Friday, February 26, 2010

"Good Enough" Solutions

One of the basic principles of frugality is to anticipate your needs well in advance, so you have lots of time to come up with inexpensive ways to meet them, thus eliminating emergency trips to retail stores to buy things at full price.

Generally I'm pretty good at this; however I've recently noticed an area where I've had a bit of a blind spot for some time: our bed linens! Back in the fall, as I was putting away the spring/summer sheet set and breaking out the winter flannels, I noticed how worn out it was looking in the middle (highest wear area). I guess I shouldn't be too surprised, as we bought this set with wedding gift money 14 1/2 yrs ago! That it's survived this long is a testimony to investing in a good quality set, and caring for it gently (line drying goes a long way towards preserving fabric life).

Fast forward a few months to the beginning of the new year, when all of a sudden there was a rather sizable hole in the middle of our flannel fitted sheet. Yikes! This set is nowhere near as old as the spring/summer set, but because flannel is so much softer it tends to wear out a lot more quickly. Once again, I hadn't been paying close attention to the wear in the middle of the sheets as I was remaking the bed. Unfortunately, after I'd spent a decent amount of time stitching up the hole, I suddenly noticed how worn out the surrounding areas were, and that a couple of other holes were starting to form. Yes, I know, it would have been a great idea to inspect the sheet more closely *before* I started the repair job - lesson learned for next time!

Since I didn't do a good job with anticipating our needs with respect to our linens, I'm now in a situation where I could really use 2 new sets, and not much wiggle room in our budget for miscellaneous household expenses. If I had anticipated this need and had some money set aside, this would be the perfect time of year to score a great deal on new, good quality bedding as many retailers have them on sale for 40-50% off or more right now. However, this isn't a good option for us with our current budget. I also don't want to go out and buy cheap sheets that will need replacing in a year or two. So, what is the next best solution in this situation?

I'd say it's "see how creative you can be with what you already have". After rummaging through our linen closet, I discovered that I'd had the foresight to hang on to the flat sheet from our last set of flannels (the fitted sheets wear out *so* much faster!). It was still in very good condition. Since we've maintained the same colour scheme for our bedding throughout our married life, it even coordinates nicely with our current set. I had what I thought was a real "brain wave": to use a flat sheet in place of the fitted sheet - I figured if I tucked it in snugly enough it should do the trick. I have been pleasantly surprised that it has done the job just fine; in fact it doesn't "migrate" any more than the fitted sheet did. Here I thought I was being so clever, then I happened to read that it was standard practice to use flat sheets in this manner until fairly recent times since fitted sheets haven't always been around. After I read that I felt kind of silly; of course they would have been a relatively recent "invention" but they are something that is now perceived as a "must have" item.

This "good enough" solution led me to make a couple of useful observations. One advantage of using a flat sheet in place of a fitted, is that you can alternate your flat sheets in the "fitted sheet" role so that they wear evenly, thus prolonging the life of your sheet sets. I will also be much more quick to snap up random flat sheets on my thrifting adventures, knowing they can be used in this manner.

I did end up with some good thrifting karma at Value Village and scored this lovely hunter green and cream striped set (fitted & flat sheets) in barely-used condition:

They were $4.99 per sheet, a good deal for a gently used, reasonable quality set.

Since my ruined flannel sheet is mostly worn out in the middle, there is still quite a bit of useable fabric along the sides. I plan to use it to make some homemade menstrual pads (I've been meaning to give this a shot for a while and never quite gotten around to it). Other ways this fabric could be used would be to make a beanbag set for kids, or a soothing eye pillow. If the good pieces of fabric were large enough, a new set of pillowcases is another possibility. A complete sheet set might yield enough fabric to knit a small throw rug.

Another useful tip I picked up: a king or queen sized sheet can be cut down the middle and hemmed to make 2 twin sheets. I've always ignored the larger sized sheets since we have a double bed, but I'm going to check them out on a regular basis now, since I could use them to make matching sheets for my boys' bunk beds!

I'd love to hear other thoughts on how to make the most out of what's in the linen closet.


  1. If you have some basic sewing skills, You could also easily turn your flat sheet into a fitted one.

    I've also used a queen sized sheet set to make a twin sized fitted sheet and duvet cover set. Somehow it seems a lot easier for my little monster to make a bed with a duvet than one with sheets and blankets.

  2. I've heard about converting flat sheets to fitted ones. My mending/altering pile seems to keep me busy enough that I rarely make it to any other sewing projects, lol.

    That's a great idea to use queen size sheets to make a twin duvet - thanks for sharing!

  3. The traditional way to mend a worn sheet is to cut it in two down the middle and then sow the unworn sides together - this is called "turning" and was a standard procedure when my mother grew up. A good housekeeper was supposed to know the exact time to turn the sheets. I actually own a turned sheet and have used it in our summer cottage where the beds always seem to have sand and pine needles in them - probably from bare feet :)


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