are 50/50 cotton polyester blends or 100% cotton. 100% polyester sheets tend to warp a lot when ripping, so proceed with caution!

Check out my post on how to identify, shop for, and sew with vintage sheets.

1. First we need to remove the top and bottom hems. Take a pair of scissors and make a 1" (or so) cut parallel to the hem, about 2" from the hem.

2. Pick up your sheet, grabbing the sheet on either side of the cut with both hands, pull the sheet pieces apart, moving your hands horizontally away from each other.

3. Re-position your hands and continue to rip the sheet until you reach the end. When you reach the side, cut through the side hem.

4. Repeat with the wide hem. Now you should have one big sheet piece with no top or bottom hem.

5. Take one end, measure along the side seam to 19.5", make a similar cut horizontally into the fabric.

6. Just as you did with the hems, rip the sheet into two pieces, cutting the pieces apart at the very end.

7. You should now have one giant piece of sheet, and one piece that is 19.5" x the width of the sheet.

8. Now we are going to trim the skinny side seam off of your smaller piece. Line it up on your cutting mat and trim it off.

9. Now we're ready to cut that fat quarter. Line your strip up at the end of your cutting mat, and cut at 23".

10. Voila! Now you have a 19"x23" fat quarter. If you'd like a true fat quarter you may now trim it down to size.

Now you have a fat quarter and a partial 19" strip to work from! You can easily cut a 1/2 yard piece from this strip (as long as it's long enough)!

You could use this method to cut any width you'd like. You could tear a 46" strip to cut yardage pieces from, just keep in mind you're limited by the width of your sheet.


  1. Ripping! Genius! I have a couple of vintage sheets that I dread cutting up b/c it takes so long to cut! Thanks!

  2. Duh! I feel so stupid. I don't know why ripping did not occur to me. You are brilliant!! Thanks for turning my light bulb on!

    Deb from clutteredquilter.blogspot.com

  3. Great tutorial! Thank you! One question though ... if you're using a fitted sheet, how do you deal with that? Obviously you need to cut off the elastic first, then you're left with a large rectangle with squares missing out of the corners (where the boxed corner was). Do you just rip off that extra fabric and use it as scraps?

  4. Thank you so much! I'm getting some sheets from my mom so this helps a lot :)

  5. wow! thanks a million for this! i actually have some sheets that i need to get cutting for some projects.

    this is the best!

  6. I can't tell you what perfect timing this is. I've been collecting vintage sheets for a couple of years, and I think I need to take the plunge and make the cuts :-) I found one today at the thrift store which always makes me happy.

  7. Thanks for the tutorial! I was wondering how can you tell a vintage sheet from just an older sheet? I have sheets that are at least 20 years old, does that make them vintage? Thanks!

  8. Yes! I've been meaning to ask you about this! I also am wondering what you do about fitted sheets. Maybe you could do a Part B tutorial? :)

  9. I have tutorial request: I am currently in the collecting/stashing process, meaning that, I am not yet cutting mine into FQ for sewing or crafting purposes. Can you post a little how-to on folding *vintage sheets* for display in stacks? Your blog is still my favorite...thanks Jeni!!

  10. you mentioned moving to Madison in a post, but i thought that there was more than one Madison. then you mentioned cold WI winters in a recent post. at first i was super excited to have a quilt blogging acquaintance move so close to me. now i just realized that you'll be cleaning out my favorite thrifting spots of all of the vintage sheets. hmmm...how are we going to work this situation out?

  11. I just tried this for the first time. The tearing didn't work out so well, I ended up not tearing it evenly. Basically the strip I just tore off is a lot wider at one end than the other. How do you ensure the tear is even and straight?

    1. your sheet probably was polyester.....it won't tear

  12. Katie, you're strip was wider on one end than the other because the sheet was cut and hemmed off grain. The tear was on grain.

  13. I am so pleased to have found you, vintage sheets, I wouldn't have thought of that. I have 3 bags of bedding packed for the good will. I'll be going through it now pulling out all the old pretty sheets. They are all in perfect condition too. It's brilliant. I've been spending a small fortune on new cottons. This is very exciting. Thanks for your interest blog I read every word you send.
    Nova Scotia

  14. There's a LOT of fabric in those hems. It's work to rip the seams, but not TOO much work.


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