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.
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.
What's a Birthday celebration without a delicious cake?
What's a Birthday celebration without a delicious cake?
Make a birthday celebration extra special with one of these deliciously decadent homemade cakes!
This easy-to-make chocolate birthday cake will be a hit with guests at your party. Find the recipe here.
A slice of this chocolate gluten-free birthday cake will delight all chocoholics. Find the recipe here.
Love coconut? Then this light, heavenly coconut birthday cake recipe is just what your party needs. Find the recipe here.
For the health-conscious chocoholic, an easy-to-make, gluten-free chocolate birthday cake is the answer. Find the recipe here.
Filled with seasonal flavour this mouth-watering carrot cake recipe from Rosie Daykin, owner of Vancouver's Butter Baked Goods bakery will have your guests asking for birthday cake to take home with them! Find the recipe here.
A tale as old as time, the meant-to-be combination of chocolate and vanilla is on display in this stunning layer birthday cake. Find the recipe here.
Use your favourite red velvet cake recipe to make these fun birthday cake push pops. Find the recipe here.
Taste a hint of hazelnut with this flourless chocolate birthday cake recipe. Find the recipe here.
Try this scrumptious birthday cake recipe featuring sweet maple syrup. Find the recipe here.
This striped birthday cake confection is a double dose of chocolate that is as pleasing to look at as it is to eat. Find the recipe here.
Top 10 must-see rooms designers love most
This bedroom from the November 2012 issue has a personal resonance for Stephanie Vogler – it’s her own. “There’s a lot going on here, but it feels restful because of subtle pattern mixing and a soft, muted palette,” she says. “Though the room is neutral for most of the year, I added blush pink pillowcases and florals for the photo shoot, which made the space even more romantic and evocative of a good night’s sleep.” Star power “The fabric on the tufted headboard is washable (essential when you have young children) and super comfortable for reading or watching movies in bed.”
This ultra-hip kitchen, which appeared in the February 2014 issue, was the centrepiece of Ingrid Oomen’s redesign of the first floor of this historic home. “The kitchen has a fabulous tall ceiling and opens to the dining room on one side and the family room on the other,” she says. “We added two new windows to the side of the house to ensure the space gets light all day long.” Star power “The open shelves are a nice textural focal point, and I love the usability of them. They add a real restaurant feel when styled with plates for convenient access.”
When Carol Reed renovated the kitchen of this tudor-style home, featured in the February 2013 issue, she started by revamping the floor plan. “The newly opened-up room doubled the amount of daylight and storage, as well as the number of guests the family can entertain,” she explains. “Customized details elevate off-the-shelf cabinetry, while the black and white palette grounds the kitchen in classic character that blends with the century home.” Star power “The antique monk’s table is a standout feature. Its worn patina reflects a history of gathering and sharing, which is exactly what this kitchen was designed for.”
Simple is sublime, according to Samantha Sacks, who chose the bathroom of her family cottage, first featured in the August 2011 issue. “There’s nothing to this room: For me, that’s where its charm lies,” she explains. “The simplicity – even the plumbing is exposed – paired with a few luxury pieces, such as some super-thick towels and an intricately engraved silver tumbler from Egypt, gives the space a feeling of barefoot elegance.” Star power “The back of the clawfoot tub slopes beautifully, while the cast iron holds heat. Our cottage is quite rustic, so a hot bath feels like a divine indulgence.”
This handsome bedroom, featured in the October 2012 issue by Feasby & Bleeks Design, has grown with the little boy it was designed for – and that was precisely the goal. “We love trends as much as anyone, but we choose to inject them into our designs in ways that can be easily updated,” says Erin Feasby. “For this room, classic nautical was our jumping-off point, and that really helped with selections and decisions. It made our job very easy.” Adds Cindy Bleeks, “Years later, this space feels as fresh as the day it was completed.” Star power “The wallpaper is graphic yet timeless. It adds so much life to this wall, and you never tire of it – plus, it’s great for all ages.”
Michael Penney, owner of the Whitby, Ont., housewares store Penney & Co., decorated this century home in Ontario’s Prince Edward County featured in the June 2012 issue. “I’d say this living room works well because it has a balance of classic and quirky, neutral and punchy,” he explains. “The shell of the space is a soft putty colour, which sets up the foundation for the bold blue velvet sofa and zippy striped chairs. Finally, shelves allow for lots of books and personal treasures.” Star power “The solidly built vintage sofa is full of personality thanks to its sumptuous peacock blue colour.”
This old-meets-new living room from the June 2011 issue brings together custom-made and vintage pieces. “Although it’s a fairly traditional space, it doesn’t feel too formal,” says designer, Christine Hanlon. “I still love the graphic grey linen fabric on the sofa and the way the mix of finishes, from natural wood to gold leaf, add warmth and texture.” Star power “I have a soft spot for the bamboo coffee table I bought from my friend’s shop.”
Kelly Deck brought her signature West coast style to this expansive bedroom in a White Rock, B.C., home, featured in the first Designer Secrets Special issue back in 2011. “I still appreciate this room for its scale and timeless coastal colour scheme,” she says. “The headboard wall is over 18 feet wide, but the custom millwork and oversized nightstands fill the volume of the space to make what could otherwise be vacuous seem warm and enveloping.” Star power “I’m quite fond of the gold pig with wings that sits on the nightstand – it’s a cheeky accent in a sophisticated space.”
Form and function plus a touch of luxe is Tara Fingold’s recipe for success in this glam master suite from the September 2014 issue. The dressing room area boasts a built-in makeup desk and bank of drawers, which serves as both a dresser and a window seat. “We included a ton of hidden storage to keep the room neat and tidy,” says Tara. “All the surfaces look precious but are quite practical and easy to clean.” Star power “The bird chandelier is so whimsical and evokes a peaceful, happy feeling when you walk into the room.”
Layers and colour are what make this white-walled living room, featured in the February 2015 issue by Shirley Meisels, stand out from the crowd. “The comfy sofa with loose cushions is inviting and a good neutral against the pops of colour in the rug, sidechairs and artwork, which acts as the focal point in the room,” says Shirley. “I like how the space is masculine with surprising feminine touches that negate the ‘man cave’ vibe.” Star power “The artwork is a finishing touch that adds personality and really makes the room come to life.”