Growing up we always had hand-embroidered pillowcases on the beds. Hung on the line to dry, then starched and ironed, those pillowcases were wonderful to lay your head upon. Even before I knew the word luxury I recognized them as something delicious. Most were done by my Cousin Clara and Aunt Margaret, both young women in the 1930’s, they used the clear bright sunny colors of that era’s quilting and crafting aesthetic. Since I had not yet matured to the point of appreciation of the subtle, and I particularly deplored the orange and gold palette popular at the time, those little islands of bright color upon my bed suited me to a T.
Part history, part practical information and part inspiration, Rita Farro’s book “Dress your Dream Bed” articulates those memories for a lot of us who grew up using the stuff now sought out by vintage enthusiasts. Farro talks about the different kinds of linens and how to clean discolored ones bringing them back into use. Sometimes books on textiles can be dry reading but I found this one to be engaging and conversational.
As a teen in the 80’s I had a white and lavender chenille bedspread pulled from an old trunk where it had lain in disuse for years. I think I was vintage before vintage was cool. Chenille at the time was seen as very out of date and maybe just a leeettle tacky. The aesthetic of a previous era is often seen that way.
The reason I mention is to give potential readers a heads up that they might not have seen some of this stuff before. As the author collects both kitschy and elegant textiles, depending on your age, the photos might trigger some old stereotypes. All the dry stuff about thread count is handled quickly and through most of the book Farro instructs you on making your own versions using antique themes. But the majority of her collection photographed in the book is of vintage linen – therefore created in eras with sometimes vastly different aesthetics than our own.
You might not like certain linen combinations but you might use the idea as a starting place for creating something you do like. I loved it all because I remember the people who made and used similar things.
Younger crafters, please don’t think OMG and put the book down. At the time these linens were made they were completely contemporary and fun. That’s permission for all of us modern-day crafters to do the same. Take something as mundane as a sheet or towel and put your own imprint on it, making it fun and lovely for your family today.
Farro has a lot of ideas and instructions but the most accessible to start with are pillowcases. As part of my stash bash I have looted my quilting cotton chest.
Her instructions are on page 33-35. These are for standard pillowcases with four inch hems. As you sew you begin to see more than one way to seam the case and finish the hem. One yard of 45 inch wide fabric will make one case and I have enjoyed using up spare remnants of trim as an accent on the hems.
Here is the process I used today in photos.
Lay fabric right side up, take a trim remnant and place inside fold of hem.
Sew trim sandwiched between fold.
I wanted an enclosed seam so I sewed my first seam edge with the right side of fabric facing out.
Then I ironed, the one part I find tiresome, and enclosed my seam by sewing right sides together.
Consider increasing stitch length for the hem itself as any tension issues are going to show here.
The final pillowcase, ironed if not starched.
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