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The Six Tests for Finding the Perfect Sheets

Sheets by author Meghan Carter

  • How to select the right fabric for your sheets.
  • Why not to trust the thread count.
  • Which type of cotton is best.
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    There once was a time when shopping for sheets was easy. All you had to do was make sure they fit. But things have gotten a bit more complicated, and by things I mean labels. If food and sheet labels were in a competition for which were more confusing, I'd probably put my money on the sheets. Unlike food, which has numerous articles dedicated to decoding the big words on the packages, sheets are a rarely discussed topic, and during my trip to luxury linen retailer Anichini I discovered why.
    There's no clear-cut measure of a quality sheet. No percentage will give you the magic answer, and neither will the fabric, even if it is the legendary Egyptian Cotton. But more shocking is that you can't even trust the thread count. That's right. Thread count can be very misleading.
    "Thread count is only one part of sheeting and originally thread count was developed really for just percale sheets," the Creative Director at Anichini, Alan Jesseman, said. "Percale is a flat weave. The thread structure is kind of like a basket weave. Like when you were in grade school and you made those little placemats out of the construction paper and you wove over-under. That's what Percale sheeting is. So, that's something where you can tell something about the quality by counting the number of threads per square inch because the pattern is very regular. It's just over and under. So, a 200 thread count percale is good, 300 to 500 is better. As long as the quality of the yarn is comparable."
    Unfortunately, not all sheets have a percale weave, which means thread count is not an accurate measure of the quality of most sheets. So then how do we determine which sheets to buy? Well, lucky for us Jesseman shared six simple tests for picking the perfect sheets, and the best part about the sheets is you don't even have to read the label.

1. The Touch Test: Get up Close and Personal with the Sheets

    Touch the sheets. Really touch them. Forget about price, thread count and name brands, and let your hands feel their way to the perfect sheet. Your body will be touching those sheets all night long, and after being wrapped in them for 8 hours - we hope - each night, you won't care who made them as long as they feel good against your skin.
    When touching the sheets, Jesseman suggests feelings them with both hands. Pull the sheets out of the package and feel an individual layer.
    "If you're looking at a pillow sham or a pillow case, put your hand inside so you touch one layer, and you might want to - because you know you're going to be resting your head against it - you might want to put it up against the skin of your face because that's your most delicate skin," Jesseman said. "Really feel how that feels when you're going to put your head on the pillow."

2. The Drape Test: Feel the Weight of the Sheets

    Once you like the way a sheet feels, it's time to test its weight. Take one layer of the sheet and let it rest in your hand. Is the sheet light or heavy?
    Lighter weight sheeting will tend to perfectly mold around your body; whereas, heavier weight sheeting will form a generic tent around your body. The type of sheeting you prefer - light or heavy - will depend on whether you like a sheet close to your body or further away.
    "I personally prefer something that has a bit of crispness to it and is fairly heavy in weight," Jesseman said. "To me that just feels more comfortable. We have some wonderful silky sateens that'll wrap around you, and to me, especially in the summer time, that's a little too much. You can get a little fidgety in bed."
    Sateens and silk sheets are typically lighter weight sheets, which will drape around your body. On the other end of the spectrum are percale sheets, which are the hard, crisp sheets that are heavier in weight.

3. The Crumple Test: Watch the Sheets Wrinkle - or Not

    While selecting sheets, we rarely think about how they'll wrinkle. Normally, we're in awe of how beautiful they look perfectly pressed and neatly folded. But they won't stay that way. When you get home, they come out of the package, and real life begins.
    So take a layer of that perfectly pressed sheet and crumple it in your hand. I know it seems wrong, but you need to know how much that type of sheet will wrinkle. So ball it up and then let go. Did the sheet wrinkle much?
    "Linen, especially when it's new, wrinkles more which can drive some people crazy," Jesseman said. "But if you have a great linen shirt that you love that you wear kind of relaxed and wrinkled, you might love linen sheets."

4. The Climate Test: Matching Fabric to Your Bedroom's Temp

    Just as we have a clothing wardrobe that changes depending on the time of year, it's a good idea to have a sheeting wardrobe that does the same because certain sheet fabrics work best in specific climates.     
    "The best sheet for warm weather would be a linen sheet or a linen and cotton blend because linen, breathes better than cotton, so it will release humidity and release heat better to keep you cool," Jesseman said. "If you live in a cold climate, or live some place where you get cold in the winter time, or you keep you bedroom very cool, no matter where you live, silk sheets or silk blend sheets could be really good because silk insulates better than the other fibers so that will keep you warmer."
    But don't think you're limited to linen and silk, you can find a great sheet in the popular cotton also.
    "With cotton you can certainly pick lighter or heavier weights for different weather," Jesseman said.
    The trick is to find sheets that are light in weight and drape closely to your hand for winter, and sheets that are stiff and heavy in weight for the summer. I know it sounds counterintuitive, but it does work.
    If you decide to go with a cotton sheet, you should consider purchasing Egyptian cotton sheets.
    "The best quality of cotton yarn is Egyptian cotton," Jesseman said. "Cotton yarn is spun from shorter pieces and the longer those short pieces are, the smoother the yarn, and Egyptian cotton has the longest pieces."

5. The Mood Test: Picking a Morning - and Evening - Friendly Color

    Many people select sheets to match their room, which is a great idea. But it's also important to consider how the color you choose affects your mood.
    "People react differently to darkness in colors," Jesseman said.
    The color sheeting you choose will influence how well you sleep and how you view the morning to which you awake. So think about how you view your sleep. Do you prefer light colors, which reflect the morning light making your room cheerful and inspiring, or do you prefer dark colors like Jesseman?
    "I like very dark colors, very deep colors, because they darken the whole room, and when you're sleeping - even if you don't have black out shades on the windows - [dark colored sheets] can make your room dark if that's what you like," Jesseman said. "If you have darker toned sheets on the bed even when you kind of open your eyes in the morning a little bit instead of having a bright white in your face there's a darker color. So, it's easier to sleep and you know frankly I thing sleeping is just the best thing in the world."
    Before purchasing sheeting, think about your sleeping patterns. If you like sleeping in a dark room, dark colored sheets may be your best bet. But if you need inspiration in the morning to get out of bed, then light colored sheets might be just the thing for you.

6. The Flattering Test: How Hot You Look Between those Sheets

    Jesseman's last test is the one most people forget to even think about, and well, to some it might be the most important factor of them all: How do you look in your sheets? We don't buy clothes if they don't look good on us, and we shouldn't buy unflattering sheets either.
    "Because, you know, it's not just for sleeping, we do other things in bed," Jesseman said.
So drape the sheets across your skin. Pick a color you like and feel comfortable with.
    "You want [your sheet color] to highlight your eye color and your hair color," Jesseman said. "You want to look good in the bed. Just like clothes it needs to be colors that make you feel good."

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