In selecting bed linens, every attribute of the product affects the quality and value. Gone are the days when price denoted quality or when sheets were chosen for color and design alone. Today, a bedding purchase is based on analyzing the product's attributes and deciding how these mesh with your needs.
Here are some important things to consider when choosing fine linens: Fiber ContentThread CountCottonType of WeaveFabric FinishRecognizing QualityTips for Choosing Fine Linens
Bedding can be made from natural or manmade fibers, or a blend of both. The material that is best for your customers and guests depends on what you are looking for in a bedding product. Here are some of the most common bedding materials:
- Natural Fibers
- Examples: cotton, silk, flax, wool
- Naturally temperature regulating and absorbent
- Should be removed promptly from the washer and dryer to reduce wrinkling
- Artificial Fibers
- Examples: viscose, rayon
- Manmade from natural raw materials derived from cellulose or plant protein.
- Most recognizable fabrics made from artificial fibers are Tencel, Modal, and rayon
- Durable, absorbent, silky to the touch, and can be anti-bacterial
- Should be washed according to care instructions to reduce shrinking
- Examples: polyester, acrylic, nylon
- Manmade from petrochemicals
- Fabric woven from these fibers can be dyed with colors that are more vibrant than those used on natural fiber fabric; bedding resists wrinkling
- Less breathable in warm or humid climates.
- Combinations of two or more different fibers
- Quality blends have the characteristics of both fibers.
- Example: cotton linen blend sheets will be crisp and naturally lustrous, while also being strong and shrinkage-resistant
Thread count is probably the most advertised attribute for bed linens, yet it is not a very accurate indicator of true quality. Simply put, thread count is the number of yarns in a square inch of fabric. In prior years when thread counts did not exceed 350, a higher thread count signified that the fabric was lighter, softer and more durable. Through technological advancements in weaving, thread counts can now exceed 1200. To reach thread counts of more than 400, fabrics are woven with multi plied yarns or multi-yarn insertions. In weaving, the simplest type of weave is a plain weave in which each single yarn alternately crosses over and under another. When using plied yarns in a plain weave, two or more yarns are twisted together to make one single yarn, which is then woven horizontally over and under a vertical yarn. Multiple yarn insertions are produced with multiple single yarns, aligned horizontally side by side, and woven at the same time over and under one vertical yarn. Fabrics made with multiple ply yarns will be heavier than those made with single yarns. Fabrics made with multiple yarn insertions will be lighter than fabrics made with multi ply, but too many inserted yarns can result in a less durable fabric. The most durable fabrics are those made with single ply construction, which also results in a lighter and softer bed linen. Knowing the quality of the cotton fibers is often more important than just the thread count. When considering flannel sheets, the weight of the fabric and quality of the cotton is more important than the thread count.
There are several types of cotton used to make fine quality bed linens:
- Long staple cotton, such as Egyptian, Pima, or Sea Island, is used to make the highest-quality, smoothest linens. It is the most expensive grade of cotton, but also the most durable.
- Intermediate staple cotton is normally used for bedding with thread counts up to 230.
- Short staple cotton is not often used in bedding due to its lack of softness and durability.
- Organic Cotton is non-genetically modified cotton that is grown using farming methods and materials that have a low impact on the environment. Fields in which organic cotton is cultivated have not been treated with inorganic fertilizers for at least three years. GOTS Certified organic cotton products are produced under the strictest guidelines, ensuring that the product was produced through environmentally and socially responsible manufacturing and that the product is made of at least 95% organic material.
- Combed Cotton results in yarn that is finer, cleaner, more lustrous, and stronger than carded yarns. It is used in high thread count, long lasting linens.
Type of Weave
The type of weave used in the bedding fabric plays an integral part in the durability and price of the finished product. There are three basic fabric weaves used in bedding:
- Plain Weave, the simplest of the three basic weaves, used for about 80% of all bedding. Examples include batiste, voile, percale, cambric, and gingham.
- Twill Weaves, identified by a diagonal rib or twill line, are used to produce strong bedding fabric with a softer "drape" than a plain weave.
- Sateen Weave is used to produce smooth, lustrous, higher thread count bedding with a thick, close texture. Generally higher in price.
- Patterned Weaves are the most difficult and most expensive to produce due to their complexity. They are also the most durable. There are two basic pattern weaves, the Dobby and the Jacquard:
- Dobby fabric, such as "damask" stripes, piqué, and waffle cloth, is the more economical of the two basic pattern weaves, and comes in simple designs.
- Jacquard is the most complex weave and requires the finest quality of yarn. It is the most expensive of all types of weaves to produce. Examples of Jacquard fabrics are damask, tapestry, brocade, and matelassé.
The fabric's finish impacts its overall quality and durability. The three most commonly used functional finishes are:
- Mercerization improves the shape of the individual cotton fibers by adding strength, luster, and an increased affinity for dyes.
- Shrinkage control keeps the bedding fabric from shrinking no more than 1% to 2%. One type of shrinkage control is Sanforization. This type of finish may make the bedding less cool and comfortable.
- Wrinkle resistance is applied to some cotton fabrics used in bedding so they require little or no ironing after washing. It may reduce the product's absorbency and porosity.
Besides taking into consideration the attributes of the linen, below are a few additional tips to also help you recognize quality in linens:
- The weave of the fabric should be firm, which can be tested by scratching the surface of the cloth. If the threads shift easily, the product may be inclined to develop holes at the seamed edges.
- The weave of the linens should be uniformed. Hold a sheet to the light and look for any unusually thick or thin areas. Bedding in which the weave is not uniform will wear unevenly.
- The color should be even and look fresh. If there is a fold or crease in the product, check whether the color has rubbed off. This could be an indication of poor dye quality.
- Printed designs should be even, with no undyed areas showing through except in areas of the design which are meant to be white.
- A print that is geometric or symmetrical should be printed at right angles.
- No powdery dust should appear on the surface of the bed linens. If so, this is an indication of too much sizing and may conceal poor quality.
Tips for Choosing Fine Linens
- Prefer crisp, cool, smooth bedding? Choose plain weave bed linens such as batiste, voile, percale, or cambric. Since these fabrics can wrinkle easily, dry on a low temperature or a wrinkle release setting, remove promptly from the dryer, smooth flat, and fold.
- Prefer soft, silky smooth, highly lustrous bedding? Choose sateen bed linens. Sateen wrinkles less than percale but due to the nature of the weave it is not as durable. To minimize ironing, dry on low temperature or a wrinkle release setting, remove promptly from the dryer, smooth flat, and fold.
- Prefer linens with natural temperature-regulating properties? Choose linen, silk, or rayon from bamboo bed linens.
- Linen is highly absorbent and draws heat away from the body, keeping you cooler in the warmer months. It is also hypoallergenic, lint free, and naturally insect repellant. Crisp, smooth, and comfortable, linen becomes softer after every wash. One of the most durable fabrics, it can be washed in hot water, but to minimize wrinkles, dry on low temperature or a wrinkle release setting. Remove it promptly from the dryer, smooth flat, and fold. Iron while damp.
- Silk is naturally porous and absorbent, keeping you warm in the winter and cool in the summer. It is also resistant to mildew and moths. Silk can be machine washed in cool water, on a gentle wash cycle, with a delicate laundry detergent. To keep your linens from snagging on the inside of the washing machine, wash your silk bed linens inside of a mesh bag or cotton pillowcases. Tumble dry low or line dry.
- Rayon made from Bamboo, is 1½ times more absorbent than cotton. Due to its natural ability to breathe, it wicks away heat and moisture in the warmer months and keeps you warm in winter. It has natural deodorant and anti-bacterial properties, which do not wash out over time. As rayon is prone to shrinking, follow all care instructions carefully.
- Have sensitive skin? Choose bedding that is certified safe to the STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX®.
- Hate to iron? Select bed linens with a wrinkle resistant finish. The finish helps minimize wrinkles and does not wash out over time.
- Have an extra thick mattress? Select a fitted sheet with extra deep pockets and an oversized comforter to allow for extra coverage on the sides of the bed.
- Fitted sheets keep popping off the bed? Select a fitted sheet with elastic all around as this will allow the sheet to remain secure on your bed, even if you toss and turn before falling to sleep.