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 wooden dresser transforms into an ultra-stylish statement piece.
Put your DIY skills to the test with these simple and stylish IKEA furniture transformations.
Style at Home's talented design team puts their own unique spin on IKEA's VITTSJÖ nesting-style coffee table with three personality-packed rooms to match.
Discover how all three looks came together and how you can create the same look in your home.
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Using IKEA's ALEX desktop you can create the same look at home.
A simple DIY project dramatically transforms a regular wooden dresser into a luxe piece of furniture on a budget.
Using IKEA's TARVA three-drawer chest get this look at home.
Glam up a plain pendant light with a coat of gold spray paint.
Using IKEA's HEKTAR pendant light get the step-by-step instructions here.
Add some stylish storage to your space with this gorgeous do-it-yourself cabinet featured in our high/low: chic dressing room.
Using IKEA's SEKTION wall cabinet get the step-by-step instructions here.
Create your own free-standing island like the one featured in our Parisian-style kitchen. This budget-friendly accessory can be customized to suit your style while adding an extra prep area to any size space.
Using IKEA's KARPALUND base get the step-by-step instructions here.
Learn how to use everyday materials to create playful winter decorations.
Pull out the string, tape, paper and scissors – with a little creativity, these everyday materials can be transformed into decorations that bring to life a whimsical winter wonderland.
1 Wallpaper: Craft your very own snowfall with these pretty avant-garde snowflakes made by accordion-folding white craft paper into pinwheels and snipping with scissors. Add in one or two bold-hued pinwheels for impact.
2 Wrap stars: A tableau of gifts dressed up in white wrapping will lend an ethereal effect both under your tree and around your home. And don’t skimp on the ribbon – let it trail delicately from the presents in long sweeping curls.
3 Advent honours: Forget brown paper pack- ages – these sweet gift bags embellished with paper cut-outs and “sewn” up with string make a fun Advent calendar. Numbered paper hearts on the ends of the ties indicate the days.
4 Bow beautiful: Rethink the ubiquitous holiday bows this year by making your own signature snowflake gift adornments using white craft paper and scissors. Use contrasting string to attach these beauties to your parcels.
5 Liner notes: Who knew simple white paper muffin tin liners could create such pretty towering trees? Stack them in different sizes and heights for a veritable frost-kissed forest.
6 Branching out: Paper roses have nothing on these fragile flowers made from twists of white tissue. Easy to make and elegant to behold, this simple arrangement is a pure nod to winter.
7 Ball game: Few things are as satisfying as decking your halls with homemade ornaments. These delicate spheres are a cinch to make with strips of craft paper and string. Display them on your table, tree or mantel, or send them off with visitors as take-home treats after a holiday soiree.
8 Clever covers: Dinner guests will love these adorable covers made by cutting patterns into accordion-folded lengths of paper and securing them around drinking glasses with tree candle clips.
9 Snowy settings: Create the perfect holiday table covering by cutting snowflake patterns into a white paper runner. Continue the effect: Use similar stencils to powder the festive treats you serve.
Photography courtesy of Andreas Hoernisch/Living4Media
You'll love these lavender shortbread cookies.
These sophisticated shortbread cookies are a wonderful pairing of citrus and herbs.
You're likely familiar with the wonderful results that come from pairing citrus and herbs, but our guess is that you tend to reach for rosemary or mint when preparing a lemony summer treat. Up the ante this month and try a combination that's a little more unexpected, but just as powerful. Delicate lavender imbues desserts with a distinct floral note and flecks of pale purple, and when combined with lemon, the flavour is even stronger. These elegant shortbread cookies are a satisfying snack and the perfect accompaniment to afternoon tea in the garden -- complete with big hats and sundresses, of course.
1 Cream the butter with an electric mixer until fluffy. Stir in the flour, sugar and salt; beat on low speed for 1 minute. Add the lavender, beating until just incorporated.
2 Transfer the dough onto a floured surface and roll to a 1⁄4" thickness. Cut out the cookies using a round cookie cutter and place 1" apart on a greased baking sheet.
3 Bake on the centre rack of a 300°F oven for 20 minutes; let cool.
4 Make the glaze by whisking the icing sugar and lemon juice together. Spoon about 1 teaspoon of the glaze over each cookie, spreading to cover the whole surface. Let set for 30 minutes to 1 hour before serving.
Makes: 36 cookies