How to Select Fine Bed Linens

Linens in your home can say a lot about you. When selecting bed linens, every characteristic of the product affects the quality and value. You cannot simply rely on the price to denote quality. Now, the smart shopper arrives at a choice by analyzing the product's attributes and deciding how these mesh with her or his needs. Some important things to consider when choosing fine linens are fiber content, thread count, fabric finish. Thread Count

Thread count is probably the most advertised attribute for bed linens, yet it is not a very accurate indicator of true quality. Thread count is simply the number of yarns in a square inch of fabric. In prior years when thread counts used to range no higher than 350, the higher the thread count, the lighter, more supple, and durable the fabric.

Through technological advancements in weaving, thread counts can now range to over 1200. Therefore, the rule of thumb that more is better no longer holds true. To reach thread counts of more than 400, fabrics are woven with multi-plied yarns or multi-yarn insertions. In weaving, the simplest type of weave is a plain weave in which each single yarn alternately cross over and under another. When using plied yarns in a plain weave, two or more yarns are twisted together to make one single yarn, which is then woven horizontally over and under a vertical yarn. Multiple yarn insertions are produced with multiple single yarns, aligned horizontally side by side, and woven at the same time over and under one vertical yarn.

Fabrics made with multiple ply yarns will be heavier than those made with single yarns. Fabrics made with multiple yarn insertions will be lighter than fabrics made with multi-ply, but too many inserted yarns can result in a less durable fabric. The most durable fabrics are those made with single ply construction, which also results in a lighter and softer bed linen.

Knowing the quality of the cotton fibers is often more important than just the thread count. When considering flannel sheets, the weight of the fabric and quality of the cotton is more important than the thread count.

Fiber Content

Bedding can be made from natural or manmade fibers, or a blend of both. The content that is best for you depends on what you are looking for in a bedding product. Consider the following:

Natural Fibers, such as cotton, silk, flax, or wool have inherent irregularities and subtleties which contribute to the natural beauty of bedding. Their primary advantage of absorbency and porosity makes natural fiber bed linens responsive to changes in temperature and humidity, thus ensuring comfort in every sleeping environment. Natural fiber fabrics tend to wrinkle after washing so they should be removed promptly from the washer and dryer.

Artificial Fibers, such as viscose and rayon are manmade from natural raw materials derived from cellulose or plant protein. Tencel, Modal, and rayon made from bamboo are some of today's most recognizable fabrics made from artificial fibers. Bed linens made from artificial fibers often have many of the same qualities of natural fiber linens and are generally more durable.

Fabric Finish

When selecting bedding, take into consideration if any special fabric finishes have been utilized. The three most commonly used functional finishes are mercerizing, shrinkage control, and wrinkle resistance.

Mercerizing improves the shape of the individual cotton fibers, by adding strength, luster, and an increased affinity for dyes.

Shrinkage control keeps the bedding fabric from shrinking no more than 1% to 2%. An example of shrinkage control is when a fabric is Sanforized. These types of finishes make a product more durable but may make the bedding less cool and comfortable.

Wrinkle resistance is applied to some cotton fabrics used in bedding so they require little or no ironing after washing. Some of these treatments can reduce the product's absorbency and porosity.