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.
Find inspiration for your own space from this dreamy nursery.
Find nursery inspiration from this pale and pretty nature-inspired baby's room.
Designer Jo Alcorn of Whitewash & Co. works her magic to create a pale and pretty nature-inspired nursery for her niece.
In a nursery, opt for easy-to-install cozy carpet tiles. The genius part? Individual tiles can simply be changed out if a spill happens. Add subtle dimension and texture to an all-white space by covering a wall with painted wood planks.
Decant oils and lotions into pretty pump bottles and display them on a picture ledge alongside treasured photographs, cute prints and cheeky stuffed animals.
Upgrade a gallery wall with colourful kid-friendly prints, a round mirror, wall decals and a rotating collection of baby’s favourite books.
Here are a few nursery accessories to help you get the look of a soft and serene nursery.
Pearhead Sonogram frame, Indigo, $30.
Stupell Industries oversized chevron initial, Wayfair.ca, $41.
DaVinci convertible Autumn crib in White. West Coast Kids, $349.
Kicevo rug, 6' x 9', Elte Market, $1,625.
Baby Chick mobile, Pehr Designs, $80.
Give this fresh citrus cake a try - we promise you'll love it!
Zingy citrus and Greek yogurt make this cake perfect for more than just dessert – try it morning, noon and night.
Lazy evenings at the cottage require a light “after” that’s easy to assemble but doesn’t skimp on taste – the kind of treat that keeps the fork in your hand, reaching for just one more bite. This juicy cake fits the bill. In fact, it’s a dessert that’s so fresh and good you’ll want it for a lazy cottage breakfast, too.
1 Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and 1 cup of the sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy.
2 Add the eggs, one at a time; continue beating, occasionally scraping down the sides of the bowl.
3 Turn the mixer to low speed and add 1/2 cup of the orange juice, the yogurt and zest; beat until thoroughly combined.
4 In a medium bowl, whisk together the instant polenta, almond meal, baking powder and salt.
5 Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until fully incorporated.
6 Scrape the batter into a greased 10" round springform pan.
7 Preheat the oven to 350°F. Using a sharp knife, cut the peel from the oranges and slice the flesh crosswise into thin rounds; arrange the slices on top of the cake batter.
8 Bake until the edges of the cake are golden brown and the centre is lightly puffed but still dense and pudding-like to the touch, about 30 to 40 minutes.
9 Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, bring the orange liqueur, remaining 1/4 cup sugar and 1/2 cup orange juice to a simmer, stirring until the sugar is dissolved.
10 Spoon the syrup over the warm cake before removing the cake from the pan. Let cool slightly before serving.
Serves: 8 to 10
Designer Montana Labelle's loft
Designer Montana Labelle decorates her loft with a fashion-forward eclectic aesthetic that fits her personal style to a T.
It’s often said that interior design follows fashion, and this certainly holds true in the Toronto loft of designer Montana Labelle. In fact, she takes this idea one step further by using her enviable collection of fashion accessories as part of the decor.
In the 700-square-foot condo, Montana spun her storage issues into something positive. “Since there’s a lack of closet space, I made the loft feel like a retail environment by displaying my clothing,” she says. “I bought an antique chinoiserie style armoire from Craigslist and filled it with my favourite vintage T-shirts, designer handbags and heels.” The result is like waking up and getting dressed in a high-end boutique every morning.
Homeowner and designer Montana Labelle used stylish vignettes to delineate the different areas in her narrow open-concept condo.
Montana hangs out in the living area of her Toronto loft.
Retro finds like the coffee table and media console lend a collected and personal look to the living area. Pops of bright colour come from Montana’s collection of orange Hermes boxes. A hide rug layered over a vintage rabbit fur rug gives the space a luxe comfort.
Now that her loft is furnished and decorated, she finds that it’s truly a reflection of her personal style. “My uniform consists of ripped jeans and basic T-shirts, layered with a leather motorcycle jacket and some great accessories,” Montana explains. “I totally relate this to my home’s mostly neutral palette with exotic accents and unexpected textures, which impart a sense of casual cool.”
An eclectic grouping of artwork – including a skull print by Jenna Snyder-Phillips, papier mache zebra bust and prized Hermes scarf – hangs above the sofa in the living area.
The vintage storage unit and artwork made by homeowner and designer Montana Labelle greet guests in the loft’s entryway. Antique books and other eclectic objects hint at the quirky style in the rest of the space.
An antique cabinet placed across from the kitchen offers plenty of storage (and display space) for Montana’s favourite designer fashion accessories.
The long, narrow loft includes an entryway, galley kitchen and living area.
The brightly lit sunroom acts as Montana’s home office, where she does a lot of work for her design business. The super-slim desk takes up minimal square footage in the small room. A bold red vintage “M” was a lucky find at one of her favourite Toronto shops. She made the edgy artwork by blacking out half of an antique portrait.
The vintage Art Deco bar cart in the office gets pressed into service during cocktail parties and offers extra storage the rest of the time. The antique leather hide on the floor was purchased from the Christie Antique Show.