I decided to try a little experiment with the IKEA sheets I keep hearing so much about. I love a challenge, so I thought I would try to figure out a simple way to combine a small number of fat quarters with flat sheets to make a bed-sized quilt. I basically approached this as a quick, low-risk project, but with a big payoff in terms of the resulting useful object.
The result is the 12+2=Q Quilt. It measures approximately 90" x 96" and uses 12 fat quarters and 2 bed sheets. (And wouldn't it also be fun made up with vintage sheet fat quarters and a large vintage print sheet on the back?!)
Please play nice! Free pattern guidelines are available in the right sidebar.
IKEA's standard sheet sizes are pretty large, so I was able to use a Twin (66" x 102") sheet for the front. I've noticed that other stores' standard sizes for Twin sheets tend to be a little shorter so, if you're shopping elsewhere, you may need to upgrade to a Full to get the extra length you need for the quilt front strips. The quilt back is made with a King flat sheet.
Note: Use a King sheet (rather than a Queen sheet) for the back, because the extra size makes it much, much easier to sandwich such a large quilt!
For the pieced rows, I put together this fat quarter bundle. I was really drawn to some of the new Alexander Henry Fashionista prints and combined them with some of the beautiful prints and solids from Michelle Engel Bencsko's new Beyond the Sea collection, a few of the monochromatic prints from MoMo's Freebird collection, and the large chocolate dots from Caleb Gray's Groove collection. The bundle includes plenty of chocolate, teal, acid green, violet, aqua and white. A great jumping-off place for a modern quilt!
Here's what I liked about them:
The selection of colors at IKEA was limited, but the colors were attractive and modern. The sheets were very lightweight, which made moving a 90" x 96" quilt around during machine quilting a breeze. The weight/weave worked well with the quilting cottons I used and I didn't have to make any adjustments to my needle or stitch, when piecing or quilting, to make it work. The sheets also had very small hems on all four sides, which meant that almost the entire area of the sheet was "usable." They were also very inexpensive. (At the Portland store, Twin sheets were $4.50, Kings were $13.00 -- ridiculously inexpensive for all of the solid fabric needed to make a bed-sized quilt.)
Here's what I didn't like about them:
In looking closely at the weave of the sheets, particularly after washing, it's clear that they will not wear as well or as long as better quilting fabrics would. They're just not as nice looking as fabric.
I think using the sheets is a great way to show off a few favorite fat quarters without the cost that usually accompanies buying enough fabric for an entire bed quilt. For a project like this, I think the comparatively minor investment in both time and fabric makes the sheets a great alternative to yardage. After all, the goal here is a quick and simple bed makeover, not to create an heirloom.
That said, I would avoid using IKEA sheets (or other lower-end sheets) in more labor-intensive projects where you're investing a great deal of time, energy, and quality fabric.
So why wouldn't you just use higher-end sheets?
Higher-end sheets are generally of a much finer weave than quilting cottons. This makes them incredibly soft, but it also makes them look different than quilting cottons. They often have either a glossy sheen or a peachy sueded texture. If the look doesn't bother you, go for it. I just find the look of these higher-thread-count sheets pieced with quilting cottons to be problematic.
If you do go with more finely woven sheets you may need to work harder to get a good stitch, as the needles that glide right through your quilting cottons may be more disruptive to the finer weave of the sheets. In particular, the holes where your needle punches through the quilt back during machine quilting may end up looking very pronounced -- as though they had been punched through paper. I find that using Microtex/Sharp needles can be helpful.
As with anything, it's always a good idea to make a small sample to test your materials before moving on to your "real" project.
Why didn't you just tear the sashing strips for the quilt front?
It was actually my intention to do this, but I found that the tearing was causing way too much damage to the sheets I was using. (An inch or two on either side of the tear was rendered completely useless by pulled and warped threads.) You should definitely feel free to try tearing instead of cutting, but be careful and definitely test out an unused area of your sheet before you move on to the sashing strips.
What about washing?
Above is a detail of the quilt back after washing. I did not prewash my sheets or my fabric (mainly because I wanted to see what would happen if I didn't). I found that, when using cotton batting, the sheets crinkled in much the same way that fabric would have.
It's fine if you don't want to prewash but, if you don't, it's important to acknowledge that you're taking a calculated risk. What works in my machine, with my water supply and detergent, may not work in yours.
As always, if you make one of these, feel free to show it off in my Flickr Pool!