We sleep for nearly a quarter of our lives, and if you think about it, that’s a long time we all spend in our beds.
After years of sleeping on terrible hand-me-down mattress, we inevitably realise that it’s time to invest in great quality mattresses and pillows. However, when it comes to dressing our beds, we usually draw a blank when it comes to knowing what linen to buy to suit our bedding needs as well as knowing when our sheets have had their time.
Often we will purchase sheet sets without even realising what they are made from, relying on second hand opinions stating that the higher the thread means we are purchasing the best sheets sets available. House Of Home decided to do some research and further investigate into how true these opinions are. We did so for our own education as well as yours and weren't we surprised by what we discovered.
With the help of our good friends Jason Evege, founder and creative director of Linoto and also to Lauren Roe, Creative Director at I love Linen, we have created a short guide to everything you need to know about bedding, bed sheets and manchester.
Rest assured by the end of this article you will know everything there is to know about what you need for your bed. This guide provides answers the following questions:
Jason has advised that even when compared to the very best cotton, linen feels supremely natural, fresh and breathable. Linen has a different tensile structure than cotton. It is heavier but it floats above your body providing the perfect amount of weight and air. Linen fabric gets softer naturally with time and use.
While Lauren suggests when choosing bedding, to always try to purchase natural fibre bedding. Natural fibres are usually great for those whom have sensitive skin and are often woven to allow air flow and ventilation through the weave. They are also usually antibacterial and help to regulate the body temperature of a sleeper throughout the night.
“Polyester blends aren’t able to regulate airflow as well as natural fibres. You will find that polyester blend sheets are more affordable, this is because of the combination of man-made fibre, the longevity and quality cannot always be guaranteed with Polyester. So if your budget allows it, try to choose natural fibre bedding” Lauren explains.
Egyptian Cotton - not surprisingly grown in Egypt, this type of cotton is regarded as the best quality cotton in the world. Egyptian cotton is distinguished by long fibres, that have a luxurious feel, with the added benefit of being very durable and strong. This means that sheets made from 100% Egyptian Cotton will wash and wear well over many years, as well as being soft to the touch and beautiful to sleep on.
Pima Cotton - grown in the Americas, Pima cotton is also renowned for its softness, and much less likely to pill than sheets made from Upland cotton.
Upland Cotton - this cotton type is used for basically everything else that is marked "100% cotton". Though ore reasonably priced, the downside of upland cotton is that has shorter fibres, which can poke out of the weave, leading to a coarser feeling fabric that is also weaker and more likely to pill.
Linen - Linen sheets are woven from Flax. Flax fibres are different to cotton in that they have a hollow core, and this creates great insulation properties, cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Interestingly, linen sheet are not measured by thread count, but rather by fabric weight.
Bamboo - bamboo sheets have been growing in popularity recently. Bamboo grows without pesticides or herbicides, so is an organic product, with the added bonus of having natural anti-bacterial properties. Bamboo sheets are very soft, and help with temperature regulation.
Silk - the smooth finish of silk sheets comes from the long smooth fibres used in the weaving.
Polyester Blends - Cotton and polyester blend sheets still have their place. They are durable and withstand regular washing. The real upside is that they go in and out of the dryer happily, and don't need ironing. Try not to go above 10% polyester though, more than this and the sheets won't feel great & will be potentially sweaty.
Cotton Sheet Types Explained:
Used for centuries, cotton has been the favoured choice in bedding due to its durability, softness and weave which allows ventilation for sleepers.
“There is a misconception generally about thread count for cotton sheets.” Lauren says, “Often people assume that the higher the thread count number is, means that you are purchasing a better quality sheet set. However, when it comes to cotton, the sheet set is only as good as the quality of cotton it has used.” Lauren Roe | Creative Director, I Love Linen.
One thing we have to remember when purchasing sheet sets for our bed is, that not all cotton is graded in the way it’s picked. For the best quality sheets, Lauren recommend choosing fabric comprised of long fibre (long-staple) cotton.
“If the cotton plant has long staple yarns then it means that the machines are able to weave the threads into longer lasting sheets. The most luxurious cottons strains available are Egyptian and Supima cotton or Pima Cotton which is grown in South America and in Arizona in America. A shorter staple cotton can lead to pilling or the breaking down of the fibres which means that it’s not able to stay woven together for long.” Lauren Says.
Lauren suggests taking the following example when purchasing cotton sheets.
“You could have a 1000TC polyester blend sheet set or a 500 TC Egyptian sheet set. I would always suggest going for the 500 TC if you can afford it, as the origin of the product means it will naturally be better quality material.” Lauren explains. “Don’t always be fooled by the thread count, remember to always check the packaging and look into where the cotton has originated from.” Lauren suggests.
Linen Sheet Types Explained:
Linen is an old world bast fiber. The weight and drape of linen fabric is unmatched. Line fabric can absorb a large amount of moisture without feeling wet and because linen fibers are hollow, they dry quickly, making the linen fabric very comfortable against the skin. Linen sheets soften naturally with time and use and as linen is very sturdy it also works great with pets.
Think of linen as a gift from Mother Nature. Just like olive oil, sea salt, honey or cashmere, the usefulness of linen fabric has been proven over hundreds, if not thousands of years of use. Jason Evege, Creative Director | Linoto
The Difference between Buying Organic Linen Sheets vs. Non-organic
The process for making all flax into linen is eco-friendly. "There is not such a tremendous difference between organic and non-organic linen that this should be the only consideration". Jason explains. "The flax plant is quite hardy and grows without the use of pesticides and irrigation. One of the beautiful qualities of linen is that it takes dyes and color so well. You can't however have dyed linen that is certified organic. Certified organic linen is is only available in the natural color or a cream/ivory color". Says Jason.
The bleaching process for flax uses hydrogen peroxide which is simply oxygen and hydrogen and is still regardless. Explains Jason.
Is there a difference in quality of linen sheets depending on the origin they are sourced from? For example, is Belgian and French linen better quality?
Jason explains; "One of the great misconceptions surrounding linen quality is that the country it is woven in makes it better or worse. While it is generally true that the best linen has derived from Europe and the flax cultivation has been centered in Europe for hundreds, if not thousands of years, it should be noted that flax is a commodity crop that is grown around the world and used for many different purposes including seeds, oil, rope, and paper''.
"A different type of expertise is required for each of these processes so it is an oversimplification to just say Belgian linen is better than, say, Italian linen. Much like an apple pie or a croissant, it is up to the devoted baker to make the crust flaky and delicious and to select the right apples and spices". Says Jason.
"Because flax is a natural material, the quality of the crops from any region can vary from one growing season to the next". Jason Evege, Creative Director | Linoto
Tips for Buying Linen
Don't spend endless hours reading reviews. There is a lot of misinformation online.
Look for companies that value using natural, eco-friendly soaps and packing materials.
Don't purchase the least expensive linen sheets you can find. Most of this is low quality linen that is made in China or Pakistan. Like most things in life, you get what you pay for.
The best quality raw flax material and finished linen fabric is in short supply which makes it nearly impossible for retailers to negotiate a lower price with the mills who weave the fabric, This means that the best companies who value quality over quantity will always end up with the best quality fabric which may cost a bit more but will last longer and feel much better. Jason, Creative Director | Linoto
The Difference Between Linen and Cotton Sheets
Cotton is grown from a cotton plant whereas linen is grown from the flax plant, they both have different properties and they feel completely different, in general cotton will give you a smoother, flatter and one dimensional finish.
“If you run your hands across a cotton sheet set, it will feel quite smooth, particularly if you have a satin weave. It will also have glossy like finish.” Lauren says.
Linen on the other hand, is grown from a flax plant. If you were to look under a microscope, you would find that Linen fabrics are not as tightly woven as cotton. This is what allow for greater airflow through the Linen fabric. In essence, Flax Linen and French Linen bedding will appear cooler in summer and warm in winter.
“Linen bedding has better properties for adapting to the body heat from a sleeper.” Lauren explains, “It feels very different to cotton as well, it has an almost three dimensional feel to it, so it is quite textural. Good quality linen will either be pre-washed or stonewashed this helps to create a very soft fabric, in the same way that an expensive pair of stone washed jeans feels to a regular pair. This process is the mark of craftsmanship, and when you feel the difference compared to cotton, you can understand how much has gone into producing the product than say cotton does.” Lauren says.
“Both cotton and Linen are both very popular as they are natural fabrics. However, recently we’ve seen a massive rise in the popularity of Linen over cotton. A lot of stylists will choose it because of its texture and the way the creases catch the light.” Lauren Roe | Creative Director, I Love Linen.
It’s important to always make sure that your fitted sheet will fit and match your mattress, it sounds simple but it happens to many people. Sometimes a sheet might be made a little more affordable by reducing the depth of the actual fitted sheet. The small difference of 30-35 cm will mean that your bed sheet will not fit the standard Australian sized mattress, especially if you are using a mattress topper. “You want to make sure that you measure your mattress so that you are able to get a sheet set that won’t spring back when you roll over during the night.” Lauren explains. Lauren also suggests checking the fitted sheets carefully for the way the elastic is used. “Make sure to always check or ask about the way the sheets are constructed. It’s best to ask simple questions like: ‘What quality elastic is used?’ and ‘Is it fitted all the way around the sheet and not just in the corners?’ Questions of this nature will help discover if the sheets will hold their shape and not degrade over time.” Lauren suggests.
When doing so, it’s also wise to check the hem lines and confirm that you are in fact getting value for the amount of purchase.
Different Bed Sheet Sizes:
Single = 91 x 193 x 40 cm
King Single = 107 x 103 x 40 cm
Double = 137 x 193 x 40 cm
Queen = 152 x 203 x 50 cm
King = 182 x 203 x 50 cm
Single = 180 cm x 260 cm
King Single = 200 cm x 265 cm
Double = 230 cm x 260 cm
Queen = 250 cm x 274 cm
King = 265 cm x 274 cm
Lucky for us caring for natural fibre, and blend sheets are relatively easy. Lauren suggests to follow care guides as much as possible.“Try to follow your care guides. However, even though you can wash sheets in warm water it’s best to avoid this as heat will eventually wear down the fabric threads over time. If sheets are exposed to constant heat then you eventually see a slight degradation in them.” Lauren suggests.To avoid this happening to your brand new sheets, Lauren suggests always to cold wash your sheets and line dry them with fresh air where possible as this will help to increase the longevity of your sets.
“Tumble dry will also add to possibility of shrinkage of your bed sheet set, it may also degrade the cotton or linen fibres over time.” Lauren says.
Jason adds that In the case of Linen, it is easy care. You can wash and dry linen the same as any other sheets you have but avoid using chlorine bleach and use the dryer sparingly on low heat. ''Forget the associations you may have with crunchy linen clothing and wrinkles. Linen clothing is often sent to a dry cleaner and heavily starched which causes it to be crunchy and stiff. Washed, relaxed linen may have a slight texture but will not wrinkle like starched clothing". Jason explains.
Quick Bedding Facts:
Confused by doonas, quilt covers and Duvets? All three are different terms for the same piece of bedding. Usually a soft blanket type bed cover filled with either down feathers, mircofibres, or wool which is thicker than a blanket. Duvet is an English term, Doona is typically Australian and quilt cover is generally associated with American terminology.
There are several types of fabrics used for bedding, Cotton, Linen, Bamboo, Silk, and Polyester blends are just to name a few.
Thread count: is the number of threads in 1 square inch of fabric which in term is the grading system for cotton sheets. The higher the number of threads equals a higher thread count.
GSM is the method used to measure towels
In our mind it’s important to invest as much in your bedding and sheet sets as you would in your next winter coat. If we spend a quarter of our lives in bed then it make sense to devote a little time and attention to what you're sleeping in as well as what you are using at home in the bedroom as well as the bathroom.
Lauren last piece of advice for us is, “The moral of the story is invest in your bed. If it’s within your reach and you can justify the investment, then it’s definitely worth a try!”
For more inspiration see our article Tips To Create A Luxury Sleep Experience