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 lamb roast is the perfect Sunday evening dinner.
Spruce up your Sunday dinner with this fresh and flavourful recipe from Sarah Wilson's The I Quit Sugar Cookbook.
Five chairs on their last legs each get a chic style makeover.
Style at Home teamed up with upholstery house Switch Studio and spray painting shop Paint It Like New to breathe life into five outdated chairs that were standing on their last legs.
From funky to elegant, sexy to sweet, these thrones are nothing like what they used to be: outdated and drab. Check out these five chairs (some of which you probably have at home) Style at Home revamped with upholstery house Switch Studio and spray painting shop Paint It Like New.
After: Barrel chair
Layers of soft neutrals -- the ultimate in easy elegance -- highlight the graceful lines of this vintage beauty. A solid neutral taupe wool graces its front and back, while a subtle beige and cream ticking stripe linen marks the seat. For a streamlined, modern look, the original tufting detail was edited out.
Before: Louis-style chair
We decided this traditional Louis-style chair needed some modern sex appeal.
After: Louis-style chair
Feminine meets masculine in this sultry head-turner. While the main fabric is an über-femme hot pink velvet, the white faux leather racing stripe recalls a luxury sports car. Likewise, the ornately carved frame is coated in a handsome charcoal grey. The juxtaposition amounts to a look that's both fetching and fun.
CHAIR Louis-style, Take It Or Leave It.
FABRIC Cotton Charmed in Cactus Flower and faux leather Harley in Marshmallow, Kobe Interior Products.
CHAIR FRAME PAINT Peppercorn SW7674, Sherwin-Williams.
Before: Parlour chair
We love the low-slung, angled frame of this antique parlour chair so we updated its floral appeal.
After: Parlour chair
A large-scale multicoloured Designers Guild floral takes centre stage here. For an extra kick, the vivacious peony-patterned linen was paired with a bright teal frame and Beetlejuice-like black and white stripes. Bold on bold on bold, this regal antique's daring combination is true to fabric queen Tricia Guild's signature style.
FABRIC Designers Guild Pavonia linen Pandora, Primavera.
FABRIC Striped cotton Canopy in Black, Tonic Living.
CHAIR FRAME PAINT Really Teal SW6489, Sherwin-Williams.
Before: Chiavari-style chair
We love this classic Chiavari-style chair's detailed spindles and elegant curved wood legs so we added a fairy tale twist.
After: Chiavari-style chair
With a petite pattern and a colour name like Candyfloss, this cotton fabric is perfect for creating a little lady's perch, whether she's hosting a tea party or reading her favourite fairy tale. Swathed in the sweetest of pinks, the chair's spindles pop, while the lovely curve of the seat is accentuated by cream grosgrain ribbon overlaid with matching pink nailheads.
CHAIR Châtelet, Chatelet Home.
FABRIC Cotton Doodle in Candyfloss, Designer Fabrics.
RIBBON TRIM Cream silk grosgrain 50 000 in 2, Mokuba.
CHAIR FRAME PAINT Jaipur Pink SW6577, Sherwin-Williams.
Before: Vintage armchair
We love the combination of carved and turned details on the frame of this vintage furniture find so we updated its colour and fabric pattern.
After: Vintage armchair
A notice-me-red frame gives this old perch instant wow factor. The bold hue also highlights the chair's artisanal-look carvings, which could swing toward folksy but don't thanks to the trendy chevron upholstery. Though graphic, the linen's patterned upholstery appears subtle in this subdued white and grey colourway.
FABRIC Jonathan Adler linen Limitless in Smoke, Kravet Canada.
CHAIR FRAME PAINT Heartthrob SW6866, Sherwin-Williams.
Add these tasty thumbprint cookies to your holiday baking list! Credits: Maya Visnyei
Try this decadently delicious spin on the traditional thumbprint cookie.
Offering a twist on a classic is something that comes up a lot in the Style at Home offices, but it’s never been as yummy as this. Our take on these traditional holiday cookies replaces the usual jam with three of our favourite sweet spreads – pure genius, if we do say so ourselves.
1 Preheat the oven to 350°F.
2 In a large bowl, beat the butter with the icing sugar until fluffy; beat in the vanilla.
3 In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, ginger and salt; stir into the butter mixture just until the ingredients are combined and come together to form a dough.
4 Shape the dough into thirty-six 1" balls.*
5 Arrange 1" apart on parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Press your thumb into the centre of each ball, leaving an indentation; pinch together any cracks around the edges.
6 Bake until the edges of the cookies are golden, about 12 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the sheets for 3 minutes, then transfer to racks to cool completely.
7 When the cookies are cool, spoon a scant 1 teaspoon of filling into the well of each one.
*To roll the cookies in nuts, whisk 2 egg whites with 1 teaspoon water until frothy; place finely chopped nuts (such as pistachios, walnuts or hazelnuts) in a bowl. Using a fork, dip each dough ball into the egg mixture, then into the nuts to coat. Place on the prepared baking sheets and continue with the recipe as directed. To dust with cocoa or cinnamon, roll the dough balls into either cinnamon or cocoa powder, shaking off any excess. Place on the prepared baking sheets and continue with the recipe as directed.
Makes: 3 dozen cookies