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.
Enjoy this recipe during the week or on the weekend.
Enjoy this recipe during the week or on the weekend.
This recipe is simple enough to serve as a casual weeknight family dinner, but flavourful enough to offer to guests when you’re entertaining on the weekend.
1 Combine all of the ingredients in a slow cooker and cook on low for 6 hours.
2 Serve with nacho chips, sour cream, grated cheese, lime wedges and fresh cilantro, if desired.
Party Pointer: This is a great dish to serve for Super Bowl Sunday or Hockey Night in Canada, along with cold beer and crisp nacho chips.
BUY THIS BOOK
Excerpted from Gatherings: Bringing People Together with Food by Jan Scott & Julie Van Rosendaal. Copyright © 2014 Jan Scott & Julie Van Rosendaal. Excerpted by permission of Whitecap Books, Vancouver. All rights reserved.
A masculine interior with clean, simple lines.
Downsizing can be daunting, but when you have the help of two dedicated designers, things start looking up.
Rarely does the term "blank slate" ring as true as when it comes to decorating a new space. But in Terence Little and Ben Clermont's case, it had a double meaning: They moved into a 1,080-square-foot new-build penthouse in central Vancouver, which, as Terence describes, "was white, white, white, everywhere looked," and they brought virtually nothing with them. Moving from a house more than twice the size, the couple purged everything but their artwork and a lone armchair, so they could start decorating from scratch.
But where does one even begin with a clean canvas like this? "With homework," advises designer Jamie Deck of Shift Interiors, who teamed up with Lindsay McLennan of Motto Interior Design to masterfully execute a design Terence and Ben would love while maximizing their limited space. "We have a pretty intense interview process," explains Jamie. "We ask our clients to do lots of colour research and to find inspiration photos." What the couple turned in revealed a proclivity for masculine interiors with simple, clean lines, Mid-Century Modern-style furnishings and bold hits of black. "We wanted the condo to look interesting, comfortable and modern, but not overly designed," says Ben. "Out top requested were to create a space that's efficient and easy to entertain in, as well as to highlight the view outside," adds Terence.
Homeowners Terence Little and Ben Clermont love the bright and airy builder-grade kitchen. The small kitchen island boasts ample prep space and storage for avid home chef Ben's many cookbooks.
The kitchen is sleek and streamlined but gets plenty of interest from the glass-tiled backsplash (which offers an ethereal effect).
Open shelving maintains the fresh, airy feel of the kitchen.
Though the stunning space is now a far cry from the blank slate it once was, we'll call it a fitting coincidence that so much of the design is hinged on slate grey.
"A large dining area was crucial for Terence and Ben, who love cooking and entertaining," says designer Jamie Deck of Shift Interiors. "But in order to achieve that, we needed to borrow some space." So Jamie and designer Lindsay McLennan of Motto Interior Design had the doors of a large closet removed and a banquette with deep storage drawers installed in its recess. The resulting nook can seat up to eight people with the benches from the entryway pulled into use. Harley the Australian Labradoodle approves of the new digs as well.
The high-contrast between the bright, light kitchen and the dark, saturated dining area is further accented with its tabletop accessories.
Not just a media unit, the contemporary cabinetry in the living area also displays tchotchkes, stores cleaning supplies, hides an unsightly air conditioner and boasts a fully stocked bar. The wall-mounted unit floats so even though it's charcoal grey and nearly 10 feet tall, it feels light and airy instead of oppressive.
The designers incorporated many Mid-Century Modern-inspired pieces liek this Eames-style lounger in the living area ("It offers the best views in the condo," says Terence, referring to not only the view of the park, but also that of Ben cooking).
How to wash your pillows to keep them fresh and clean
Essential cleaning tips for keeping your pillows perfectly fresh and stain-free.
Cover them as you may, but pillows still develop odours and stains. Keep them fresh by washing them every three to six months. Our resourceful research editor, Mary Levitski, tells you how.
1 Start by checking the label for laundering instructions. Most newer pillows can be tossed in the washing machine, but some are dry clean only. Also, some fill materials, such as foam, can’t go in the dryer.
2 Use a front-loading washer (a top-loader isn’t suited for fully submerging a pillow). Select the warm water and gentle cycle settings. Add a bit of mild liquid laundry detergent (the powdered kind is harder to wash off). Insert pillows, ensuring they are not packed in tightly. To completely wash off the detergent, repeat the rinse cycle. Do not use the spin cycle unless your pillows are down.
3 To dry, squeeze out any excess water by hand. Put the pillows through a tumble dry cycle set to low heat. Repeat as necessary until completely dry. Pillows that can’t go in the dryer should be hung on a clothesline or rack.
Make a hotel-worthy bed by washing your linens regularly and ironing them with a scented mist like K. Hall Designs Washed Cotton Linen Water (Au Lit Fine Linens, $25). Trust us, you’ll be dreaming of a late checkout.
To extend the life of your pillows, dress them in protective pillow covers before putting on their cases.
Eco-friendly products to keep your pillows plump
On top of being greener and more cost-effective than dryer sheets, reusable balls also prevent pillows from getting lumpy in the dryer.
Scent your laundry with this Canadian brand’s delectable aromas like Apple Pie and Banana Bread. Tumbler tarts fair trade wool dryer balls, The Laundry Tarts, $30 per pack of 3; Re-scenting kit in Apple Pie, The Laundry Tarts, $13.
The prongs of these cute little rubber balls are great for keeping pillows soft and fluffy. Thermoplastic rubber hedgehog dryer balls, West Elm Market, $9 per pair.
These bright all-natural wool balls soften laundry and cut drying time. Wool Deluxe starter dryer balls, LooHoo, $28 US per pack of 3.