Toddler Top Sheet: Quick & Easy, with Fabric for Later!

We’re getting ready to transition our son from his toddler bed to a big boy bed, and our youngest from her crib to the toddler bed.  Well, OK, “getting ready” might be a bit strong: we’re waiting until the absolute last possible minute to take the baby out of the crib.  I know most of you have kids, and so there’s really no reason that I have to explain that last bit.  Our boy is probably ready for a bigger bed, though, and we can always store the toddler bed in the garage until we finally potty train the baby feel our youngest is ready for the responsibility.

Moving to a new size mattress, by definition, means getting new sheets.  I love, love making sheets for the children’s cribs and toddler beds–and one of the best parts is that once you’re done with the little sheets, you basically have yardage left over.  I wonder if some folks resist making crib sheets or toddler bed sheets because they feel as though they’ve spent time and money to sew something that will only be used for a couple of years, but what I’ve found over the past seven years of using really great fabrics to make these sheets is that they wear so well and last so long that once you’re done using them on the crib-sized mattress, you basically have yardage leftover!  I don’t feel even a little bit like I’ve wasted these fabrics–actually, I kinda feel like I stored it out in the open where I could look at it longer, and now that our boy won’t be using his as sheets anymore, I can recycle the yardage into something new.

That’s one of the reasons I love making both the fitted crib sheet (which fits the toddler bed mattress, too) and making a fitted top sheet.  I get to mix fabrics together, if I want, so that I can see multiple prints from a collection that I love, OR I can use the same fabric for both the top and the bottom sheet, and have plenty of yardage when the kids are done sleeping on them to use as a quilt backing or a garment or to break up into smaller sewing projects.  Two sheets is around four yards of fabric, and you can do a lot with four yards of fabric.

Of all the fitted crib sheet tutorials on the web, I really think the Michael Miller one is the best.  I’ve tried making them other ways: with a serged edge that’s stitched under, directly to the elastic; with elastic around the entire perimeter of the sheet; and with elastic just in the corners, but not along the sides.  Of all the styles, the ones that fit the best and have stayed put most consistently are the ones made using this tutorial (although I also really like Dana’s tutorial, I rarely find myself with enough elastic to go all the way around when I get the urge to make a set of these, late at night–so I have more of the Michael Miller version; should you have enough elastic, though, Dana makes a mean crib sheet!).

I haven’t, though, ever seen another tutorial for making a fitted TOP sheet.  Fitted top sheets are like flat sheets for a bigger bed, but they have elastic around the edge at the sheet bottom so that it works like a fitted sheet at the foot of the bed.  You can see them in all these photos, looking like a flat sheet that’s tucked in, but really it’s held in place by elastic!  I learned about these by accident: when we got the toddler bed in these photos, we bought it used from Craig’s List.  Perfectly good bed, hardly had any wear, came with the mattress, and she threw in a set of Pooh sheets with comforter to boot–because she didn’t have any more use for the icky polyester sheets, which really just proves my point that it’s better to make your own and re-use the fabric later.  But I digress.

The Pooh sheet set, as icky as they were, came with TWO sheets, which I hadn’t seen before in a set of crib or toddler sheets.  The top end looked just like your top sheet does on your Grown Up bed, but the bottom end was fitted with elastic, just like the bottom sheet.  And suddenly, it was as though a light bulb has exploded for me: this is genius!  Now the little ones can have a proper top sheet, and it never rides up or falls off or gets tangled around their little legs while they flop around in the night.  I made a tutorial for this ages ago (two and a half years!!), and you can see from reading it that I’ve had a change of heart about making the casing–the version in that tutorial has the serged edge turned under with elastic stitched directly to it, and over time, I’ve found that those didn’t stay put or have the recovery I wanted.  So I’ve gone back to the casing version, seen in both the Michael Miller tutorial and in Dana’s version.  My bad, lesson learned.

The great thing about making the top sheet, too, is that if you have crib sheets that are JUST crib sheets, with no matching top sheet, when your child moves from the crib to the toddler bed, you can convert the crib sheet INTO a fitted top sheet, and re-use it that way!  We have plenty of crib sheets that we liked, but don’t necessarily want to use as bottom sheets when the babies have moved into the bigger bed.  By adding in an inexpensive fitted bottom sheet in a solid color–we get ours at the thrift store for pennies–I can make a fitted crib sheet, which I’ve used for around two years in the crib, into a fitted-bottom top sheet and get another two-plus years of use out of the same fabric.  So if you’re not interested in making a sheet SET, you can totally get four or five years of use out of 2.5 yds of good-quality cotton, and STILL cut it up into something else and have it look brand-new when it’s done being a sheet.  How’s THAT for recycling?

I’ve done a number of different sets over the years, some of which are nearing retirement–I don’t really think our youngest girl wants to sleep on wrench and tire track sheets, and our boy still looooooves them, so they’re heading into “yardage” status–I’ll chop off the elastic at the corners and have 2-ish yards per sheet to work with.  Other sets are still going strong, and will be passed down to the next child before being converted into something new a few years from now.  And some were fitted sheets that will become top sheets: take off the elastic at the upper corners, turn the edge under and hem, and that’s it!  Fitted-bottom top sheet.

We have stacks of novelty sheet sets for the little beds at our house.  The kids plain LOVE the fabrics, and while I’d like to say that I always aim to shoot a little higher in terms of style for their rooms, the truth is that (1) I’m a sucker for a novelty print and (2) it really does make them happy to see these characters when they climb into bed.  And anything that gets them to bed–asleep, with the lights out, so Mommy can take a break–is a winner in my book.  These make easy and quick gifts, too, for those of you wanting to do a handmade holiday this year–about an hour and you can have a complete set of sheets for under $25, including a pillow case.  Tie it up in a ribbon and add a tag, and you’ve made a child super happy this winter! Oooh, flannel!  You could totally do flannel, too.

Follow the links below each fabric and use code LIQUID40 to take 40% off ANY fabric in the Whipstitch Etsy shop while they last! Use the drop-down menu to select a quantity of 4 to get two yards of each print, then off you go to sew awesome sheets!

Veggie Tales Big World and Scenic Stripe from the Veggie Tales How in the World collection

Richard Scarry Busytown A to Z and Busytown Stripe (these would be cute with a text pillowcase from the Busytown collection)

Clifford Dot in blue and Clifford Stripe, from the Be Big collection (our two girls and our boy looooove these fabrics, and have been known to hug the straight yardage, unsewn)

Thomas the Tank Engine All Aboard and Thomas stripe

Meet the Gang from Marisa of Creative Thursday (looks fabulous with a nice couture cotton fitted bottom sheet)

Or how about some Vintage Modern?  Try flannel!  It’s dreamy…

I’m looking forward to having some of the girlier prints we’ve made into sheets over the years re-appear as top sheets when the baby makes it to the toddler bed, and am already playing with some Pinterest ideas for how to take the little boy sheets our son loves and bring them into his big boy room–he already has a quilt, but totally needs a reading nook with a bean bag chair to hang out on.  Maybe it’ll even have tire tracks.

Happy bed making, y’all!

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  • Michelle
    November 4, 2012 at 4:48 am

    I never considered making my own sheets, but a fitted top sheet might just have peaked my interest. Very clever.

  • Crib sheets | Kathleen Sews
    April 15, 2013 at 12:08 pm

    […] sheet (good for upcycling or Goodwill finds); and here’s one that shows you how to make a toddler flat sheet with one fitted end, which is handy since toddlers like to kick their sheets […]

  • Jessica White
    July 2, 2013 at 2:58 pm

    You mentioned you used old fitted crib sheets into fitted top sheets for the toddler bed. After cutting the elastic out of the top what did you do to finish off the sheet? Did you need to buy material to make it long enough, or will it be enough? Thanks!

    • Deborah
      July 3, 2013 at 10:17 am

      Because the fitted sheet goes over the end, and the flat only goes to the upper edge, you can cut off the fitted sheet end and hem it up, and the sheet is still long enough to reach their little chins! Hope that helps!

  • Suzanne
    October 12, 2013 at 1:58 pm

    Thank you so much! Now, I just need to learn how to sew! I am gong to the store today. My mother left her machine at my house so I guess I could try!!!

  • jennifer morrow
    June 29, 2014 at 3:49 am

    My 2 1/2 year old has not been wanting to wear a night nappy for a few months, we tried for 10 days and had 4 completely dry nights with no wake ups. The rest of the time he would wake distraught needing to go to the toilet, but being as stubborn as he is not wanting to go to the toilet at all and screaming the house down, and eventually wetting the bed/s. We’ve been putting him back in nappies but keeping an eye on how much fluid is in his nappy by morning, and will probably try again soon as he has been asking again, and if he wakes at night he asks to go to the toilet and I take him. I think he needed to think about what his body was doing, instead of expecting it to just happen.
    I hope you go well! I think I need more sheets