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.
DIY pumpkin decorations
Decorate your dining table for fall using mini pumpkins and a few simple tools.
Dressing up your home seasonally for holidays is a great way to better appreciate what each season has to offer, as well as give your space a quick makeover. For Thanksgiving and Halloween, using mini pumpkins is the perfect choice: they are inexpensive, can be found at most markets and are a great way to bring a little bit of nature into your home decor. Whether with paint, ribbons or glitter, these decorations are easy to make and adapt for any room of your home. We've presented them as centrepieces for your dining table, but they also look beautiful atop a mantel or stacked in a large glass vase or bowl on a coffee table.
Keeping it simple
For a simple centrepiece, gather cream and orange mini pumpkins and arrange them in a bowl. Add a pumpkin at the center of each plate, alternating between both colours, for an easy festive tablesetting.
Plates, placemat and glass courtesy of Crate and Barrel.
Paint it black
For spooky yet elegant decor, paint mini pumpkins using black and silver matte paint. Add a first layer of multi-surface paint and wait until thoroughly dry. Add a second layer for a perfect finish.
Mixing it up
For a less monochromatic look, try alternating between black and silver paint. This combination of colours works beautifully for a chic fall table setting. Simply add silver placemats, black napkins and scatter the pumpkins at the centre of the table. When entertaining, give a pumpkin to each of your guests to take home at the end of the evening.
Add a little shimmer
For a whimsical look, try adding a little shimmer to your table. Using a flat brush, paint a layer of all-purpose glue on the pumpkin. Sprinkle with glitter and thoroughly shake off excess. You can leave the stem as it is or paint it a darker shade of green.
For this easy DIY project, you'll need an array of pretty ribbons and double-sided tape. Secure a circle of tape around the centre of each pumpkin. Cut a piece of ribbon and tighly place atop the tape. Press gently to make sure it stays in place. We've used some of our favourite ribbons here, including black velvet, stripes and polka-dots but the centrepiece will also look beautiful using one kind of ribbon only and different sized pumpkins.
12 great gift ideas for coffee lovers
Help your coffee lover enjoy 365 days of caffeine bliss with this beautiful wall calendar. 2016 Coffee and Tea calendar, Rifle Paper Co., $18 USD.
If a group gift for the family's coffee connoisseur is what you're looking for, then meet the GranBaristo Avanti by SAECO. This machine brews 18 drink varieties, has a five grinder setting and best of all - can be controlled by an app on your smart phone or tablet. SAECO GRANBaristo Avanti Bluetooth Connected Espresso Maker, Hudson's Bay, $2,999.
Combine cold brewed coffee, pure cane sugar and Madagascar vanilla beans and you get this all-natural vanilla coffee syrup. Perfect for everything from desserts to marinades or in a cold glass of milk! Dave's Coffee - All Natural Vanilla Coffee Syrup, Old Faithful Shop, $22.95.
Say goodbye to disposable filters with the Siphon Coffee Brewer from KitchenAid. It combines the richness of total-immersion brewing methods with the clean flavour profile of filter-brewed coffee, all without the need for a disposable filter. With its sleek design and onyx black details, it'll look great displayed on any Christmas-ready kitchen counter. KitchenAid® Siphon Coffee Brewer, KitchenAid, $279.99.
Wrap this tea towel up with their favourite blend of beans, or frame it for your java junkie to display proudly in their home. Distinctly Home coffee order print tea towel, Hudson's Bay, $9.99.
Help give your friend or family member that extra morning jolt with an all-natural soap bar made of extra-strength roasted espresso beans. Aaak lab coffee bar soap, CB2, $12.95.
Treat your coffee lover to some gourmet goodness this holiday season with this delicious blend of chocolate truffle coffee. GODIVA Chocolate Truffle Coffee, Hudson's Bay, $16.50.
Combine 2015's hottest metal trend with a must-have coffee brewing machine and you've got the perfect gift for anyone on your shopping list. Bodum® Chambord Copper 34 Ounce French Press, Crate and Barrel, $79.95.
Give the gift of single-serve brewing with a coffee dripper! It only takes a few simple steps to enjoy fresh coffee at home, work or on-the-go. Coffee Dripper – Scream for Coffee, Indigo, $19.50.
If a red holiday cup is their go-to all season long, they'll love this festive ornament they can hang on their Christmas tree. Red holiday cup ornament, Starbucks, $7.95.
Cappuccinos, espressos and lattes - oh my! Create your own cafe at home with this fully automatic one-button machine. From an Americano to a peppermint mocha, they can have it all at the touch of a button. Tassimo T47 Multi-Beverage System, Canadian Tire, $119.99.
Any coffee lover is sure to enjoy this encyclopedia of the delicious world of coffee. From roasting beans to creating latte art, they'll learn the history, science and cultural influence of coffee according to coffee aficionado Tristan Stephenson. The Curious Barista's Guide to Coffee, Anthropologie, $24.95.
Modern bistro kitchen with double-armed pendant lights.
A grey on grey kitchen with black and chrome accents deliver warmth and depth across this Victorian house.
There’s no design challenge too big for designer Ingrid Oomen. So, when she was approached to renovate this historic Victorian home in Toronto’s Beach neighbourhood, she welcomed the project with open arms. Her goal was to create a kitchen, eat-in area and family room that were light and airy as well as family friendly.
The original kitchen was closed off from the rest of the house, which was very dark and very long. By reworking the existing addition, it allowed for a spacious kitchen and an adjoining family room.
Into the grey
Grey on grey accented with black and chrome gives this kitchen warmth and depth. Ingrid Oomen picked these double-armed pendant lights for their industrial quality. The adjustable arms make them well suited to this Toronto kitchen's large-scale multi-purpose island.
The original kitchen had super-low ceilings and was closed off from the rest of the house, which was very dark and very long. Since each room in this house flows into the next, we strategically placed the kitchen between the dining room and family room (and next to the mudroom) to make it conducive to entertaining and to allow for open-concept spaciousness.
Key kitchen elements:
“This bay window was meant for a banquette,” says Ingrid. “We took an otherwise awkward eating nook and turned it into a functional spot for eating quick meals, doing homework or reading a great book.” Slipcovered armchairs and toss cushions make it extra inviting; the table continues the industrial theme.
The handsome mullioned windows and doors – the home’s most important architectural features – were painted black to make them stand out against the neutral backdrop. The transom windows above the doors in the family room give the illusion of a higher ceiling.
Industrial table accents
The greenery in the table planters bring colour to the kitchen's grey cabinetry and the neutral palette of the dining nook.