Whenever I’m in the market for a new set of sheets, I get a little worried. The linen section of a department store is intimidating! Racks and racks are filled with sheets, and you have to be sure to buy all the necessary parts: fitted sheet, flat sheet, shams, and dust ruffles. One thing that I’ve never really fully understood is thread count. While it’s common knowledge that a decent thread count is better and that certain brands, like Frette, are well-known sheet makers, what exactly should you look for when searching for the best pair of sheets you can afford?
According to Estee Stanley, a “higher thread count doesn't always mean a better sheet. Sheets that breathe allow for better sleep, so look for 100% linen.” The folks at Cultiver, an Australian linen company, agree. In fact, when I spoke with Cultiver, I learned that thread count is an overused promotional label. Similar to how the terms low-fat and organic are overused in the food world, thread count does not represent quality. Here’s what does, and what you should look for when sheet shopping.
- Weave: The weave of a sheet influences the way it feels, the way it looks, its longevity, and its price. Look for a percale weave; it’s a balanced weave, sort of like a basket weave, and it has a crisper or cooler feel.
- Fiber: If you can figure out what type of fiber is used to make the sheet, do so. For example, Cultiver linens are woven from the fibers of the flax plant, a crop grown in Western Europe. Pure linen is airy and soft and feels cool to touch. It has a high propensity to absorb moisture without feeling wet. This makes it a very comfortable fabric for sleeping in whether you tend to be a “hot” or “cold” sleeper.
- Location: Not all threads are created equal. France and Italy are regarded as some of the best sheet makers in the business, even though the fibers they use aren't always from those particular countries.
- Finish: Most sheets are finished with chemical processes to keep them from wrinkling or shrinking (look for terms like shrinkage control). Though it's nice not to have wrinkly sheets, try looking for pure or organic sheets, which should be chemical free.