As I have confessed before, I LOVE the luxury of beautiful bedding. I hadn’t given it much thought until I vacationed at a bed and breakfast that had the softest, silkiest bedding I had ever encountered – I ripped the bed apart the next morning in search of the labels so I could duplicate the beautiful feel when I got home. I have been a sheet snob ever since. Beautiful bed linens are pricey, I discovered, but in the scheme of things, you use them more than any article of clothing you may own. You spend about 1/3rd of your life on them and they need to hold up to and even improve with each laundry cycle. So, how do you choose wisely?
There are 3 factors that contribute to the superior feel and wear of luxurious sheets; fiber, weave, and thread count.
First, fiber: Cotton is the most widely used fiber for luxury sheets, but not all cotton is created equal. The highest quality cottons are woven from extra long staple cotton fibers. These fibers create a very strong thread resulting in a soft durable sheet that doesn’t pill and just gets softer and silkier with each laundering. Some of the finest extra long staple cotton is grown in both the southwestern part of the US (labeled Supima cotton) and in Egypt. Caveat: Beware of bargain priced sheets labeled long staple Egyptian cotton as these may only contain a small amount of the premium fiber.
Second, weave: The two common weaves for sheets are percale and sateen. Percale is a plain weave and is characterized by a matte finish and a crisp feel. Sateen fabric is woven to create a silky smooth surface and is know for its luster and drape. Sateen is usually a little thicker and more tightly woven than percale. High quality sheets are available in both of these weaves, the feel and weight is a matter of preference.
Finally, thread count; This is the number of vertical and horizontal threads per square inch. Thread count labels began in the mid ‘90’s as a marketing tool for luxury bedding. Does a high thread count automatically make them better, softer, more durable? No, not necessarily. Bargain sheets boasting high thread counts may just be made with inferior fibers woven into thinner threads to allow for a higher volume of threads per square inch. Like many things, in luxury bedding, you get what you pay for. Quality sheets can be found in thread counts ranging from 200-800. France and Italy are considered some of the best sheet makers in the industry, although the fibers are not from those countries, and a 200 thread count sheet from Italy is almost certain to be a higher quality than an 800 thread count sheet from Pakistan.
The bottom line? price and quality go hand in hand. Buy from a reputable luxury brand. Favorite brands to consider? Peacock Alley, Frette, Matouk, and Sferra would be good places to start.