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.
Give this healthy soup full of delicious greens a try.
A simple and delicious soup recipe that combines good-for-you greens and grains.
This soup is open to all kinds of experimentation. Try adding 2 cups or one 14- to 15-oz can beans, such as cannellini beans, chickpeas or romano beans, with the cooked grains. Or drop a Parmesan rind into the broth while the greens simmer and garnish with more freshly grated cheese. You can also use chopped onion, chopped celery and chopped carrot with or in place of the greens’ stems.
1 Place the grains and salt in a medium pot and cover generously with water. Bring to a boil over high heat; reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the grains are tender to the bite (from 15 minutes for quinoa to up to 60 minutes for rye kernels). Drain and set aside.
2 If using greens with thick stems like chard or kale cut the stems from the leaves. Trim the stems and finely chop them, then cut the leaves into thin ribbons; keep the stems and leaves separate. If using greens without thick stems, chop the leaves into ribbons or bite-sized pieces.
3 Heat the oil in a soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the stems (if using) and cook, stirring frequently, until they’re soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and stir to combine. Add the chicken broth and cooked grains and bring just to a boil.
4 Add the greens, stir to combine and cook until wilted and tender, just 1 to 2 minutes for spinach, 5 minutes for chard and up to 10 minutes for kale. Season with salt and serve warm with a grind or two of pepper.
Serves: 4 to 5
Take a peek inside this renovated schoolhouse.
What better place to spend the winter than in an old schoolhouse in an idyllic rural setting?
Growing up in Toronto and then living in Vancouver for 21 years, Janet Appleton, owner of The Dog Tack Shop, was a devoted city girl with a low-maintenance condo as her dwelling of choice. Then one fateful date, she happened upon a real-estate listing for a converted heritage schoolhouse on eight acres in Schomberg, Ont. "I saw it online and fell completely in love," she confesses. "It was all purple inside with shag carpeting everywhere. Everyone tried to talk me out of it, but I had a vision."
Moving back to Ontario meant being closer to family and many of the craftspeople she works with for her business. So in a lifestyle-changing move, she bought the place, taking possession of the property more than three years ago with her two boxers, Marco and Benny, in tow.
Nestled into eight acres of bucolic countryside, the Old Deacon Schoolhouse is a well-preserved example of a typical rural Ontario schoolhouse.
Although the schoolhouse isn't designated a heritage building, Janet was determined to design the interior with an environmentally aware decor approach that respected its history.
Janet with her two boxers, Marco and Benny, on the steps of the schoolhouse. Many bricks on the home's exterior have children's initials etched into them.
A few boughs of natural greenery adorn the entryway door. Homeowner Janet Appleton has no idea what the numbers at the entrance might have meant but she and her guests love to speculate.
An iron staircase salvaged from Toronto's first telegram building leads to the loft. Janet ripped shag carpeting off its treads to reveal the maker's mark from St.Lawrence Foundry.
Antique books include her great-grandfather's bible and her great-grandmother's hymnal. The bench, marked 1954, was a gift from her grandfather to her mother.
In the main living room, the doors flanking the fireplace mantel are the original boys' and girls' entrances to the school. Stained-glass windows were added in a previous renovation. Janet's mother, Judith, lovingly helped source many of the home's furnishings, including the dark grey Louis-style armchair.
The harvest table in the dining area was one of the many pieces left behind by the previous owners that Janet was able to incorporate into the new design. Huge barn beams were left intact and exposed to lend warmth to the predominantly white interior.
During the winter, Janet decorates with a light touch, utilizing the natural materials found in abundance on her property.
A condo design featuring traditional details and sculptural furnishings
When Kim Calabrigo moved from a large family home to a condo, she quickly learned that bigger isn't always better.
A peaceful sanctuary in the heart of a downtown core: That doesn’t sound like too tall an order, does it? That’s what Kim Calabrigo sought when she sold her traditional Craftsman-style home in suburbia and moved to a condo in metropolitan Vancouver. Bringing no furniture with her, she was truly starting anew.
Kim’s first-ever solo home purchase offered her the opportunity to decorate exactly as she pleased. “I wanted a tone-on-tone look, mixing classic and modern elements with an edge,” she says.
Coming from a big traditional 4,200-square-foot home and moving to a smaller builder-basic 1,100-square-foot two-bedroom condo, Kim found space planning challenging. She wanted to maintain the most floor space possible while maximizing seating so she could entertain friends and family as easily as she used to.
Homeowner Kim Calabrigo's decorating wish list included sculptural furnishings, soft pink accents and traditional details.
To maximize seating in her new condo, Kim had a nine-foot-long sofa designed to run the length of the living room wall.
Opting to put a chaise against the living room's floor-to-ceiling windows keeps sightlines open and offers Kim a comfy place to take in the picturesque view with her morning cup of tea.
Though the space is open, the dining area is easily delineated by its standard banquette and oversized pendant light featuring white and peach beads and a rope-wrapped frame. "At night, the diamond motif casts beautiful shadows on the walls and ceiling," says Kim.
"I've embraced the less-is-more aesthetic and added interest by mixing old and new, shiny and matte, smooth and textured, organic and clean lined," says Kim. "I don't depend on bold colours and patterns."
Femininity reigns in the master bedroom, from the tall tufted headboard and layered wrinkled linens to the mirrored nightstands and petite vase of flouncy pink peonies. Massive windows mean that Kim can watch the sun set from the comfort of bed. Does it get any better than that?
In the master bedroom's built-in office nook, sparkly silver wallpaper subtly offsets the layers of cream, white and gold on the shelves. The palette is echoed in the frameless print of an 18th-century Venetian palazzo ballroom, resulting in a vignette that's the perfect mix of new world and old.