It should be simple, right? You need a couple sheets and pillowcases for your bed. But buying bed linens can leave you not only shell-shocked by the prices but also totally confused by the choices. For instance, do you need deep pockets in a fitted sheet? What about shams? Here’s a list of basic need-to-knows before you buy.
Pima – is an ELS cotton (fibers 1 3/8˝ or longer), grown mainly in the U.S. as well as in Australia and Peru. The fibers of American Upland cotton that make up 90% of cotton grown are too short for quality bed linens.
Supima – is a trademark for products made of 100% American Pima cotton.
Egyptian Cotton – is ELS cotton from Egypt, with delicate and long fibers measuring over 2 1/4˝, more than twice as long as Pima. Most of the country’s finest and longest ELS cotton is sold domestically and about 15% exported (www.us-mattress.com/absupcot.html). One store sells standard pillowcases, woven in Italy and obviously made of the finest Egyptian cotton for $150 each.
Percale – has to do with the tight weave. The thread count minimum is 180. The fabric can be cotton or a blend of cotton and polyester. Synthetics are not as soft as natural fabrics and tend to “pill” over time.
Sateen – relates to the satin weave that produces a smooth, silky feel.
Linen – comes from flax and feels lighter and more textured than cotton, although both are breathable, absorbent and durable fabrics that soften with use.
Organic – means the fabric is made from natural products such as bamboo and modal, grown without pesticides.
Only very thin silky threads can produce a higher thread count-that is the number of threads per square inch. European linens usually exceed the highest count in the U.S. (310). Weaving is important too and you can expect exceptional craftsmanship from Italy that also ups the price.
Watch for “double-ply” on a label because you can be deceived by the thread count when the yarn size is doubled. For instance, a 2-ply thread could be labeled as 500 thread count rather than the actual 250. In testing, some thread count claims have also been found to be misleading.
If you have a plush pillow top and mattress depth measures between 13 and 15 inches, you need a sheet with deep pockets that can stretch up to 18 inches. Otherwise, corners are hard to tuck under and will “ride up.”
King vs California King
A California King mattress is slightly narrower and longer than a standard King size.
Shams cost considerably more than pillowcases and come in two shapes. Standard shams fit standard pillows. The Euro sham fits a large square pillow.
A duvet covers your quilt (pronounced doo-vays if you don’t understand French). Check fabric type, thread count and finish if you want softness against your skin when you sleep.
Do feel bed linens before you buy and trust in your touch. Experts also recommend washing to remove the sizing before use.