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.
These tasty cocktails are perfect for your next party. Image by: Janis Nicolay
Learn to make these tasty signature cocktails for your next holiday party.
You may not be a mixologist, but these signature drinks will have guests convinced you’ve been taking secret bartending lessons. Word to the wise: Leave the fancy bottle spins to the professionals.
1 The Welder
Pour the whisky, Aperol, lemon juice and chili syrup into an ice-filled cocktail shaker and shake well. Strain into an ice-filled lowball glass and top with the chili pepper.
2 Brandy Crusta
Prepare a rock glass by moistening the rim with a touch of the lemon juice and dipping it in the sugar. Combine the cognac, curaçao, more lemon juice and the bitters in a shaker. Shake and strain into the glass. Add 1 ice cube and the lemon peel garnish.
3 Jamaican Honey Soother
Directions: Pour the rum, honey and lemon juice into a cocktail shaker half-filled with ice cubes. Shake well, strain into a coupette cocktail glass.
4 Dark & Stormy
Directions: Fill a highball glass with ice cubes. Add the spiced rum and then top it off with the ginger beer. Stir, and garnish with the lime wedge.
Decorated in shades of silver and gold, this shimmering tree makes a statement. Image by: Donna Griffith
What’s better than chic, sophisticated holiday style? The ability to achieve it with ease. Here are 10 tips to simplify your next festive soiree.
Last year, when homeowners Pamela Schott and Sheldon Pollack moved into this 7,500-square-foot five-bedroom century home in Toronto’s Forest Hill neighbourhood, they merged more than just their families (he has three 30-somethings; she has two kids; and four of the five live at the house part-time). The couple, who will wed next year, also blended their approaches to the holidays. To that end, their seasonal decor is sophisticated and minimalist, glamorous and uncluttered, neither too gimmicky nor too theme-y. For Pamela and Sheldon, it’s all about simplicity. Though they enjoy entertaining – the couple loves to host a holiday drop-in – they always keep it effortless. “A party is about the friends, family, wine, appetizers and conversation,” says Pamela, who makes creating a relaxed atmosphere her priority. “It’s about the event, not the planning.” Here, we highlight 10 ways Pamela and Sheldon execute their elegant holiday style with ease.
1 Choose function: A petite potted rosemary tree gives the kitchen counter holiday flair with purpose. Well into the new year, it will serve as a source of fresh decoration for place settings and garnish for themed cocktails.
2 Make strategic splurges: Don’t stress about baking in the days leading up to your party. If you lack the time and the piping skills, splurge on artfully adorned cookies iced in your home’s colour scheme for a scrumptious statement.
3 Stay simple: A bouquet of white amaryllis is an understated accent that’s synonymous with winter but doesn’t scream “holidays.” Buy the blooms a few days before your event so they’re at their prime when guests arrive.
4 Lay it down: Getting festive garlands to swag just right can take a lot of fussing. So if you want to gussy up your windows in a flash, layer cuttings of greenery on your windowsills instead. Here, Douglas fir and magnolia leaves add a luxe touch.
5 Accent the architecture: Draw attention to eye-catching structural features like leaded glass windows with beautiful holiday wreaths that accentuate the details but don’t steal the show.
6 Make room for more: Use a bowl to hold gorgeous Christmas ornaments that didn’t make it onto the tree for a simple centrepiece or coffee table accent.
7 Wrap it up: No pot? No problem! Use a swath of grey linen fabric secured with decorative ribbon to dress up the base of a tabletop tree. This unconventional feature lends a festive touch to an otherwise unadorned space.
8 Come out from under the tree: Take your gift wrapping to the next level with finishing details like sculptural toppers and layered ribbons. Don’t just place presents under the tree: Artfully arrange them on various nearby surfaces for vignettes that suit the season.
9 Mix metallics: Sticking to a gold and silver palette makes decorating the tree almost effortless. Look for a mix of shimmering materials, from beading to mercury glass to metallic fabrics, so you don’t have to think too hard about even distribution.
10 Make it a team effort: Whether it’s decorating the tree, hanging wreaths or wrapping presents, holiday tasks are more easily executed as a team. Get your tools out ahead of time, gather the family and put on your favourite holiday tunes to set the mood – you’ll be done before you can say “cool yule!”
Stock up on these must-have essentials before wrapping this year's presents.
Half the fun of holiday shopping is getting to wrap pretty presents to place under the tree. Before you start assembling this year's gift wrapping station, make sure to stock up on all the essentials. We've put together our list of must-have products and unique items to help you wrap this year's presents. Check out all 10 items below.
Have trouble deciding on just one wrapping paper style? Well now you don't have to! This double-sided paper means you can wrap multiple presents in two festive patterns from just one roll. Reversible Santa/Red Dots wrapping paper, Hallmark, $4.99 (per roll).
If you love embellishing your holiday gifts but find using glitter too messy, you're going to love these gorgeous glitter tapes. The glitter doesn't flake off, making it a mess-free wrapping essential. Glitter Tape, Seal-It, prices vary.
Add one of these adorable gift tags to this year's presents. They'll look great with all types of wrapping and can even double as an ornament. Snowmen & Reindeer Gift Tags, Indigo, $3.95 (for set of 5).
If you're not one for bold reds and greens, this gorgeous paper with its metallic gold print is perfect for adding that festive touch to your gifts without going over the top. Rifle Paper Co. Queen Ann Roll Wrap, Indigo, $10.95.
A great roll of tape is essential to any gift wrapping station. No matter your wrapping style, Scotch Brand's variety of double sided, gift wrap and Expressions washi tape will help get the job done. Scotch tape, Scotch Brand, prices vary.
Wrap festive treats in these cute printable cups. They're also great for gift cards, chocolates or other small items - the possibilities are endless! Printable treat cups, LittleLuxuriesLoft on Etsy, $6.56.
Put a DIY spin on your wrapping this holiday season with help from Fiskars. With a variety of designs available, this tag maker will help you add a personalized touch to each present. Fiskars Tag Maker, Amazon.ca, prices vary.
You never know when you'll need to wrap that last-minute gift or happen to run out of wrapping paper. Stock up on stylish gift bags and you'll be ready to wrap anything this holiday season. VINTER gift bags, IKEA, $3.99 (2 pack).
There's nothing worse than realizing you're out of holiday cards. Stock up with this festive set, complete with 20 cards and envelopes. Festive Holiday Card Set, Anthropologie, $18.