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.
Easily update your home this fall with natural accents that create impact and add texture, without adding to the bills.
After summer ends and we all brace for the colder months, we bid farewell to the flower markets and prepare the gardens for hibernation. While we love our tulips and dahlias, there’s something undeniably beautiful in going au natural. We're talking bare bones (or bark in this case). It’s simple, readily available and affordable (possibly even free!). That’s right, decor accents can be found right outside your home! From branches to leaves to moss, there’s an abundance out there just waiting to beautify your home. Not sure how to make sticks look stylish? Not to worry, we have plenty of ways to inspire some new fall decor.
Fallen branches are your easiest bet. Gather a bundle and let them create visual interest and add texture in your space.
Is there a tree hanging precariously low or in the way? Take advantage of some tree trimming and go big with a large branch propped against a wall for some real impact.
Credits: Stacey Brandford
Bright and bold
Not into the bare branch look? Using a large branch with its leaves is not only a great statement, but can also add a luscious dose of colour – especially if the leaves have started to change into those beautiful autumnal oranges and reds.
Rustic red centrepiece
Speaking of changing leaves, a cluster of rich, red leaves makes for an instant fall centrepiece.
Credits: Janis Nicolay
Pretty in pink
With their sparse pink blooms, magnolia branches make a softer statement when effortlessly displayed in a simple white ceramic jug.
Credits: Stacey Brandford
It doesn’t get any simpler than feathery green branches in a clear glass vase to celebrate their natural beauty.
Credits: Stacey Brandford
An organic touch
These eucalyptus branches are just as simple, but have a slightly different look and feel. They still add a delightful organic touch, but with a richer, fuller display.
Credits: Janis Nicolay
Amp up your greenery by mixing assorted wildflowers with your eucalyptus for a more lush arrangement.
Credits: Stacey Brandford
Soft and simple
A simple bouquet of Queen Anne’s lace leaves adds a touch of texture and greenery.
Credits: Robin Stubbert
Low profile, high impact
If you don’t want the height of branches and leaves impeding views, but still want a burst of natural green colour in your space, a decorative bowl of moss instantly injects life into any space.
How to: Clean your gas range
Keep your gas range looking spotless with these helpful cleaning tips and tricks.
As far as stovetops go, a commercial-style gas range is the first choice for many serious home cooks. In addition to keeping it looking sleek, proper cleaning is key to maintaining its functionality.
Problem: Grimy gas range
1 Remove the grates and any griddles, as well as the burner heads and caps. Using a non-abrasive sponge, wash them well with dish soap and warm water. If the dirt buildup is particularly bad (when was the last time you cleaned these things?), leave them to soak for 20 to 30 minutes. (Do not replace yet.)
2 To loosen the dirt buildup from spills and splatters on the stovetop, cover the spots with a cloth dampened in hot water for several minutes. Using a rubber scraper, remove the debris. With a dampened sponge (not soaked – water can harm the igniter), wipe the whole stovetop. Wipe dry using a microfibre cloth.
3 Rinse and thoroughly dry all the components you removed before replacing them.
4 For a beautifully clean finish, carefully remove all the knobs and wash using the same method as step 1.
For keeping splatters at bay, we love Trudeau’s Flex pot clip (trudeau.ca, $9). Clip it onto your pot or pan for an instant spoon rest. It accommodates both regular cutlery and larger cooking utensils and is a great alternative to its countertop counterpart, which is likely to be dirty or MIA in the dishwasher.Get a leg up on grease in between kitchen cleanup with these easy-to-use cleaning sprays.
Illustration courtesy of Joanna Kam
Tailor-made for gas range surfaces. Weiman Heavy-Duty Gas Range cleaner & degreaser, Canadian Tire, $6.
2 Zero waste
Minimize your carbon footprint: Just pop this little sachet into the reusable bottle and dilute with water. Bio Green Crystals Natural degreaser, Well.ca, $8. Reusable spray bottle, Well.ca, $3.
A Canadian-made, plant-based product. Eco Mist degreaser, Well.ca, $7.
Tip: don’t use abrasive cleaners or scouring pads.
Victorian home gets a spacious kitchen facelift
Convenient storage solutions are at the heart of this Victorian home’s kitchen renovation.
Tara Ellis and Andrew Bell lived with the cramped and outdated kitchen in their semi-detached Victorian in Toronto for 12 years before deciding it was time to make some changes. Not only was the space aesthetically unpleasant, but it was also a pain in their backs – literally. “The existing countertop was installed below standard height. I’m six feet tall, and my husband is about as tall,” says Tara.
Since a few other rooms in the house weren’t terribly livable either, they called on designer Philippe Beauparlant to oversee a massive renovation. “As for the kitchen,” says Tara, “we wanted a better layout with lots of storage, and I’ve always loved a banquette.”
The planning process
“One of the challenges I noticed right away,” says Philippe, “was the kitchen’s poor connection to the backyard.” Specifically, the back door in the adjacent mud room opened onto a tall outdoor staircase. His solution was to move the inside stairs that led down to the basement to the back of the house, incorporating a lower landing area that’s level with the yard. This clever approach allowed for floor-to-ceiling storage on the landing. And with the back wall now completely clad in glass, natural light floods the kitchen.
The design decisions
While the couple loves a modern industrial feel, they also wanted to preserve the home’s character. That’s why Philippe chose a clean cabinet door profile and installed crown moulding that matches an existing one in the house. He also played up the heritage aspect by picking a traditional grey-green shade for the cabinetry. A splash of colour comes from mustard yellow pendant lights and tomato red handles on the Wolf range, which Tara tied together with two stools her mother calls “mustard and ketchup.”
“Everyone gravitates to the kitchen now because it’s so bright and airy in the day and cozy at night,” says Tara.
A dark, cluttered, uninviting kitchen.
Count on designer Philippe Beauparlant to solve the space crunch in this small kitchen.
“There’s a good mix of open and closed shelving,” says designer Philippe Beauparlant of the renovated kitchen. Walnut-veneered uppers open horizontally and provide access to all the items the homeowners use regularly but want out of sight. Only the most used dishes were designated for open shelving so they don’t gather dust.
The dining table was custom made from vintage table legs and a reclaimed-wood top stained to just the right grey-brown. The banquette’s vinyl fabric looks like leather but is easier to maintain.
The floor-to-ceiling cabinet on the landing houses coats and boots as well as sports equipment and seasonal items like patio cushions.
The cabinet on the left side of the range houses a pullout bin for recycling. The garbage and compost containers are located under the sink.
Tins and vases help declutter counters and spice up the area.
Crisp white jars and dishes keep the kitchen clean and simple.
Grey grout deliberately draws attention to the unique pattern of the white subway-tiled backsplash.