The fitted sheet
An Alberta invention, and folding nightmare
By Nancy Nickolson, Family Programs Coordinator, and Julia Petrov, Acting Head of History
Did you know the fitted sheet was invented in Alberta?
If you have ever slept in a bed with a flat bottom sheet, you know that you need to cover the mattress with tight “hospital corners” if you don’t want to wake up tangled in a mummy-like wrapping of cotton. Most people aren’t experienced nurses or hotel staff, though, so these tight corners are hard to perfect. While many inventors and individuals have tried to create solutions to this problem by sewing up the corners of a square sheet to hug the shape of a mattress, early fitted sheets still came loose by morning.
Here, a newspaper article describes how a French Empress “had her lower sheet sewed securely around the mattress every day”!
Raymond Leader, Dec 28, 1911 (Page 7); courtesy Peel’s Prairie Provinces (University of Alberta)
Fitted sheets were available to consumers by the 1950s, but they still had a tendency to slip off the corners of the mattress during the night.
Carbon Chronicle, January 17, 1957 (Page 8); courtesy Peel’s Prairie Provinces (University of Alberta)
Enter: Gisele Jubinville, of St. Albert, Alberta. Through experimentation, she realized that the trick to creating a fitted sheet that would stay on during the night was to create deeper mitred edges, acting like a pocket for the mattress corners. She was granted a patent in 1992, and sold the rights for over a million dollars!
Diagram of the mitred corners and elastic edges of Gisele Jubinville’s invention, US Patent 5,173,976 (December 29, 1992).
In the Collection
Mundane objects like bedsheets are important for museums to collect! These common objects tell a story of people and their everyday lives. So naturally, we have a fitted sheet from 1970 in our collection, featuring Walt Disney cartoon characters.
How to: Fold a fitted sheet
Thanks to Gisele’s Albertan innovation, your sheets fit your bed nicely. But how can you get them to fit your linen closet? Many people struggle to fold their freshly washed fitted sheets, shoving them into drawers and shelves as a wrinkled pile instead.
This video will show you how you can fold your fitted sheet into a neat square, matching the rest of your laundry!
Time: 1 minute
What you’ll need:
- 1 fitted bedsheet
- table or flat surface