Garment Construction

Shabby Chic: 5 Reasons You Should Try Sewing With Secondhand Linens

If you’re a budget savvy or eco-conscious sewer, don’t underestimate the power of secondhand linens! Scouring your local thrift store, yard sale or flea market for gently used linens − from bedsheets to curtains to tablecloths — might help you find the perfect fabric match for your next sewing project.

Sewing with secondhand linens is not only affordable, but it’s also sustainable and an excellent way to think “green” in the sewing room. It’s a great option for the vintage fabric lover, too!

Here are 5 great reasons to consider secondhand or “thrifted” linens for your next sewing project.

5 Reasons to Sew With Secondhand Fabric

Reason #1. They’re a budget-friendly buy:

Cutting and pining a thrift store fabric find

The most obvious benefit to sewing with secondhand linens is the price. You can often find nearly new sheet sets and curtains for just a few dollars or less. That amounts to quite a bit of yardage for a serious bargain!

To make sure you’re getting your money’s worth, thoroughly check the linens for fabric wear and tear or other signs of age that might deter you from buying. Look for cotton and cotton blends that will hold up well in the washing machine. Keep an open mind, and I bet you’ll find some perfectly good fabrics that you may not have considered before!

Reason #2. They make a great muslin or toile fabric alternative:

Pretty blouse made with secondhand vintage fabric

Consider an old sheet as a substitute for muslin or toile fabric when test fitting your next garment. Muslin fabric isn’t always the easiest to source, especially when you don’t live near a fabric store, so an old bed sheet makes an excellent alternative for testing your latest sloper pattern or fitting adjustment.

Sometimes our sewing projects don’t always turn out as planned. It’s best to take a test run on a cheap fabric before cutting into the special stuff. But, you never know, your bed sheet test run just might end up really wearable!

Reason #3. Used fabric is makes for sensible children’s sewing projects:

Using gently used linens to make children's play clothes

Kids grow out of clothes quickly and wear through them equally as fast. You can find lots of inexpensive character/novelty print linens that make excellent play clothes, especially for the price. You might even consider shopping your own linen closet and find a use for that old bedding set with the missing pillowcase or blanket.

Reason #4: You can sew vintage without breaking the bank:

Sewing with gently used fabric

A vintage bed sheet or curtain panel is a super affordable way to get your hands on vintage “fabric.” It can get pretty pricey to sew clothing from vintage yardage, depending on where you’re shopping. Don’t underestimate your local flea market or Op-Shop for that perfect vintage print! You might be just one sheet away from an awesome flirty day dress!

Depression era clothing was made from all sorts of unconventional fabric sources including feedsacks, bed spreads and even curtain panels. If it was good enough for grandma, it’s good enough for me!

Reason #5: Used fabric makes for eco-friendly sewing – upcycle, reduce and reuse:

making an eco-chic upcycled wrap skirt

Photo via Craftsy instructor Betz White

Using secondhand linens is an eco-friendly choice for sustainable sewing. It gives you the opportunity to reduce and reuse old materials while creating something useful (and beautiful!) in the process. You can upcycle all sorts of old materials for thrifty sewing projects. For example: A vintage sheet makes a fun, flattering wrap skirt that’s perfect for summer, especially in a retro floral print!

For a double dose of earth conscious sewing, why not make a reusable grocery bag or reversible market tote! You can find a new use for an old tablecloth while saving countless plastic bags in the process. It’s a win-win!

Photo via Craftsy member speaktohe39152

If you’ve never sewn with secondhand linens before, I encourage you to give it a try! You might be surprised at the awesome things waiting for you in the Home Furnishings isle of your local thrift store.

Embrace the thrift! The Craftsy class Project Upcycle: Thrifty Sewing Projects is your key to unlocking a treasure trove of inexpensive finds. Learn to transform used materials and cheap vintage finds into stunning, one-of-a-kind garments!

Have you ever sewn with “thrifted” fabrics? What did you make?


Hana Betakova

I don’t usually find really nice linens I want to sew from in the thrift shops I frequent, although I did find a duvet cover I use as duvet cover… I think it’s the combination of my pickiness in terms of patterns / colours, and my pickiness in terms of fibre content. When I found a pattern I liked, it wasn’t 100% cotton. 😀 But I’m still hoping (most of my bought clothes are thrifted, after all), and you’re right about muslins – I do use old duvet covers / sheets for muslining.
I’ve also made Regency stays from an old damask duvet cover (not thrifted, but it’s the same principle).

Jeani Faria

I sew with recaimed fabbric .becuse we were poor as childern . , and my mother was a scrapper who used every inch of fabic left from anything and every thing to keep us dressed and to make quilts to keep us warm, she even pulled the threads from flour sacks , to sew with. I honor her memory and all that I use is not cotton….. the thrift stores are a great source for me…

Jeani Faria...

I just reread my post after a couple years , and I still stand by what I said……my favorite finds are matched pillow cases and also bed skirts……when you open pillow cases up. there is a lot of usable fabric…..enough that I made my 3 year old a ruffled sundress…. and there is yards of fabric in a bedskirt and the center can be used to line things ….


I use thrifted sheets, curtains etc. quite a lot in my garment sewing — for all the reasons you mention. I’m fairly picky about condition and fabric content, but have had lots of fun searching. And sometimes you find a fantastic print that just calls to be made into a dress!

Karyl Carlson

I sew costumes for community theater, where the vintage look is very important. I have made an entire medieval dress from a set of duvet cover and shams I got at a thrift store. I ALWAYS shop thrift first!

margaret thompson

use bed sheets or duvet covers to make my husband shirts. I recently bought 11 king size duvets and pillow cases for 15.00 = huge amount of fabric

Maryrita Tilley

I am the “Queen of Thrift”. Really. I peruse the thrift stores, yard sales, or flea-markets for good quality clothing, sheets, curtains or whatever. I wash, take it apart, iron and cut for quilting or remake into something else. I use denim-jeans for cross-body bags, laptop bags, man-bags, messenger bags…the list is endless. Men’s long sleeves shirts are excellent for using in quilts as the fabric is in good quality (cottons, denims, etc.). I grew up in a home where our mom never threw out-grown clothing out. We didn’t have much and she recycled all the clothes into something new. I remember she braided rugs with the little scraps that she couldn’t use for sewing. Shop thrift, Ladies…

Vintage Lin

Most of my reproduction 1950’s dresses are made from Duvet covers, You get some lovely border prints that are just right for a dirndle skirt.




Since I dye my cotton fabrics before using them in garments, I need lots of yardage. I’ve found thrift store linens to be the best deal: sheets, tablecloths, and even dust ruffles, which are my favorite find: the base piece is virtually untouched, and the ruffle itself is quite wide! As long as the tag says 100% cotton, I’m good to go!
I also collect pretty print rayon shirts and solid silk blouses, cut them up and use them for my art doll costumes!


Perhaps crochet doilies, laces and table linens may not be considered “fabrics,” but, they may be repurposed into one of a kind pieces of wearable art. I’ve made ponchos, tops, and jackets with them. Such fun pieces to wear!


I’d love to see some pics! I keep wanting to but then shirk at taking scissors to a nice hand-embroidered tablecloth…


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