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.
A spacious and stylish white kitchen flooded with natural light.
Vancouver designer Joanna Vagelatos updates a spacious family abode by adding tons of texture.
The house was beautiful the way it was. “A lot of people thought we were crazy to change it,” says homeowner Tanis Hill. “But it didn’t suit our style.” With sage green walls and an abundance of dark wood, the home was more heavy and masculine than Tanis and her husband liked. “Our aesthetic has always been light, airy and whimsical,” she says.
The couple purchased the 11-year-old French Provincial-inspired abode four years ago, when they were expecting their third child. “We actually put in an offer from the hospital room,” says Tanis. (Their children are now 7, 5 and 4.) In addition to light-filled wide open spaces and stunning architectural features, the 6,760-square-foot house in an established West Vancouver neighbourhood offered a convenient, tranquil setting ideal for raising a family – it’s four blocks from the beach and close to community centres, and there’s a babbling creek running through the backyard. “We picked this place for the children,” says Tanis.
To update the interior and give it a bright, casual Rachel Ashwell-esque vibe, the homeowners enlisted Vancouver designer Joanna Vagelatos, who now runs JV Design Group but was with The Cross Decor & Design when she worked on the home. During the six-month cosmetic renovation, Joanna transformed the space by painting the walls and millwork in soothing neutrals and replacing the Brazilian cherry hardwood floors with slightly greyed white oak. This created an airy backdrop for the cozy mix of natural fabrics and traditional and vintage-style furniture, as well as Tanis’s chandelier collection (“I love chandeliers – I own 10 of them!” she says).
But it’s the variety of textures and finishes that gives the home’s white, grey and linen palette interest and warmth. “You don’t need to add punches of colour for impact,” says Joanna. For instance, a weathered wood table keeps the dining area invitingly informal; linen and lace give the master bedroom a romantic yet unfussy feel; the chic crystal chandelier and pretty vanity chair enhance the all-white ensuite’s luxurious look; and custom-made burlap toy bins lend softness and uniformity to the playroom (“Plus, they won’t scratch the millwork like hard woven ones would,” says Joanna).
Indeed, the soothing space was decorated without ignoring practicality. “We did everything with the children in mind,” says Tanis. From the virtually indestructible leather covering the kitchen island stools to the stunning unadorned floor-to-ceiling windows (“I don’t have to worry about kids and cords,” says Tanis) to the durable hardwood floors, the house is a veritable indoor playground. “Once the makeover was complete, the kids got on their plastic toy cars and ripped around the rooms – it was their way of christening the place,” she says.
Transforming the kitchen meant replacing the dark granite countertops with honed quartz, spraying the dark wooden island white, adding extra cabinetry for a wall oven and panelled fridge and installing oversized wrought iron chandeliers. White cane-backed stools with grey leather seats match the chairs in the adjacent dining area.
Elements like the muted-toned bean bag chairs, subtle grey foam mats and a white-painted vintage piano provide the functional family playroom with a lively style that’s still sophisticated.
Tanis (pictured here with her three children) inherited the loveseat from her grandmother. The open shelves with burlap toy bins help keep the play area orderly.
The existing freestanding bathtub and marble floor in the ensuite were softened with fleur-de-lys lace café curtains and a linen-covered vanity chair.
A white caned bed frame enhances the master bedroom’s romantic French-inspired look. “It’s a place where we could layer lots of linen and lace,” says Tanis. An oversized chandelier suits the scale of the space and complements its delicate vintage vibe.
A decorative olive branch objet paired with an old hardcover and fresh blooms makes for an enchanting bedroom vignette.
Bergère-style armchairs paired with a scroll-leg pedestal table and cowhide rug define the sitting area in the master bedroom.
The interior’s neutral palette continues to the outdoor living space, which is accessible from the kitchen and dining area via white-painted French doors. “There are three sets of French doors on the back of the house,” says Tanis. “And when they’re all opened up, they reveal a beautiful setting.” Tanis and her husband love to spend time here relaxing.
The rustic stone fireplace, driftwood-toned coffee table and resin wicker sofas with linen-hued cushions give the covered lounge area an indoor-outdoor feel.
Stylish toss cushions and throws add to the outdoor sitting area’s cozy vibe.
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Recipe: Moroccan sweet potato, red quinoa & chickpea salad with honey harissa dressing
A main course, Moroccan-inspired red quinoa salad made with a zesty Harissa (hot chili paste) dressing.
For honey harissa dressing
For the salad
1 Preheat the oven to 375°F. In a small bowl, whisk together all the ingredients for the honey harissa dressing.
2 Toss 1⁄4 cup of the dressing with the sweet potatoes and spread out onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Toss another 2 tablespoons of the dressing with the chickpeas and spread out onto another parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Place both baking sheets in the oven and roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are tender.
3 In a small pot, bring the beluga lentils and 4 cups cold water to a simmer. Cook for 20 to 25 minutes, until the lentils are tender. Drain, rinse and place in a large bowl, along with the roasted sweet potatoes and chickpeas.
4 Meanwhile, in another small pot, bring the red quinoa and 4 cups water to a boil; reduce the heat and simmer for 12 minutes. Drain the quinoa and let dry in the sieve for 2 minutes. Add to the sweet potato mixture.
5 Stir in the green onions, pumpkin seeds, pecans, mint and cranberries. Drizzle with the remaining dressing and toss gently to combine. Place the warm salad on a large serving platter and garnish with the fresh pomegranate seeds and mint leaves. Serve.