Sheet Shopping Check List -published March 8, 2017

Sheet Shopping Check List -published March 8, 2017

Sheet Shopping Check List

We have all slept in a bed and had the best sleep ever, while we shudder to remember the most uncomfortable night too. My best sleep ever was in a British hotel in India. The sheets were silky soft and heavy. The duvet was a light down blanket with a simple sheet over it and the pillows were a cloud of down. It was amazing. The most uncomfortable night had to do with a sagging mattress and worn out springs. Your bottom isn’t supposed to hit the floor when you climb into bed. No down pillows or silky sheets could have improved that night, so the itchy blankets, flat pillows and nubbly sheets on the bed completed the misery.

Sheets are the most intimate part of making your bed. There are a few things to note when shopping for new sheets, namely, thread count, material content, dye, and country of origin.

Thread count (tc) refers to the number of threads woven in one square inch. 100 threads woven vertically with 100 threads woven horizontally equal 200tc. Good quality bedding starts at 200tc, 300tc is better and 400-600tc is best. If the claim is 800tc or higher, the manufacturer is not counting threads but rather the individual fibres or twists in each thread, up to four per thread. When I untwist the fibres in a 200tc sheet, I could get an 800tc. This causes some confusion as it misrepresents the actual count.

Next is fabric content and dye when we discuss comfort as poly/cotton blends are less likely to wrinkle but will hold in some body heat, feel firmer and wear longer. 100% cotton is a preferred choice for comfortable sleeping, and adding Egyptian cotton creates an even softer feel. Cotton breathes, is sturdy and still soft, and wears well. Bamboo rayon has become popular in recent years as the inherent values of bamboo (antibacterial, breathable, and pesticide free) mean the sheets are very soft and comfortable, even silky, but may wear slightly faster than cotton. Generally, higher thread count sheets are only available in light colours as adding dye to the fabrics creates weight as the fibre soaks in the dye and thickens. Many dyes are organic or meet world standards for environmentally safe chemical treatment.

When sheet shopping, you might see the terms ‘percale’, ‘sateen’ and ‘combed’ used to describe the cotton. Percale and sateen refer specifically to the construction process as all cotton is combed to remove impurities and short fibres. Percale uses smooth long flat fibres in the weave and resists pilling (those awful nubbies that feel like sandpaper.) Sateen sheets are generally 100% cotton and have one vertical thread woven for every four or more horizontal threads creating a softer feel.  Egyptian cotton has longer fibres and is more luxurious in the softness. Pima cotton is similar in feel to Egyptian; the basic difference is pima is grown in the United States and Egyptian is from Egypt.

There is a world of opinion on which country makes the best bed linens. Italy is well regarded for beautiful weave; this has as much to do with the high quality of cotton as the process. Israel also competes in the market with the sateen bedding. India and China produce our mass cottons, and price has to be the guiding factor as the range of cotton quality is huge. You will pay for good cotton. And it will last you for years and feel as good as the night you first slept on it.

Take time to feel the sheets, read the packaging and ask questions. And sleep better for it!


Did you know? Around 7000BC, Mesopotamians used pillows for the first time. The number of pillows on your bed was a status indicator and proof of your wealth and affluence.

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  • Catherine Reid
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