When you go into any store that sells sheets whether it's in sets or individual pieces, I am sure that the thread count catches your eye. You know what I am talking about- 300, 400 or even 600 thread count! But do you really know what you are buying?? Now before I go any further I am not here to tell you which sheets to buy. Sheets are like works of art, a very personal thing. What is great for one person is awful to the next. But what I am going to do is arm you with a little knowledge so that the next time you are out buying sheets you will be able to make a well informed decision. Personally when I go looking for sheets I always buy 100% Cotton. I just like Cotton- always have. I try to buy between 280-400 thread count. And I ALWAYS buy plain weave sheets- NOT sateen! I will explain all of this further.
There are 3 main things I want to talk about with regards to sheets: 1. Fibre 2. Thread Count 3. Type of weave (and I'm not talking about the one on your head!)
Most of the sheets that are available to the average consumer is either Polyester/Cotton, Cotton, Cotton/Bamboo, Bamboo or Silk. If I had to put my money down on sheets I would keep to 100% Cotton or Cotton/Bamboo mix. Bamboo is nice because the fibers are natural, fibres are long in length (more on that in a bit) and is highly absorbant. Oh and one other thing, it is a renewable resource! But for the most part 100% Cotton is what is widely available to everyone. Try to stay away from the Cotton/Poly mix as this can tend to feel scratchy and will not absorb moisture as well as 100% Cotton. In addition these types of sheets ten to "pill".
Silk is lovely but can tend to be warmer to lie on in the summer. They can also tend to be higher maintenance. As a side note, did you know that for a long time silk is the fibre of choice for Arctic Thermal Wear. Silk is highly insulative! Hence, why in the summer, Silk sheets may not be your sheets of choice!
100% Cotton is a great choice for sheets. Cotton is first a foremost a natural fibre- which I love! It is one of the most absorbent fibres out there which is great for sheets. It also launders and holds up really well. If you are one of those people that iron your sheets- Cotton feels beautiful when ironed. Now there are different types of Cotton that are available. For the most part if you see Egyptian, Pima, Supima, or Sea Island Cotton you will be buying a quality product-MOSTLY! Why do I say that? Well..... These types of cottons tend to have a longer "staple" length. Which means its fibres are naturally long. When this is the case, the fabric produced from these longer staples feels really nice and wears really well. Now if sheets are made from yarns that have short staple lengths even if they are Egyptian or Pima or whatever, they won't feel as nice and won't wear as well. In fact they will tend to pill more. Think about it! If you were to rub together yarns with short staples all of those little fibres will matt together or will rub away. If they are longer this will not happen as readily. Simple Physics (well not Physics but you know what I mean) !! So what does this mean in terms of sheets. Those quality long staple cotton sheets will wear, feel, and launder better thus giving you a quality product that you will have for years to come. I could go into way more detail about cotton but I think I will just leave it at that for now and leave a more detailed posting of Cotton later.
The 2nd thing you should watch out for is thread count. This is one area that can be quite confusing and deceiving to the consumer. Thread count is the number of threads in 1 square inch of fabric. Generally speaking if you buy sheets that are 280- 400 thread count you will be just fine. You say- "how can 280 thread count be better than say 600?" Well first of all IF the quality of the thread is better in the 280 thread count sheet it will just hold up better and feel better.
For the longest time manufacturing made it so that only high quality yarn (long staples) could be made into a high thread count sheet thus making high thread count sheets out of reach for the average consumer due to their high cost. Nowadays, anyone can get a hold of 600 or even 800 thread count- but do you know what that means? We are lulled into thinking that the higher the thread count the better. But a lot of the time they are using inferior threads (short staples), using a 2 ply yarn and a sateen weave. All of this can add up to sheets that will not hold up. What do I mean when I say the sheets may be made with 1 or 2 ply. Well.... 1 ply means just that- a thread that is a single spun thread. A 2 ply is a thread that has 2 threads twisted into one thread. If the sheets you buy is a 2 ply a lot of times the manufacturers cheat and say they have 600 count sheets but in fact they are really 300 count! Sneaky I know!! In addition , are the threads used thick or fine? And what length of fibre did they use? PHEW! I know it's a lot to take in. Generally speaking a finer thread produces a finer fabric, a thicker thread a thicker one- pretty simple. but what does this mean for you? This means that if the sheets were made using long staple fibres, fine fibres and a high thread count- you have a mighty fine set of sheets my friend and you probably paid a lot for them! If you bought 800 thread count sheets for $29.99...... well...... they are probably not exactly what the claim to be. Like a lot of things in life you get what you paid for!
The 3rd and last thing to look for is the weave that the sheets were made with. For the most part sheets are made either with a plain weave also stated as Percale or a Sateen Weave:
If the sheets are made with this weave (Plain), and have a high thread count and are made with a great quality yarn this would be my sheets of choice by far! They would also be known as Percale sheets. They tend to be smooth and crisp, wear really well and launder great! Now I know a lot of people out there really like Sateen sheets. Sateen is:
Can you see the difference between the two pictures? The Sateen Weave has what is called floats. Floats are threads in the fabric that literally float over other threads. They will generally float over 2 or 3 threads. This produces a fabric that is very smooth and has a soft feel (hand). The main issue with this type of weave is that the floats can snag and pull easily. In addition, this fabric tends to produce pills. Since there are threads that are raised they tend to rub. I am sure you know what I mean..... I too have bought Sateen sheets/pillowcases in the past and have regretted it. I thought-what the heck I will give these sheets a try. I have will never buy sateen again!
When I go into discount stores and I see 800 count sheets with a sateen weave and have a low cost, I run screaming and so should you! I can almost guarantee they were made with an inferior 2 ply threads. In addition because of that inferior thread those lovely floats that make that sheet feel so nice AT
FIRST will pill and pull horribly. And I can almost guarantee they ARE NOT 800 Thread Count!
So what does this all mean to you. I just wanted to arm you with a little knowledge so that the next time you go and buy sheets you may think twice about what you are buying. I personally like crisp sheets. Not so crisp that they are crunchy! But sheets that have a descent thread count and are a plain weave.
There is nothing like a bed made with fresh sheets!
Since I live in a Northern Climate I love having Flannel Sheets. They are so lovely to get into at night. I leave the crisp ones for summer. Although I have used my Flannel ones in Summer as well- as they are highly absorbant. When I go to buy Flannel sheets I try to buy ones that aren't that cheap. You really do get what you pay for with Flannel. I try to buy ones with a plain weave that is TIGHTLY woven. This tightly woven sheet is just a better product. But really, when it comes down to it, it really is trial and error with flannel- well at least that's what I have found anyways. Just remember. To always wash Flannels and any sheets before using. The main reason is that there will almost always be a "finish" on them when you get them. This means that the fabric has been treated in some way so that the sheets have a nice "feel" and look nice in the packaging. Please, please, please, after drying your flannel sheets clean out the lint trap- you have no idea- or maybe you do- the amount of lint that is produced. This is especially true when they are washed the first few times. It is any wonder there is any fluffiness left on those sheets to snuggle into.
Have a great day!