When I began quilting, I found myself pondering alternative quilt backings because
(1) I really dislike piecing quilt backs and
(2) backings can get quite costly, especially for larger backings.
I asked some more experienced quilters about using flat sheets as a quilt backing and I was strongly discouraged. I was told that sheets are too tight a weave, they will cause all sorts of issues like skipped stitches and basically wreak my project.
As a scientist, I need to experiment and try for myself. I bought a twin flat sheet from Target for about $9 and used it on the backing of a charity quilt. It worked great for me! The door to flat sheets as quilt backings was open!
I have had success on both of my home sewing machines (1990's Singer and a 710 Bernina) on over a dozen quilts using sheets as backings. I typically use Aurifil 50 wt cotton thread for quilting and an 80/12 or 90/14 needle. Just a note, longarm machines are entirely different beasts and I have heard that sheets do not work out so well on them.
Here are some of my learnings:
- Try to find the cheaper, lower thread count sheets. The cheap 100% cotton sheets at Target (Threshold Brand shown above) are available as just flat sheets (so you don't have to buy the whole set) and work really well. The really high tread count sheets like 500 or 600 count have a tighter weave which makes it more difficult for the needle to pierce.
- Avoid the wrinkle-free sheets. I once used a wrinkle-free sheet from Wamsutta and I think that the sheet or yarns had coating on them which made the needle have a super difficult time punching through the sheet (and the needle seemed to make really big holes in the sheet). The quilt wound up being really stiff too.
- While I usually only use 100% cotton sheets, one time I found a sheet that was the perfect match to some fabric I was making the Scrappy Tiles quilt top with. It was not until I was done quilting with it that I realized it was actually a cotton/polyester blend. It worked perfectly and has held up well in washing.
- I always wash and dry my sheets before using them prevent bleeding and shrinking (I do not wash my batting or my fabrics in the quilt top).
- I have used regular sheets, brushed cotton sheets, and flannel sheets, all with success.
- Some of the best times to shop for sheets are right after the school year starts (all of the back to school and college sheets are on sale) and right after Christmas (the flannels are on sale).
My most recent finish was a twin sized version of Looking Glass and I used a Threshold full size flat sheet. It was their brushed Ultra Soft 300 count, 100% cotton in the Elephant color. An 85" x 96" sheet (so no piecing of the backing) for only $12, not too shabby!
If you are thinking about trying a sheet as a quilt backing, I suggest going for it! (Probably not on your wedding present quilt you have spend the better part of a year on... but maybe a little baby quilt or a charity quilt). You will never know if it will work for you unless you try it :)
How about you, have you used sheets as quilt backings? Was it a success or a failure? Any tips you would like to share?
I am linking up with Let's Bee Social at Lorna @ Sew Fresh Quilts and Needle and Thread Thursday at Kelly @My Quilt Infatuation.