Buying quality bed linen is one of the easiest ways to add a lot of luxury to your life, but the overwhelming selection of options can make choosing the right one seem like a daunting task. Fret no more. Here’s a simple guide to help you select the best bed linens for your space.
What is bed linen?
While bed linen is used almost interchangeably to mean any type of bed sheets, linen is actually a textile made out of flax, specifically. This material is praised for being strong (30% stronger than cotton), extremely breathable (so ideal in hot weather), hypo-allergenic, and excellent at absorbing moisture.
Linen also boasts the exceptional duality of being able to retain its structure over time while actually getting softer with age (and with washes). Whereas cotton fabric will start to show signs of wear after three years – and this is if it’s cared for – linen is only warming up at this point, often lasting for up to three decades (again, when properly cared for). What’s more, flax requires less energy and water to cultivate than cotton, making it more sustainable and environmentally-friendly.
So, when we talk about linen, we are talking about real linen. The good stuff.
Does thread count matter?
Yes and no. Thread count refers to the number of threads in a square inch of fabric, both horizontally and vertically. The fibre of flax used to make linen is taken from the middle of the plant, so it’s thicker than the strands of cotton used to make sheets. A thread count as low as 80 is perfectly acceptable when it comes to linen, whereas a decent cotton thread count usually starts around 200. So yes, though higher thread counts can often mean the fabric is softer, this is not exclusively true: you must also consider the material.
Where does the best linen come from?
Since flax grows best in a cool environment, milder climates – like Belgium and France – are known for their quality linen. If you want to find the finest weaves, go with the places that have been in the trade the longest, like Italy.
What type of weave is best?
This depends on who will be using the bed. Sateen, for instance, is a weave that creates wonderfully soft sheets, and features less horizontal threads and more vertical ones. Sateen is not satin, but it will look a little like it due to it’s finished sheen. This may be a great linen for a guest bedroom, but not a bed that is used everyday since sateen is not as sturdy as a plain weave. Other types of weaves include the embellished and raised patterns found in Jacquard, as well as Damask, which features finely detailed reversible fabric. You won’t find these two often in bed linens, though you might see them in decorative linen pillows or throws.