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.
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 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.
Receive 20% off your next online order when you sign up to our newsletter for competitions, events and information