Buying guide: The truth about thread count
Is there anything better than sliding into a bed laden with good quality sheets? At the end of the day, I can't wait to stretch out under my fresh, soft covers and nestle my face into a good cotton-covered pillow. We spend a third of our lives in bed so quality sheets are key, but how do you get quality for your money? There's no doubt that most consumers believe the higher the thread count, the better the quality, but this isn't entirely true. With the help and expertise of Joanna Goodman, owner of Au Lit Fine Linens, we expose the truth about thread count and what it takes to find quality bed sheets.
What is thread count, really?
Simply put, thread count is the number of threads woven into one square inch of fabric. This number is based on the threads woven horizontally ("weft") and vertically ("warp"). Extra threads can also be woven into the weft threads to increase the thread count. These added threads are called "picks" and are added in the overall count, which is how some sheets end up having thread counts in the thousands. This is why the idea that high counts equal better quality isn't really accurate. Consider this: Joanna says most weavers will say the maximum number of threads that can be woven into one square inch of fabric is 500 to 600. Though the number is arguable and, according to Joanna, "depends on the mill you deal with," it gives you an idea of where the line is between single-ply, unpicked weaves and ones that add threads here and there to bump up the count.
What to look for when buying sheets
Joanna lists three things to look for on the label: if it's Egyptian cotton, where it's woven and, lastly, the thread count. While thread count is a bit misunderstood, the buzz around Egyptian cotton is true. "The very best cotton in the world is grown in Egypt. So Egyptian cotton will be of a better quality," Joanna says. She also recommends pima cotton, which is grown in America, "though not quite as exceptional as Egyptian." When it comes to weaving, however, she swears by the Italians as being the "master weavers of the world" due to their "long tradition of weaving" and use of the best Egyptian cotton. Be sure the label says 100% or pure Egyptian cotton though, otherwise it may only contain a small percentage of the good stuff. As for the thread count, look for a minimum of 200. From there, it's all about preference!
What to avoid when buying sheets
Joanna's one key piece of advice is to watch out for extremely low priced, high thread count sheet sets. A complete sheet set with a high thread count for $100 or less is probably not the dream bargain you think it is. As Joanna believes, "you always get what you pay for." The price tag for bed linens will vary depending on the sheet size and what items you're buying, such as a duvet cover, sheet sets, or pillowcases. "A superior quality 200 thread count queen set (including flat, fitted, two pillowcases), made of Egyptian cotton and woven in Europe, could retail reasonably for about $150-$250," says Joanna.
What do you prefer?
After going through the quality checklist, go with what feels best for you. If you're looking for a durable linen, Joanna recommends any percale from thread count 200 to 800. Percale is any cotton woven with a 200 thread count or higher and will be more durable than a cotton satin of the same thread count. It's also less likely to pill than cotton satin because it has a denser weave. Love the feel of a cotton button down shirt? Joanna advises a crisp, dense 200 thread count percale. Prefer a silkier sheet? Go for a 300 to 600 cotton satin. If you want lighter sheets, Joanna says, a 400 thread count sheet can be soft and light, while an 800 percale would be soft and dense. The higher the thread count, the more likely multiple-ply thread is used or picks are added, making the fabric denser and heavier.
Now you know that quality is not just about the number, so don't let numbers rule your bed! Remember what to look for on the label and be wary of too-low prices for supposedly high quality items. Beyond that, go with what you prefer. Get a good feel of the sheets before buying. Whether you're unzipping the packaging or lying down on a display bed, make sure the fabric feels good against your skin and soon you'll be having sweet dreams!
Find out how to keep your new linens crisp and clean with our tips to whiter-than-white sheets.
How to: Clean your gas range
Keep your gas range looking spotless with these helpful cleaning tips and tricks.
As far as stovetops go, a commercial-style gas range is the first choice for many serious home cooks. In addition to keeping it looking sleek, proper cleaning is key to maintaining its functionality.
Problem: Grimy gas range
1 Remove the grates and any griddles, as well as the burner heads and caps. Using a non-abrasive sponge, wash them well with dish soap and warm water. If the dirt buildup is particularly bad (when was the last time you cleaned these things?), leave them to soak for 20 to 30 minutes. (Do not replace yet.)
2 To loosen the dirt buildup from spills and splatters on the stovetop, cover the spots with a cloth dampened in hot water for several minutes. Using a rubber scraper, remove the debris. With a dampened sponge (not soaked – water can harm the igniter), wipe the whole stovetop. Wipe dry using a microfibre cloth.
3 Rinse and thoroughly dry all the components you removed before replacing them.
4 For a beautifully clean finish, carefully remove all the knobs and wash using the same method as step 1.
For keeping splatters at bay, we love Trudeau’s Flex pot clip (trudeau.ca, $9). Clip it onto your pot or pan for an instant spoon rest. It accommodates both regular cutlery and larger cooking utensils and is a great alternative to its countertop counterpart, which is likely to be dirty or MIA in the dishwasher.Get a leg up on grease in between kitchen cleanup with these easy-to-use cleaning sprays.
Illustration courtesy of Joanna Kam
Tailor-made for gas range surfaces. Weiman Heavy-Duty Gas Range cleaner & degreaser, Canadian Tire, $6.
2 Zero waste
Minimize your carbon footprint: Just pop this little sachet into the reusable bottle and dilute with water. Bio Green Crystals Natural degreaser, Well.ca, $8. Reusable spray bottle, Well.ca, $3.
A Canadian-made, plant-based product. Eco Mist degreaser, Well.ca, $7.
Tip: don’t use abrasive cleaners or scouring pads.
Girls' bedroom: Mature and glam in pink
Girlie girls may love pink, but their bedrooms don’t have to be saccharine. This design blogger created a little lady’s room that’s as mature and glamorous as it is sweet.
When design blogger Christine Dovey of the popular site Bijou & Boheme took on the challenge of turning an above-the-garage family room into a bedroom for her eight-year-old daughter, Scarlett, the mission was clear: Create a fun and glam space that caters to a tutu-wearing girlie girl without falling victim to a childish princess look that would be down-right embarrassing by middle school. Because, despite her passion for design, says the busy mom of four: “There’s no way I’d take the time and money to do it all over again in a few years. No way!” So the style, while youthfully pretty in pink, also had to be timeless and mature.
Eight-year-old Scarlett Dovey was allowed to make some choices when it came to decorating her room – out of the pre-approved options, of course. She selected the gold floral wallpaper design (out of five) because she thought it looked like the inside of a jewellery box. “We had two finalists, but I’m glad she went with this one because the other one was too colourful and more expensive,” says her mom, homeowner Christine Dovey.
Christine just happened to attach this flower – made from dyed coffee filters, pipe cleaners and lace – to the bedpost on a whim one day and it’s lived there ever since.
The bright pink settee was scored for a song – as is – on Kijiji (lucky find), while standard big-box store drapery was custom pleated and embellished with pompom fringe trim for a delicate luxe look.
The lady of the room happily lounges on her pink settee.
A little high-gloss pink spray paint makes an inexpensive dressing table (which Scarlett uses as a desk) extra special. It sits by the window overlooking the backyard, making homework slightly more bearable.
A rolling garment rack, spray-painted gold for that glitzy effect, is perfect for dress-up parties. “It looks like it’s from a fashion studio!” enthuses Scarlett.
“Every few weeks, we go to the antiques market and I let the kids each pick out something that’s $5,” says Christine, noting that Scarlett gravitates to porcelain trinkets and pretty figurines.
When Christine and Scarlett saw the antique cabinet, it was love at first sight. But getting it inside and upstairs wasn’t easy. “At one point, we discussed hiring a crane! My husband turned blue,” says Christine. They eventually had the stair railing removed and found success.
Scarlett’s collection of stuffed animals is neatly coralled atop the antique cabinet.
Stylish sun-filled family room.
A time-worn Toronto house is transformed into a lively family home with a welcoming design.
"We moved so we could have a pool,” says homeowner and decorator Jenifer Glover of J.G. Interiors. It was 2008, and she and her husband, Norm Brownstein, were keen to create a fun backyard oasis in the city for their four children: Gabriele, 15, Jackson, 13, Hayden, 10, and Maya, 7.
So when a house with pool potential in a prime Toronto neighbourhood came up for sale, they took the plunge, even though it was far from perfect. “We loved the location and the lot, which had space for a pool, but we didn’t love the house,” says Jenifer. “It was a rundown 1930s build with faux Tudor features. Our plan was to freshen up the rooms with paint to tide us over until the eventual tear-down and rebuild.”
Jenifer relaxes on a black leather bench in the family room.
Jennifer's family room before the elegant home renovation.
The design of the sun-filled family room had a surprising jumping-off point: the television. “With the TV in place on a custom cabinet, I designed the shelves above it and repeated them and the cabinet on the other side of the fireplace,” says Jenifer. “This symmetry allowed me to fill the opposite space with artwork that balances out the television.”
Lively patterned toss cushions dress up the family room’s classic linen sofa.
This vignette design in the family room is testament to homeowner Jenifer Glover’s personalized approach to decorating: “These are things I’ve picked up over time because I love them.”
Crafted from the same walnut as the kitchen island, the family room’s custom wood cabinets and shelves are both stylish and practical. “The wood ties these rooms together while really warming up the space,” says Jenifer.
The kitchen before its complete restaurant-inspired renovation.
Wooden accents and sophisticated accessories infuse the new-build kitchen with old-world charm. The gold-framed mirrors reflect one of Jennifer’s favourite inspirations: restaurant design. “I love sitting in restaurants that have mirrors angled downward – the light and the images that bounce back are wonderful.” Secondhand bentwood stools and an elaborate chandelier from France have a rich vintage feel that tempers the room’s white surfaces. The steel window frames and mullions were painted black to mimic the industrial appearance of the French doors.
A rustic-look dining table in the kitchen's eat-in area holds up to a house full of kids because, according to Jenifer, “It only gets better with age.” The space features framed artwork created by the couple’s children. “It’s elements like kids’ art that turn a house into a home,” she says.
Anything but oppressive, a dramatic black painted ceiling glams up the formal dining room. “It feels like the night sky,” says Jenifer. With leather and chrome dining chairs, a vintage-look brass pendant light and a traditional rug, the room has an edgy eclectic vibe.