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The value of comfort – why quality Egyptian cotton just might be worth paying for.

Egyptian cotton bedding

Egyptian cotton – is it worth it?

There are so many renovation and makeover shows on TV these days that you’d be forgiven for thinking that that’s the way people always go about decorating and furnishing their homes; a big budget, a grand design – and as if by magic, the dream home appears. The reality of course is usually a bit less instant and a lot more haphazard. The early-adult years are full of frequent moves and changing circumstances – it takes quite a while before we find anywhere we can put down roots and really call ‘home’. During this time we tend to accumulate home furnishings; starting with the cheapest Ikea futon, fold-up chairs and roller blinds when we first live independently, and gradually replacing and upgrading as we move on, our relationships and tastes mature or our family and work circumstances change.

But some items endure. Although I now have a family house and have done some renovation and redecorating of my own, I reflected the other day that I still own the ubiquitous and perfectly serviceable Billy bookcases I bought for my first flat, my nan’s rickety old nest of coffee tables and the (probably dangerous!) 60’s aluminium cooking pans my mum passed on to me when I left for university.

What’s more, when I started doing social media work over a year ago for Dormitory, I realised that I had never managed to acquire a really decent set of bed linen in my adult life – though not for want of trying. When the numerous cheap and cheerful polyester and cotton mix duvet sets of my 20s began to wear out, I was delighted to see that in the intervening years, the internet had opened up a way of buying ‘quality’ bedlinen at surprisingly reasonable prices. Lots of online retailers sprang up offering high thread count Egyptian Cotton bedding at a fraction of the cost of those luxury lines I coveted in high-end department stores. At around £80-£100 for a 400 TC pure Egyptian Cotton duvet set, it was amazing value. Indeed it almost seemed too good to be true.

And truth to tell, it actually was. When I unwrapped the beautifully branded packaging and unfurled my new bedding, I was slightly disappointed by the weight of the sheets. I had expected something more substantial for 400 Thread Count Egyptian cotton – something significantly ‘better’ than anything I had had before. But the sheets felt a little flimsy and when held up to the light had an almost transparent quality. The finish was nice and soft – but this softness seemed to wear off after a few washes. Also the detail on the set was minimal – basic stitching and ties rather than buttons for fastening the duvet. It was a perfectly good and functional bedding set of course, better than the cheap sets I’d had before, but certainly not the ‘special’ Egyptian cotton experience I had been hoping for.

When I went on to start working with Dormitory and they gifted me a set of their best-selling white Brompton 400TC 100% Egyptian Cotton percale, I was curious to say the least. Having had a slightly unremarkable experience with Egyptian Cotton the first time round, I definitely needed convincing that that this would be different – especially as I knew that Dormitory bed linen came with a promise of quality and a realistic price tag to match.


Egyptian Cotton


Luckily, (especially as I was about to start tweeting on their behalf!) I wasn’t disappointed. When I unwrapped my package, the sheets were crisp and smooth to the touch – they felt substantial and when I held them up to the light they were opaque, seemingly really tightly woven. The attention to detail showed especially in the finishing – with a deep cuff on the duvet, three rows of contrasting cording around the edges and fine button closures. The ultimate proof of the bed linen is in the sleeping of course – and I’m happy to report that the bedding not only looked gorgeous on the bed – but felt even better, being cool and smoothly soft to the touch. Dormitory owners Cathy and Sue explained how the best Egyptian cotton is made from a longer staple with high quality finishing which makes the material super soft, durable and breathable. This means that the softness actually increases over time with washing rather than fading as with the cheaper yarns. I have also found this to be true – and the only drawback with my luxurious cotton sheets is that they have a tendency to crumple after washing as natural materials often do (and because I usually overfill my tumble dryer!). As I am far too lazy to iron anything at all, let alone bed sheets, I was pleased to learn that this wrinkling can easily be mitigated by removing sheets from the dryer while they are still slightly damp, shaking them out and applying a bit of tension and a linen mist. Pretty straightforward even for slovenly me! Have a look at the Dormitory bedding care guide here.


Egyptian cotton


A year and a half on and the bedding is going strong – still looking good, bright white and getting progressively softer. I have to say I have been converted. It seems that the luxurious Egyptian cotton experience is very real – if you are willing to spend a little extra for it. And why the hell not? We spend an average of 25 years of our lives in bed – we might as well be comfortable!

Don’t take my word for it – contact Dormitory here to order a swatch of any of our linens.


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Bed linen glossary of terms – a buying guide.

bed linen glossary of terms

Bed linen glossary of terms – a buying guide.

Buying bed linen and linen accessories can be a confusing process these days. There are so many varieties of fabric, each with their own properties and different types of manufacturing and finishing processes that affect the feel, quality, durability and price of the final product. Most of us have a vague awareness that ‘Egyptian Cotton’ is the most luxurious fabric for bedding and that thread count is important, but with all the claims made by today’s manufacturers and marketers, how do we really know what we’re getting? To help clear up the confusion, we’ve put together a bed linen glossary of terms used in the industry which should hopefully help you see the wood from the trees (and your Egyptian Cotton from your Pima).

Bed Linen Glossary of Terms

Applique – a sewing technique whereby a small cut-out piece of fabric is attached to a larger piece to form a design or pattern.

Binding – the finishing of an edge or hem of a piece of fabric by rolling or pressing then stitching on a trim or edging decoration.

Blend – when two or more fibres are mixed together to create a new fabric with different properties.

Boll – the round protective case surrounding the seeds of the cotton or flax plants.

bed linen glossary of terms

Boudoir pillowcase – the covering for a small decorative pillow, commonly 30cm x 40cm

Brocade – a rich fabric woven with a raised pattern (often in silver or gold).

Brushed cotton – at the end of the manufacturing process, the cotton fabric is brushed on one side to remove excess lint and to raise the surface giving a soft and fluffy finish. This is how you create flannelette or flannel.

Combed cotton – a very soft version of cotton which is made by treating the cotton fibres so that the staple threads line up as perfectly as possible and are aligned for spinning. It gives you the smoothest thread possible from the fibres that have been used. It’s also often the name given to blends of different grades of cotton.

Cording – a narrow strip of fabric wrapped and sewn around a cord, used as a decorative finishing element (also known as piping).

Cotton – the soft fluffy cellulose staple fibre that grows in a protective case (boll) around the seeds of the cotton plant, native to tropical and sub-tropical regions around the world. The fibre is spun into yarn and woven to make a soft breathable fabric.

Damask – a rich, lustrous fabric made of silk, linen, cotton of wool, with reversible patterns woven into it.

Dorset button – a craft-made button originating in the county of Dorset in the seventeenth century.

bed linen glossary of terms

Down – the layer of fine bird feathers found underneath the larger, tough exterior feathers. It’s a great soft, thermal insulator so is commonly used as padding in high-quality bedding and clothing materials.

Eiderdown – the down feathers specifically from the Eider duck, and the term for a quilt or coverlet filled with down or other insulating material.

bed linen glossary of terms

Egyptian Cotton – coming from a different plant than other grades or types of cotton, Egyptian cotton originated in the rich soils of the Nile valley and produces a longer fibre or ‘staple’. The longer staples cause the resulting spun yarn to be stronger and finer than regular cotton which means it can be woven more tightly to create a uniquely soft, strong, durable and breathable fabric. The best quality cotton available on the market.

Palazzo Jade

Embroidery – the sewing of raised and ornamental designs or patterns on woven fabrics.

Euro pillowcase – the covering of a square pillow, often used decoratively on the bed behind the functional pillows, commonly 65cm x 65cm.

Fibre – a hair-like raw material made of plant cells which can be spun and woven into fabric.

Fitted Sheet – a fabric bottom sheet with elasticated corners designed to fit over a mattress.

Flat Sheet – an ordinary sheet without elasticated corners.

Flax – a blue flowered herbaceous plant. The textile fibre is obtained from its stalks and spun and woven to make linen.

Garment washing – a process by which fabrics are treated to remove starch and develop softness after manufacture.

Hem – the edge of a piece of fabric that has been turned over and sewn to prevent fraying.

Housewife pillowcase – a covering for a pillow that has a sewn edge and fits closely round the pillow with no border.

Jacquard – an intricate variegated pattern formed on a special jacquard loom which has perforated cards for the production of brocaded fabrics.

bed linen glossary of terms

Jersey – a type of fabric construction that originated in the Channel Islands and which can be made of various materials, including cotton and synthetic fibres. It produces a lightweight and stretchy finish, ideal for draped textiles.

Linen – a strong, cool and absorbent cloth woven from the fibres of the flax plant. Ideal for use in hot weather.

bed linen glossary of terms

Mercerise – treating natural threads to shrink them and make them stronger and more lustrous. It also increases their affinity for dyes.

Micromodal – a sustainable fibre derived from beech trees. It makes a smooth and cool drapable material that is a great alternative to silk.

bed linen glossary of terms

Oxford pillowcase – a covering for a pillow that has a border or frill. A more dressy and elegant pillow covering than the Housewife.

Percale – a closely woven plain-weave fabric, usually of 200 thread count or higher that is strong, durable and washes well. It is smooth, of matt appearance and can be woven from cotton or blended fibres.

Pima Cotton – a cotton plant that produces a strong and firm fibre developed primarily in the south-western US by the selection and breeding of Egyptian cottons.

Piping – (see cording)

bed linen glossary of terms

Ply – the particular number of threads from which a fabric is made.

Sateen – a short-staple cotton fabric woven like satin to produce a lustrous finish.

Satin – a weave that has a glossy surface and a dull back.

Sham – a decorative covering for a pillow (North American version of a pillowcase).

Silk – a very fine and lustrous fibre produced by silkworms to make cocoons and which is spun into thread and woven into fabric.

Staple – an individual fibre of cotton.

Thread count – the number of threads woven together in a square inch of fabric. The finer the thread, the tighter the weave, hence higher thread counts being associated with fine quality. Beware very high thread counts (over 600) though. Some manufacturers might make one thread from four plies twisted together, thus giving quadruple the thread count without an associated impact on the actual quality of the finished product.

bed linen glossary of terms

Tog – the measure of thermal resistance of a unit area used to label the warmth of duvets. Lightweight summer duvets typically range from 3.0 – 4.5 tog, Spring/Autumn duvets range from 7.5 – 10.5 tog and winter duvets range from 12.0 – 13.5 tog.

Top sheet – a flat sheet which you lie underneath in bed, and which would have blankets or coverlets on top. An arrangement used in traditional bed dressing and often seen on hotel beds. Top sheets and blankets/quilts have largely been replaced by duvets in Europe.

Valance – a decorative border that hangs down over the side of the mattress to hide the bed structure and space beneath.

bed linen glossary of terms

Voile – a very thin, fine, lightweight, semi-sheer fabric made in plain-weave from cotton, silk, wool or synthetic fibres.

Waffle Weave – (also known as honeycomb weave) – a fabric construction which is very absorbent and allows air to circulate around the fabric so making it quick-drying. It is often used to make towels and robes for these reasons.

bed linen glossary of terms

In an era where, luxury can be used to describe anything from cat food to cheese boards, Dormitory looks to what true luxury means – quality materials, an unstinting eye for detail and true, old fashioned craftsmanship. We take pride in the creation of well-crafted products of integrity. Shop our products here.

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Because you’re worth it – why you should invest in quality Egyptian cotton bedding for a good night’s sleep.

It’s no secret that we all love our beds, but the physical and mental benefits of regular good sleep is becoming increasingly apparent. A 2017 book by neuroscientist Matthew Walker revealed that sleep is much more important for our health and happiness than previously thought and that getting less sleep than we need (a massive 8 hours!) increases our chances of getting diseases like cancer and Alzheimers, and can actually shorten our life-spans.

Achieving that perfect 8 hour slumber is easier said than done though. Most of us are aware that we need comfortable, supportive mattresses and optimal sleeping conditions – a regular bedtime routine, low-lighting, good ventilation, and an absence of screens in the bedroom. But the bedding we sleep in should also be a priority. The material we choose to wrap ourselves in and that is in contact with our skins for 1/3 of our lives is a key ingredient in the recipe for comfortable and revitalising sleep.

egyptian cotton

Egyptian Cotton – simply the best.

Pure Egyptian cotton has long had the reputation of being the softest and most luxurious material for bedding – and rightly so. The secret to its quality lies in the special characteristics of the Egyptian cotton species. The climate and particular environmental conditions where it is grown in the Nile Delta creates a longer, thinner, and stronger staple (fibre) which when woven produces a uniquely fine and durable fabric with a supremely soft texture. It is light and breathable, and the strength of the fibres mean that the fabric lasts for years, can be machine washed and tumble dried, in fact, becoming softer and even more luxurious over time with repeated washing.


Thread Count. The only way is up – or is it?

The thread count of the fabric is a measure of the threads in a square inch and it is the thinner, finer staples of Egyptian cotton that enable it to be woven tightly into a super fine, high thread-count material. Beware of very high thread count (over 800) cheaper cotton varieties as these have had extra threads woven in which artificially raises the thread count, but doesn’t enhance the quality, durability or texture of the fabric.

egyptian cotton

Invest for good rest.

There are a lot of high-thread count 100% cotton sheets available on the market, but as we have seen, many of these are not all that they appear to be. The best quality, longest-lasting and most comfortable sheets are made from single-ply genuine Egyptian cotton, grown and hand-picked in Egypt, with a thread-count no higher than 600. The finest bedding is woven in Europe (specifically Italy) which has a long tradition of craftsmanship in weaving and where specialist looms, dyeing and finishing techniques are used. This bedding comes with a higher price-tag than other cotton variety and blended material sheets woven elsewhere, but if you invest wisely and follow the care instructions, you can look forward to many years of use and comfort. When you are shopping for bedding therefore, look out for labels with 100% cotton or pure Egyptian cotton on them, check where the sheets have been woven, feel the material, hold it up to the light (it shouldn’t be thin or see-through) – and if the price seems too good to be true – it most probably is!



Don’t just take our word for it though, try for yourself. Order free swatches of our pure Egyptian cotton bedding fabric and you’ll see what we mean – email:



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Meet the Founders – Sue and Cathy, of Dormitory luxury bed linen

Sue Graham and Cathy Marriott are the co-founders of luxury bed linen producers Dormitory. They also have an online specialist linen shop with their own product and a range of carefully edited bed, bath and living products. Here I asked them how they got started, how they work, and what they like in the world of interiors. 

How did you first meet?  

We both started working as sales assistants at Liberty in their Linen Department many years ago, straight from university after studying for different Art Degrees. We both went on to become Buyers there.  

How did Dormitory come about?  

After leaving buying, we were both consulting for some major home brands and decide to join forces on a couple of projects when, in the midst of a pitch to a well-known department store we were asked if we could also produce and supply the ideas we were presenting. Without hesitation we said yes. It was only when we got outside we thought “gosh, what have we got ourselves into?” but by then our brains were racing and we were committed. 

Was retail a good training ground?

Without doubt! When we first started, buyers were true product specialists and you had to know your stuff.  Retail is also really hard graft but very creative and proactive. If we see retail experience on a potential employee’s CV we know they will be great workers. 

Can you describe Dormitory’s ethos?

We truly love textiles and are not interested in churning out cheap tat that will fall apart after a few washes. We pride ourselves in producing a well-crafted product using quality materials. Other items we sell on our website do, we believe, follow that same ethos. 

Do you export your products? 

We have sold our product all over the world and have worked on projects from retail collections to palace refurbishments. It is always exciting working on collections for other markets, often you can work with colours and materials that just wouldn’t work here. 

What is your favourite design?

Cathy: I have just painted my bedroom a soft pink and have taken home a set of Brunswick in Flint. The dull green works really well against the sweetness of the walls. I am also thinking of taking a set of the Empress in green for winter when I love the cosiness of cotton sateen. 

Sue: I have a real thing about investing in classic pieces to form a strong base and then experimenting. I have a dark blue bedroom but with very classic white Brompton percale on my bed but its then dressed with some of my odd finds. Antique cushions, vintage bedspreads I’ve experimentally dyed. I would always suggest trust your own judgement and don’t follow fashion slavishly. 

brompton white

What sort of bed do you have?

Cathy: I have an antique headboard which I found locally and was going to paint but the wood grain is so nice I ended up leaving it as it is. 

Sue: My husband and I are both tall so need a large bed which has been made extra long. Luckily, finding sheets to fit is not a problem as we stock them! 

What did you last buy for your home? 

Cathy: I have had wires for wall lights sticking out of my sitting room wall for a year and just yesterday finally found some vintage French 1950’s sconces on ebay. 

Sue: I bought a fantastic solid wood table, that I’d found in Belguim, for the kitchen. It took 6 men to carry it in but it does seat 12 so is perfect for dinners. 

What is your best tip for making a bed look good? 

Cathy:  Don’t be mean with pillows. A good bed needs to look plump and ready to jump into. Euro square pillows are great for adding some height and are perfect for Sunday morning sitting with the papers in bed. 

Sue: Buy the best quality you can afford. The better the quality and finish the longer it will last after numerous washes. Classic, luxury bed linen can always be updated with up to the moment accessories and throws. 

What trends are coming in linen?

“Cosy” seems to be the buzz word this Autumn and, with an increasing interest in the benefits of sleep, comfort really is of paramount importance. We have already seen a growth of interest in washed linen and a more casual and informal style of bedding. Now it really is going to be all about the tactile qualities of linens and creating the perfect winter nest. There is also more colour around, mixing and layering contrasting tones sometimes in unexpected combinations. 

Sustainability is also another long running trend for us. Far better to buy one set of beautiful bedlinen that will last than continually buying poor quality sets that have to be replaced regularly.  

Do you enjoy running your own business?

Over the years there have been plenty of times when we’ve thought we must be mad. However, as soon as you think about another job you soon realise that doing something else just isn’t an option. Essentially, we just love linens and the creative process. There is nothing more exciting than being at the inception of a new product and following and controlling all the stages, till it is in the hands or ‘bed’ of your customer.  As to the rest, it is all manageable and with the help of the best people round you, all solvable just as long as there is a plentiful supply of tea!  

Plans for 2018

We’ve got quite a lot of travelling and sourcing planned for 2018, North Africa and Madagascar for new textile and embroidery ideas as well as returning to our usual European haunts. We will try to find more time next year to just design and progress with some ideas that have just remained on the drawing board this year. 

We will be working on items nearer to home in Scotland and Sussex. Lots of new ideas for the bed as well as launching a table linen and accessories collection for outside dining next spring. 


 Interview by Jay Curtis

Dormitory has just launched their new website with some fabulous new products for Autumn. Check it out here.