Tuesday, September 16, 2014


I am not saying that I am the last word on linens, but I do know sheets.  And it gets me so riled when people prattle on about the high thread count (sometimes reaching a thousand!!!) of the sheets they have found—usually on the web.

Thread count is a factor in sheets silkiness—but only a partial one.  The important detail is that the cotton be what is known as Egyptian cotton—usually grown in Italy.  For the most part, America does not grow Egyptian cotton, although it does have small outputs of its cousin, Pima cotton.  Not much, though.  We seem to have thrown away our fine cotton growing.  So what differentiates Egyptian cotton from regular cotton—the length of its filament making up the thread.  Egyptian cotton, with its extra long filament (over 1 ½” each) spins into a finer thread which can then be woven into a soft silky fabric.  At that time, thread count becomes important—obviously, a thread count of 450 Egyptian threads will be less smooth and silky that one of 750 Egyptian threads, because getting those threads closer together (which happens when there are more of them) makes a smoother and stronger material—but notice, those are both Egyptian.  Most of the thread-count sheets of 1000 or so are of Chinese cotton, which is very short staple, and as such, will “pill” (get tiny pills of the shorter filaments breaking away from the main thread and wadding up) and thus become both weaker and less smooth.

"Meandres" bed linens from Noël of Paris - their smooth Egyptian
cotton makes, as well as a wonderful night's sleep, a perfect
fabric on which to embroider, as the closeness of the threads
keeps the needle holes from forming.

The bed linens from Noël (shown above) or Lin de Château are both made in Paris and are the ultimate in luxury, but you can find wonderful Egyptian cotton bed linens at a lower budget range from many Italian companies such as Baroni or Ricamart.

"Lerici" by Ricamart

or even American companies—although the goods will be from Italy—such as Matouk or Sferra.

"Sweet William" by Sferra Bros.

"Providence" bed linens by Matouk

Pima cotton, which used to be produced in great quantities in the United States, before our companies decided to do everything overseas, is still produced, although only those items with the label “su-pima” can be guaranteed to be all pima cotton.  It is used now more for a lower end of the luxury trade, and its thread count is usually around 200.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with it—it is still an extra long staple cotton, but to compare it to the luxury linens coming out of Portugal, Italy, or France is definitely to compare apples with oranges. 

It makes me sad to think that when I was first married—back in the dawn of time in 1961—young brides made trousseaus of Wamsutta Supercale with scalloped borders at the sheet and pillowcase hemlines, and if we were very flush, monograms to match the borders.  Ah, well, c’est la vie, and it passes, and far too quickly.

"Geranium" by Noël of Paris


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