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Scent and Sleep

Perhaps the most primal and yet underrated of senses, smell holds surprising sway over the way we think and feel. It can evoke childhood memories and covey a whole range of emotions and feelings. The right smell puts us at ease, invigorates us, relaxes us and generally can make a space far more pleasant to inhabit.

In Europe, from Medieval times, most great houses would have a still room where herbs and flowers were distilled for tinctures. Crusaders had brought back rose water which became all the rage and filled houses with scent to ward off plague. Fragrant plants would be put next to or under windows and doors to dispel the odour of a life before closed sewage.

When it comes to sleep humans have long used fragrance for its somniferous effects. The ancient Egyptians would burn frankincense, myrrh, cypress and cinnamon to induce sleep and enhance dreams. The Romans used the scent chamomile to relax. Even the “father of medicine,” Hippocrates, was a believer in the therapeutic power of scent.

Studies have been done on the correlation between smell and sleep and they indicate that smell can promote deeper sleep and reduce fatigue. Certain scents are shown to have a deep psychological effect that promotes  a positive mood and relaxation, which often leads to rest. one study even found that smells (both good and bad) will influence our dreams.

Some like lavender, also have physiological effects and will decrease heart rate and blood pressure, potentially putting you in a more relaxed state. In one study, researchers monitored the brain waves of subjects at night and found that those who sniffed lavender before bed had more deep sleep and felt more vigorous in the morning. Another study of infants found that they cried less and slept more deeply after a bath with lavender scented oils. Of course, lavender is not a cure for insomnia, but it could be a calming part of your bedtime routine. We sell the Zarvis linen liner made of the best English lavender which can be left in the linen cupboard or between the sheets on the bed to give a gentle perfume. It is perfect in a spare room to prepare the bed for guests.

Lavender linen liner

It doesn’t just have to be lavender: vanilla, jasmine, sandalwood, bergamot, lemon, geranium, ylang ylang and chamomile are all know for their tension alleviating and mood lifting properties. To put it simply, any fragrance that you enjoy will enhance your bedroom or indeed any room in the house.

Most importantly, whether it is a room spray or a scented candle or a wax melt, buy good quality, natural scents with a pleasing smell, that you like and that make you feel good.

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Sleep in a Heatwave

sleep in a heatwave

It’s a very British thing to moan about the lack of warm weather and then as soon as it arrives bemoan the fact that it’s now too hot.  What is true is that many people do find it difficult to sleep in a heatwave and as a result can wake up feeling tired and fractious.

A Cool Room

It may seem obvious, but try and remember to keep the bedroom as cool as possible. Before you leave in the morning, draw the curtains or blinds so that the room stays dark throughout the day. South facing windows should remain shut to keep hot air out.

Once evening falls, open windows to get a through breeze to cool and air the room before bedtime.

A fan, even a small one will help although if you are a hay fever sufferer be careful as this could exacerbate symptoms. 

Additionally, you can fill a hot water bottle with iced water. Keeping your feet cool will lower the whole-body temperature

Bedding

Fold up and store your winter duvet. In the very hot weather, a top sheet may be all you need. However, keep another light cover handy as body temperature drops during the night so you may find yourself cold later in the night.

An absolute must on a muggy night has to be pure natural fibre bed linen which will allow the body’s moisture to escape. Cotton is fantastically absorbent and nothing beats the cool touch of a cotton percale sheet when the air is close. The finer the quality, the cooler and smoother it will feel next to the skin. Linen is also very absorbent so will remain cool although it is generally weightier which you may not want in the heat.

At Dormitory we sell micromodal bed linen which is even more absorbent than cotton. It has the feel of silk but launders much more easily. A great alternative if you want to keep a feel of luxury

During the Day

Drink plenty throughout the day. Make sure that you stop well before you go to sleep or you will be waking up for the toilet in the wee small hours.

Water is the best thing to drink as many soft drinks contain caffeine which as a stimulant will make you feel more awake.

The resulting lethargy from a hot summer’s day can tempt us to drift off in a nice shady spot of an afternoon.  But beware too long a siesta, especially when it’s not a usual habit as this can disturb your usual night pattern and keep you awake later.

Getting Ready to Sleep

It is tempting to have a cold shower before bed to cool down, but this actually boosts the body’s circulation (telling it to keep warm). It is far better to have a lukewarm/ tepid bath or shower to keep the body temperature regulated. This way you are much more likely to fall asleep even in a heatwave.

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Truth and Lies from the bed

Pimlico – fine Egyptian percale

We are used to hearing about “Estate Agent Speak” where bijoux means small and  handy transport links means next to a train station. But recently, we’ve noticed a trend on some websites to use the same kind of marketing speak when talking about bed linen. Of course, we are all going to believe that we have the best, softest, most marvellous product on the market but is it? How do you, the consumer, wade through the superlatives to work out what is the real deal.

High Thread Count

Most people have heard of thread count which is the number of threads in both directions within a square inch of the fabric. The theory is that the higher the thread count the denser the weave and better the quality. However, this is only part of the picture as the maximum thread count for single yarns is around 500. Anything over that is generally made by using twisted yarns which immediately doubles or even triples the final count. This can often (not always) conceal a weaker, poorer quality thread and so, some people’s 600tc can be little better or even worse than a 200tc using better quality yarn.

The truth is that the quality of fibre and finishing process are just as important as the numbers so check provenance to be sure.

Single Ply

There is a real fashion for declaring items single ply these days. Probably in response to the debates surrounding thread counts as I’ve mentioned. It just means that yarns have not been twisted to inflate the thread count. Again, it is only part of the picture and as said before only possible up to a maximum of 500tc.

To still offer a high thread count, some weavers have resorted to adding what are called “picks” into the weave. These are additional, very fine threads that are added into the weft (threads going across the weave). Effectively, it is doing what others are achieving by twisting the yarn. Ironically though, by not twisting the threads the fabric may be weaker than if a twist had been added. For many it’s all just a numbers game…

Egyptian Cotton

Egyptian cotton is a genus of cotton rather than cotton that just happens to come out of Egypt. Much of what is “made in Egypt” is in fact lower quality imported cotton from India as most of the best cotton from the country goes straight out for export to Europe. What is important is to look for is extra long staple Egyptian cotton as opposed to cotton sheets made in Egypt

Europe still has the best processing and finishing in textiles and because of costs tends to only handle the higher quality fibres as they can not compete with what is produced in the Far East. Both Portugal and Italy weave and produce very good quality fabrics although for our money the Italians still have it when it comes to excellence of finish and handle.

Sateen vs Percale

Sateen and percale use the same yarn but have a different weave. Some websites do not even specify which it is but they have quite a different look and feel with percale being crisp and cool to the touch and sateen smooth and lustrous. Percale is a more robust fabric so, that’s the one we tend to recommend for hotels but beyond that it is a simple matter of taste and we would always specify which a design in made of. Personally, we like sateen in winter and percale in summer but everyone has their own preference.

Cutting out the middleman

We see a lot of little diagrams showing how bed linen is cheaper because there are no distribution costs, tv advertising, retailer etc. Seems a little odd when most web sites are indeed retailers albeit on line with their own set of costs for website, photography, PR, adverts.

Truth is there is a current fashion for very plain bedlinen. No cuffs, no detailing. -plain bags if you will. Nothing wrong with that but it is much cheaper to sew so it should be a cheaper price than something with embroidery or edging detail

Last a lifetime

Sounds amazing but we can’t imagine a bed linen to last a lifetime unless you have 50 sets used in rotation or it is treated with some king of Teflon coating!

Modern washing powders are quite aggressive, and cotton does not improve with time. It will soften with use but will deteriorate eventually. Good quality bed linen should last many years and the more sets you have the less action one pillowcase will see but it is not indestructible.

We are very proud that our customers do not come back too often to replace their bed linen, but it will need replacing at some point in a lifetime.

Easy to care for

You can buy “easy care cotton” but it has a chemical coating to stop it crumpling. If you don’t like the sound of this then cotton needs ironing if you want it to look smooth. Fact!

If you don’t like ironing, then you will have to live with a crumpled look. A very good, smooth cotton will iron more easily than a course one but it will still need ironing and it’s only easier if it is ironed when still slightly damp and  line dried.

It’s all too complicated!

We’re sure some people do find buying bed linen complicated and are not sure what to go for. We here, are a bit old fashioned and would say just ask us.

We have worked in this industry for far more years than we care to mention and know our stuff when it comes to design and manufacture. Passionate about our products, we love talking about bed linen (sad, we know) and will give whatever advise we can.   We will always endeavour to give plain speak.

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How to choose towels

    How to choose towels            

We know when you’re in the shop or online, with stacks of towels if front of you it’s hard to choose one. Every towel claims to be the most absorbent, the quickest drying, and the softest to the touch. So how do you pick which one is good for you?

Long Double Loop towels and robes in Stone

Probably the main question you should ask yourself is -How absorbent is it and how does it look and feel?

So, what should you be looking for when you go shopping for towels?

Oxford Blue Bee Waffle

Generally, towels should be made of 100% cotton as cotton is naturally absorbent and in fact can absorb up to 27 times its own weight in liquid water. There are now some other natural fibre options on the market made from such as bamboo and linen which both have excellent absorbance rates but have a very different handle to cotton. For a very lightweight alternative, there are micro modals fabrics, man made from cellulose.

The best quality towels are made from Egyptian or Pima combed cotton, as it is a naturally much longer fibre, so integrally stronger and smoother.

Combed cotton is often found on towel labels. These are different blends of cotton that has been produced by removing all the short fibers and impurities in the manufacturing process to produce a cotton that is finer, stronger and softer.

Egoist and Bee waffle towels

Often you will see on towel labels ‘zero’ twist and this means there is no twist in the processing of the cotton thread. When it is used in a towel, the towel is very soft to the touch and absorbent but the down side is that it will not be as durable and the towel is likely to produce lint when you tumble dry it.

We would usually recommend looking for something that says low twist which will be almost as soft and absorbent but more robust.

A towel is woven in the same way as most fabrics except instead of the weft threads lying flat, they create rows of loops. The loops in the weave of the towel should be quite long and densely packed and should feel firm and self -supporting. Lesser quality towels will feel thin and a bit lifeless and seem to lack body and have a very open construction

Bee Waffle hooded robe in Pearl

Weights in grams are always shown for quality towels and this is the amount of cotton used per sq metre used. Generally, the denser and heavier the towel the better quality it is but after a certain point it does come down to personal preference . Short tight loops, in the American style or longer, softer loops preferred by the weavers in Europe.

Absorbency is probably the most important question when buying a towel. How well will it dry you?

A simple test to check the absorbency, if you can, is to pour a small amount of water, say a capful directly onto the towel. If it disappears into the towel immediately and is relatively dry to the touch then the towel has good absorbency characteristics. But beware, some towels feel very soft and silky to the touch but water sits on the surface of them in beads as they have been treated with excessive softener while being manufactured. They are not absorbent, and the softener is often used to disguise lower quality toweling. This is also the rule for laundering. Follow the washing instructions as per the label and if you must use fabric softener, use very sparingly as this coating can start to affect the absorbency of the towel

In the end choosing and buying a towel is very much a matter of personnel choice but as with most things, it’s better to invest in the best you can afford.

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Get yourself Guest ready

 

One of the nice things about this time of year is welcoming visitors during the Christmas season. Whilst we spend a lot of time getting the decorations up and making the living areas festive the poor old guest accommodation can get a bit forgotten. So here are our tips to make their stay a joy.

Jasmine bed

 

It may sound obvious but, clean the room thoroughly. It’s amazing how dusty, even an unused room, can get. Open a window and get some fresh air circulating. Peel back the bed covers and make sure the bed sees some of that fresh air as well. If you have animals pay particular attention to getting rid of any stray hairs and doggy/catty smells which you may not even notice but could be the first thing to register with a guest.

There is nothing like scent to improve a room’s ambience so bring in some fresh flowers and or a scented candle. Hyacinths are my favourite at this time of year and have the most gorgeous fresh smell. For a quick fix, you could also use a room spray based on natural oils to avoid that overwhelming synthetic smell.

We also sell the marvelous Zarvis linen liners filled with English lavender to place in linen cupboards between sheets However, these can equally be placed in the bed, once made, to fragrance the sheets ready for guests. It should help them get a good night’s sleep too.

Lavender sachet

 

Magazines and books are always a nice touch – particularly those of local interest that may give some tips and hints of things to do in the area. Although these days, one of the first things guests want is the Wi-Fi code so make sure it is to hand and perhaps even make up a card with it that can sit next to the bed along with a universal charger for devices.

A lot of people like to have water available to drink at night so it is nice to have a bottle of water and a tumbler available on the bedside table and depending how long your guest will stay it is worth clearing out a drawer and a section of the wardrobe to allow them somewhere to put clothes and hang dresses and/or suits.

 

Do make sure guests have a reasonable mattress not just the most basic. A good or bad night’s sleep chez vous may be the thing your guest remembers most about their stay. The same should go for the pillows and duvets. You can find out ahead of time if they like a firm or soft pillow and whether they like to be hot or cool when they sleep. You cannot always assume guests like the same temperature as you do so be ready to make it warmer or cooler for them, Have extra blankets or throws on hand which can also be decorative and make the room look nicer.  Offer the level of comfort you would hope to receive. Good cotton sheets are the best option. Comfortable and easy to clean.

 

 

Even if you do not have a designated guest bathroom, you need to prepare whatever bathroom your guests will use The first step is to gather up all of your personal items. Leaving your hairbrush out and a big glob of toothpaste in the sink is not exactly welcoming to a guest. Take all clothing and used towels out of the room too! Extra toilet paper is a must. Nothing is more awkward for a guest than running out of toilet paper and having to rummage through your cupboards looking for a new roll so put a few out in plain view or at least make sure to tell guests where they can be found.

Don’t just put one towel out for a guest but give them a good stack of towels – enough for a bath, drying hair and washing hands. It is also nice to set out a small pack of extra toiletries such as toothpaste, new toothbrushes, shampoo and soap, so guests feel at home even if they forgot something important. Even a bathrobe for guests can be a lovely touch.

Towels