How to Sew a Sheet … start with a “real hot iron”

by | Jan 11, 2022 | History

On the home front, Canadian women in WWII were busy sewing different types of items, and all according to patterns or instructions provided by the Canadian Red Cross.  In particular, the hospitals, both at home and in the UK, had a tremendous need for textile items.  The sewing for hospitals included such items as:

  • ‘Abdominal Binders’
  • ‘Amputation – Covers’
  • ‘Bandages – Bias, Rolled and Woollen’
  • ‘Bandages – T’
  • ‘Bandages – Tailed’
  • ‘Bandages – Triangular’

Then there was also a need for handkerchiefs, hospital bedgowns, dressing gowns and bathrobes, slippers, surgeons’ caps and gowns, surgical dressings, nightgowns, pillow cases and pneumonia jackets.  I found this detailed article about how to sew a sheet, printed in the Homemaker section of ‘The Globe and Mail’, June 26, 1940. 


“Just a word about our Red Cross work that may help another group.  While talking with another business girl who is doing her ‘bit’, she remarked that “the sheets were so hard to do,” so thought we might pass along our system as we, a group of nine, broke our own record last week and made thirty-six sheets from start to finish, also finishing thirty pillowcases. This is our system: We work in pairs. The first pair measure and tear the material, pass it along to the next pair, who work on the ironing board; they stand one on each side of the board, unfold the material with the centre crease up; this makes for easier folding on completion. As the Red Cross tabs must be on the outside, we fold them hems out, in the original folds of the material. Next, the helper folds over the first quarter-inch fold, followed by the ironer with a real hot iron (but not close enough to give the folder a nice burn). Then a zip back to the beginning and fold over the next two-inch fold, or half inch for the bottom end (a notched cardboard measure is good for this, as you can iron right over it). Along comes the iron again and, presto, another hem is ready. Then pin the Red Cross tab on the corner that will be up after folding and toss over to the girls on the machines.  A quick stitching and sheet goes to the last pair, who fold and stack them up.  It’s surprising how much fun you can have working a good speed.  If these instructions are not clear enough and anyone desires further help, just phone Waverley 7851, Local 258, and we will arrange a demonstration.  Brownie.”

Thank you, Brownie, I’ll be calling Waverley 7851.  I definitely need a demonstration!

According to the Red Cross Summary of Comforts and Supplies 1940, 113,203 sheets and 258,410 pillow cases had been shipped overseas in that first full year of war.