There are many decorating tips directed toward couples who share a bedroom, including not having a television in the bedroom that distracts from the couple’s private time together and not placing the bed against the wall so that one person has to awkwardly climb across the bed to get out. Another area of focus is the bed itself and what goes on it. With so many options of fabrics, thread counts, and fill counts, choosing bed linens can be a little overwhelming. So what is the secret of happy couples?
In the past, many home fabrics were actually made from linen, which is why they are still referred to generically as “linens.” Linen, one of the oldest types of fabric, is made from the stem of a flax plant. The resulting fabric is soft and absorbent but wrinkles easily. Today, cotton is more commonly used for bedding because it is absorbent, soft, and does not wrinkle quite as easily. However, as shoppers know, there is more to choosing the right sheets than simply looking for a “100% cotton” label.
For example, Egyptian cotton carries a connotation of luxury though many do not know the reason. What’s unique about Egyptian cotton is the length and durability of its fibers; longer fibers make for finer threads and thus softer fabrics. Egyptian cotton can last for decades when properly cared for.
Aside from the fiber itself, the type of weave can have an impact on the look and feel of a fabric. Sateen is a weave pattern that gives fabric a smooth and lustrous look and feel, and is therefore a popular choice for bed sheets.
Another determinant of the quality of a fabric is its thread count. The number denoted in the thread count refers to the number of threads, both vertical and horizontal, in each inch of the fabric. A higher thread count means the fabric consists of finer threads, resulting in a softer and smoother fabric.
However, while thread count can be a determinant of quality, it also can be a deceiving qualifier. For example, some manufacturers use a two-ply yarn to double their thread count. Sheets made from two-ply yarn, while stronger and more durable, will not be as soft as a similar construction with a one-ply yarn. Others may weave more than one strand of thread at one time. Again, the thread count will rise, but quality will not be as high as other fabrics with the same thread count.
To achieve the highest quality, a fabric should be woven with single ply yarn and should have only one thread woven at a time. With this method, the highest thread count that can be achieved is about 400, according to the Linen Place website. Shoppers who encounter extremely high thread counts at relatively low prices should beware. A simple thread count does not tell the whole story.
While cotton is the most popular fiber for sheets, down is one of the most popular materials for comforters. Down is the white fluff under a bird’s feathers that traps heat and keeps birds warm without weighing them down. Down is measured in two ways, by weight and by fill power. The weight tells exactly how much down is in the comforter. The impact of the weight is determined by the fill power. Fill indicates how many cubic inches one ounce of down will fill. A relatively low weight with high fill power means a comforter that is warm but light. A fill power of 700 is considered a very high fill power; a comforter with a fill power of 575 will be slightly heavier to achieve equal warmth but will be less costly.
While considering quality indicators is important when shopping for bed linens, shoppers should remember to rely on their own senses as well. Most stores have samples of their products that customers can touch to determine what feels best to them instead of relying completely on abstract measurements.