Customizing a Duvet
Although Martha knows antique linens, the purpose of the buttonholes along the edge of one of her favorite antique linen sheets remained a mystery until she came across a picture illustrating the sheet’s use. After Martha discovered what it was meant to be—a decorative, detachable sheet that lines the duvet’s underside—she came up with some unusual duvet-cover-and-sheet combinations, all of which can also be used without the duvet insert in the summer.
To attach the linen sheet to a beautiful deep-green damask-covered duvet, Martha affixes mother-of-pearl buttons along three edges of the cover’s underside and several inches from its topmost edge, aligning the buttons to the sheet’s buttonholes. The sheet’s end flap folds over the top of the duvet cover so that its beautiful lace cutwork is visible, while the color of the buttons contrasts slightly with the sheet’s.
For the first of her two variations, Martha uses grommet eyelets and grosgrain-ribbon ties to secure a flannel sheet to the underside of a brown-ticking duvet cover. Then, for a Cobblefield-tartan duvet cover, she develops a technique that allows her to show off a pristine nineteenth-century American homespun sheet: She sews 1-inch grosgrain ribbon loops onto the sheet and attaches corresponding buttons to the duvet cover; the buttons and ribbon loops will be concealed, but to show a little more of the unusual sheet, which is made of flax, Martha allows its excess width to extend beyond the edges of the duvet.
When customizing your duvet, use as long a sheet as possible to ensure a generous flap. Keep in mind that manufacturers’ lengths vary, even within one brand. For twin- and full-size duvets, use a sheet one size larger than the duvet; since queen- and king-size sheets are the same length, use a queen-size sheet and a king-size sheet for queen- and king-size duvets, respectively. You can also use any homespun, flannel, or antique sheet or linen you may have at home.
Except in the case of the third example (Martha’s Cobblefield-tartan duvet cover), the width of the sheet should equal the width of the duvet, plus 1 inch for a seam allowance. You need only cut one side of the sheet, then hem it: Turn under the raw edge 1/2 inch, and press; repeat this process, creating a double fold. Stitch close to the inside edge.
Use this method to attach a sheet designed for this purpose, like Martha’s antique linen one. Sew buttons, at places corresponding with the buttonholes on sheet, around three edges of the underside of the duvet cover and several inches from the cover’s topmost edge; attach.
Green damask available at local fabric-supply stores.
Cobblefield plaid at Ralph Lauren Home, 212-642-8700 for store locations.
- Needle and thread
- Grommet tool
- Marking pencil
- 3/8-inch-wide grosgrain ribbon
- Sewing machine (optional)
- Buttons and buttonholes
Install 6 small grommets, equally distanced, along the top edge of an ordinary sheet (Martha uses flannel): With a pencil, mark the points where you want the grommets to be positioned; at each spot, make a tiny slit with the tip of a sharp pair of scissors. Fit the top section of the grommet into its base, insert the grommet tool, and tap with a hammer. Make sure you place the first and last grommets near the side edges of the sheet. (If your sewing machine has an eyelet stitch, you can substitute eyelets for grommets.)
Sew a ribbon onto the duvet at each point that corresponds with a grommet: Fold 8-inch lengths of ribbon in half, then hand- or machine-sew the ribbons to the duvet along the fold.
Insert one end of each ribbon through each grommet, and tie into a bow.
Make simple ribbon loops out of 3/8-inch-wide grosgrain ribbon of the same color as the sheet (the length of the ribbon pieces will depend on the size of the buttons you’re using). Fold each ribbon into a triangle, with the raw edges meeting at the top of the triangle.
Position the loops on the underside of the sheet’s top edge, on or near the hem stitching (about 3 inches in from the edge of the sheet). Before you sew the loops in place, pin them to the sheet, making sure the buttons will be able to pass through easily without slipping out.
Fold the raw edge of each loop under slightly, and hand-sew it to the sheet. Make sure the raw edges of the loops face the sheet.
Sew ribbon loops along the perimeter of the homespun sheet at evenly spaced intervals, a few inches in from the sheet’s edge (determine the amount of the overhang by comparing the measurements of the duvet and the sheet). Sew buttons on the underside of the duvet cover to correspond with the loops.