Buying Sheets Again and Turning to Vintage This TIme - and Muslin!

So, it's been forever since I updated this blog with news on the "finding cool, breathable sheets that don't make you break out into a sweat" mission. The all-cotton percale sheets I bought from Lands End, Target, and a few other places back in 2011 are still nice, somewhat softer and thinner, but they endured a lot of washings. A few ripped or got holes, but then, I'm (wince) something of a bleach fanatic. (I know, I know, that's a terrible way to treat a nice, crisp sheet.) Anyway, to cut to the chase - I got the yen for more sheets that perhaps stayed crisp longer and maybe were a bit thicker, like one set of organic cotton sheets I bought from Land's End in Driftwood Tan. You know, the kind that rustle so loudly you think they're plastic? I'm afraid I actually LOOK for that noisy action now! I found them!

I traveled in time and found them. Well, okay, I used the Internet, not a time machine. But in the last few weeks, I have bought an embarrassingly large number of sheets that are crisp, cool, all-cotton, and not just LIKE the sheets my grandma used. They WERE the sheets - or at least, the editions - that she used. These are vintage sheets.

See, I had a paradigm shift that maybe cotton that was fifty years old (or older) would hold up better than most cotton of today. Don't know if it's true. But I'm testing it out, all right! So I will be reviewing these sheets over the coming weeks and months. There are a lot of brands and a lot of models. One key thing I want to share with you is that cotton percale is not the only crisp sheet out there.  Muslin is a similar weave to percale, but it's a lower thread count.  And no, that isn't bad!
Muslin sheets
can be cool and crisp, too.
Heavens, I'd forgotten all about muslin. Or rather, I thought muslin was a something you strain your yogurt into. Nuh-uh! There was some exquisite muslin in 130-thread count to 144-thread count way back when that was made into some awesomely breathable sheeting. It has its ups and downs (at first it feels a little rough), but after sleeping with it for a couple of nights, all I can say is, WOW!   You just don't get hot underneath it, not even when you tuck it over your face.

Now I can look for percale AND muslin, I thought.  So I did.  I found all my crisp vintage sheets on eBay.  I did have to do a bit of hunting - well, hours and hours of it - to eliminate the used stock, the no-iron stuff, the blends.  But I found them.  Stuff like this retro crisp vintage cotton muslin sheet, which I barely managed to resist buying, only because I HAVE TO STOP!

If that link's outdated, try this preset search for muslin vintage sheets (and I'll try to keep this search or an updated current auction for a crisp vintage sheet of some size or other right here in this post always, though because of my unreliable health, I can't swear to perfect efficiency.)

In the interests of full disclosure, one of the ways I make my living as a writer is by being an affiliate for eBay, meaning when I link to the site, I get a small commission on the link. (If that makes you uncomfortable, please know you can  go there directly and not from my links so you won't gain me a commission!)

Anyway, I don't promote eBay all that much because for a long time now, I've done most of my shopping elsewhere.  But since this wave - or maybe I should call it a storm as I sort of cut through the vendors' 100% cotton percale sheets supplies rather ruthlessly - I've started to think that this blog - the one I think of as my wistful blog - is the perfect place to share my vintage finds.

If there is enough interest, I will continue to hunt down specific sheet and pillowcases from the era of quality cotton bedding spanning the 1930s through to the seventies.  I'll share those finds here and provide advice on choosing vintage sheets from eBay, Etsy, estate sales, rummage sales, all those places.  Since this is all I've been researching for the last couple of weeks, already I have learned a bunch of things about vintage sheets.  I'm going to share my tips in future posts - super excited about that!  - but here are a few right now:

  1. True vintage cotton percale and muslin sheets back in the non-resin-treated age won't come in sizes larger than a double.  (The people back then used to sew twin sizes together for King-size sheets.)  If you see supposedly "vintage" sets that have flat and bottom fitted sheets in the same package, or that are larger than a double, you may not be going back far enough in time.  Also, of course, if you're looking for king sized or true queen sized sheets, you'll have to hunt down more modern stuff. 
  2. If the listing doesn't already specify, find out by using the Ask a Question module the storage conditions of the sheets.  Some have musty smells, smoky smells, spots, open packaging, animal dander, etc.   These are all deal-breakers for us.   Many of the sheets have a storage scent, though, that comes out in the wash - to our great relief, as we are so scent-sensitive we have littered our house with air purifiers.  Storage scent is almost inevitable, though sometimes you'll find one without even a trace of mothballs/perfume/cedar.
  3. Beware of bargains marked "linen."  Some sellers will put the word "linen" in the title of their advertisement, claiming they meant it as "bed linens" only, a practice I have come to hate.  I have been misdirected more than once, thinking i was going for the gold of the gold, actual flax linen bedding.  Learn from my mistake!
So, in summary, I am so happy about my new muslin discovery and also finding a source, if limited, of good percale that's pure cotton.  The gems we're all seeking - "grandmother" sheets that don't cling, that are all cotton, that breathe, that keep you toasty warm in winter and cool in summer - are still there, and many have never been used.

I do hope you find what you're looking for! 


  1. Don't know if you're still with us but, if you are, just wanted to let you know this blog was very helpful in my search for proper sheets [read: crisp, cool, muslin, linen, percale, etc. Thank you.!

  2. I've been purchasing all of our sheets on eBay/Etsy for the last few years......It's the ONLY way to get Grandmother's authentic sheets. Recently, a seller listed s stack of vintage sheets that she had inherited. She took them to a local university to have the age/fiber content analyzed. The results were very interesting......All of the sheets came from American mills, and were manufactured in the 1920s through the 1940s. And all of the sheets were made of cotton with a touch of FLAX added in. (Probably to give the sheets more durability and to save $$$.) So even though sheets w/labels from this period state that they're made of 100% cotton, there's a good chance they're acturally a cotton/flax blend.)

  3. I am with you- after buying set after disappointing expensive set of sheets that feel limp, damp, thin and nasty I began to warm up to the idea of vintage sheets. If the idea of " used" sheets bothers you if you search around you can often find what's called OpenStock. These are vintage things that are still in the packaging. It doesn't bother me to buy used sheets- as long as they are in very good condition. We all use them at hotels and friends' homes. You are going to wash them very well. I have found beautiful, crisp sheets that take me back to my childhood days - the patterns and feel...completely worth it!

  4. That's very interesting- thank you for sharing

  5. I am so excited to find this blog! I have inherited several sheet sets from my grandmother. They are only twin size, and I'm desperately looking for more.

  6. Absolutely all of what I needed to know about this subject and it's spot on!

  7. I was so desperate for the "crisp" feel of the sheets from my childhood that I considered buying fabric by the yard and sewing my own sheets! Your blogspot was exactly the information I was looking for. I clicked on the link and ordered my first set of sheets. Hopefully they have the crisp feel that I remember so well.

  8. What do you suggest for king?