Do you know that the average human being spends about 1/3 of their life in bed? In our tropical environment, cotton bed linen is the most comfortable to sleep on. Cotton allows your body to breathe and absorbs moisture. It helps to keep your body temperature down. Cotton blended with polyester may be more durable and wear longer but does not feel as good on your skin. We will examine how to determine the quality of cotton and poly cotton sheets. Finer sheets are smooth and soft with no coarse slubs. Workmanship is key; all designs expertly executed, colours uniform, all seams finished evenly and correctly to ensure they can withstand long-term use. Lesser quality sheets can feel rough, the fabric may pill wrinkle easily, fray and fall apart with use and washing. Thread Count is a good indicator of comfort and quality. Thread count simply refers to the number of threads that crisscross in a square inch. This is the most recognised indicator of fabric quality. Typically the higher the thread counts the better the quality. Average quality bedding has a thread count of 300, but some cotton bed linens, typically those made up of Egyptian cotton, may reach a thread count of 1,000 or more. Most bed linens with thread counts over 400 are of sound quality and offer a smooth feel.
Each thread is made up of strands of fiber or staples twisted together. Be warned. Some manufacturers declare high thread counts but use cotton made from short thicker short staples. This makes a heavier stiffer fabric that is susceptible to pilling. While high thread count sheets are luxuriously soft, they require a finer thread for the tighter weave. The finer stranded thread may not be as durable as bed linen with a thread count around 400 with a thicker thread staple. Muslin, percale, pima and Egyptian cotton are the most popular quality of cotton used in sheets. Muslin, with a thread count of 128 – 180 is rather rough. Percale can be made up from up 100% cotton or up to a 50:50 blend of poly cotton. Percale has a thread count of more than 180 and is light and smooth and usually regarded as the benchmark starting point for quality bedding. Good quality bedding begins at 180 and luxury bed linen has a thread count of 300 to over 1000. Pima cotton is a long US grown fibre usually woven to a thread count of 200 – 300. It is named for the Pima Indians who initially cultivated the cotton in Arizona. Supima is another US long staple. True Pima or Supima quality cotton fibres should exceed 1 3/8”. However, some manufacturers claiming Pima or Supima quality may not use long staples. Egyptian Cotton is the finest cotton. The fibres within the Egyptian cotton bud are longer and stronger; this produces a very fine yarn as there are less fine hairs sticking out once spun. When woven, the yarn produces a finer and more durable luxury fabric. Extra long delicate staples of sometimes over 2 3/4” result in a soft, supple and more durable bedding that get progressively softer with each wash. The longer staples mean that the fabric is stable with less chance of shrinkage and pilling. Some Egyptian cotton sheets are made from blended cotton. Although these are of superior quality, they will never equal the luxurious feel of 100% cotton.
Finish and Weave – The finishing process is often skipped in the production of lower quality bedding fabric. Finishing is a 2-step process that increases the strength and feel of the fabric by removing a tiny layer of fuzz on the fabric that might eventually cause pilling. The weave can also contribute to the durability, texture and feel of the bedding. Many bedding fabrics are made from plain weaves. However, other weaves such as Sateen, Pinpoint, Damask and Jacquard have interesting decorative value that can affect the feel but enhance the visual appeal. Test the hand of the bedding. Does the sheet feel smooth and luxurious to your hand? How does the fabric drape nicely? How soft does it feel? The hand is influenced by the number of strands that make up a single thread and thickness of the thread that is used. The most common ply used to make bed linen is single-ply and two-ply. Pilling is a chronic problem with much of the bedding we get here in Trinidad and Tobago. It may seem that regardless of how expensive your bedding is, after a short while rough balls appear on the surface of the sheet. Cotton sheets, regardless of thread count, made with fabric made of a shorter fibre will pill with repeated use and washing. With polyester blends, when the fibre sheds they are combined with the polyester into little balls. This is worsened if you wear manmade fibres or fibre blends to bed. Don’t wash your sheets with your towels, turn the sheets inside out before washing, load the washer loosely to minimize friction on the material, and use fabric softener. We suggest you wash all bedding before use and wash them regularly with gentle detergent. I actually launder my sheets twice per week, sometimes more often. Fine cotton bed linen gets softer with each wash. Imagine how great it will feel to your body, when you lay your weary head down on your pillow. Pamper yourself; don’t skimp. Purchase the best bed linens your budget allows.