My first experience with antique hemp sheets was with my recent slipcovered recliner tutorial and I received so many questions about them, that it deserves a post. There was little bit of a learning curve to buying and sewing with them, but in the end I have to say, I am officially hooked!
First off, let’s talk about the history behind these beautiful, vintage textiles and look at their functional attributes.
It is said that the farmer’s wives would hand weave these sheets during the long winters in France and yes, they were actually used as bed sheets.
Many of them are embroidered with the original owner’s monogram to help differentiate between all the other sheets in town. They would send their washing out to the washer women and needed a way to mark their belongings so they would be returned to the rightful owner.
The very first sheet I ordered had the most beautiful monogram down in the corner.
The history behind these antiques is, in itself, very endearing to a girl like me. But, I also need to think about durability and aesthetic appeal in a house full of kids.
The texture is like that of belgian linen with its tiny weave and occassional nubbiness. The natural fibers are cool to the touch and buttery soft after all the years of use.
Several readers gasped at my choice of “white” slipcovers for our fireside room.
But, truth be told, the color is more of an oatmeal than a white. We are finding it to be very forgiving of the daily dinginess that inevitably occurs.
I chose “medium weight” sheets for my slipcovers and they are just right.
They are thick enough to use for slipcovers and upholstery and sufficiently cover the darker pattern underneath.
The weave on them has a nice stretch, so you can get your slipcover to be nice and snug and easily adjust it at the same time.
And now, some precautions. . .
I found them a little difficult to get right when ordering them. But, I don’t want you to be afraid of them, just read the descriptions carefully and understand the seller’s return policy.
I needed five different sheets for my two slipcovers and each sheet is a different size, weight, color and texture. I bought mine off Ebay and ordered from different dealers, so even reading the descriptions and asking questions wasn’t always enough to get me a good set of matching sheets. I had to exchange some once I saw them all together.
One thing I like about Miss Mustard Seed is that if you are ordering more than one, they will hand select your sheets for you and send you a coordinating set.
Hemp sheets can be a little pricey, $55-$110 per sheet.
The drape and texture of fabric is extremely important to me. I am what you would call a “fabric snob” and so if I am going to splurge on something, its going to be the fabric. I love just walking down the aisles in fabric stores with my hand held out to feel all the textures. I’m sure the clerks love that! Ha!
But, if you are not a fabric snob and/or money is really tight right now, some other good alternatives are cotton twill ($7-16/yard), cotton duck ($3-11/yard) or hemp canvas/linen ($15-17/yard).
Each hemp sheet is pieced together with two hand sewn seams down the center. Not everyone cares about having to work the seams into their project, but I found I couldn’t get them straight on my slipcovers. So, I tiptoed around them and cut them out whenever I could.
In Conclusion . .
I’m addicted now, I already have three chairs waiting in line for new hemp sheet upholstery.
Also, I would love to actually use them as sheets! I hear they regulate your body heat, so you end up sleeping better.
For more information on use and care I recommend this beautiful blog post by Dreamy Whites.
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