Karl Lohnes with some bedding and towel basics
Karl Lohnes, Canada AM home and decor expert
Published Thursday, February 24, 2011 9:01AM EST
White Sale: The basics on bedding and towels
Head off to any large home retailer or department store and chances are you will encounter a White Sale at most stores. A White Sale is a sale of products for the home, concentrating on bed linens and towels but often include bath and laundry accessories. The White Sale was started in the late 1800's when department stores held discounted sales of white-only bedding during January-February-March; a time of the year when homeowners weren't purchasing these items. It offered great pricing to homeowners and helped to keep the fabric mills and factories in business year round.
Discounts usually run from 10-25 per cent off items that are common, year round stock. You are guaranteed that those items will stay in stock throughout the year; great if you want to add more to your linen, bedding and towel collection.
You will also find White Sale products with discounts from 40-70 per cent off clearance items. Items in clearance are most likely display samples or pieces from a broken set of bedding and are a great way to mix and match sheet sets, duvet covers, bed skirts and odds/ends towels. Most items in clearance are no longer available as regular stock.
Bed linens come in all cotton and a blend of synthetic/cotton. All cotton bedding is the most popular for everyday home use; it breathes nicely to keep us warm when layered in winter, but helps to also keep us cooler in the summer. All cotton sheets start at a 180 thread count (that's the number of weaves per square inch) and can go up to 1,500 thread count. The higher the thread count the tighter the weave and heavier the sheet will be. A heavy thread count also means more wrinkling from the drier and usually requires a quick wipe of the iron to make them look luxuriously smooth. The best type of cotton is considered Turkish or Egyptian. Hot days and cold nights make for hearty cotton growing and the threads are often much longer and stronger; creating a strong and long lasting bed sheet.
What makes cotton bedding ‘pill' or ‘ball-up'?
Inexpensive bedding will ‘pill' quicker than a higher quality. The short cotton threads (that make up the yarn) loosen from the weave and curl up creating little balls of cotton. We often see this happen to clothing as well.
Bedding with a synthetic mix is popular for kids rooms, cottage, camping and in special care homes. It usually is a mix of 40-60 per cent cotton and then a blend of polyester or some other synthetic fiber. These sheets are the least expensive and considered more durable (less staining and wear) than an all cotton sheet. Bedding with synthetic fibers usually require no ironing and are great for darker colours as the die does not fade as quickly from the synthetic fibers.
Cotton Sateen: A weaving of the cotton that allows most of the cotton's thread to sit on the top of the surface creating a tight, shiny surface that looks like satiny. The sheets weight more and don't breathe as much as regular weave cotton sheets; usually more comfortable for colder months.
Flannel Cotton: Once considered a cheaper quality of bedding, flannel sheets have come a long way to create a cozy, warm feeling in bedding. Made of short fibers and all cotton, flannel is a casual and cozy style most suited for winter use. Usually priced on the lower end of the scale.
Pima Cotton: Pima cotton implies a longer, thicker strand of cotton that are twisted into threads that are then woven into fabric for bed sheets. The longer staple of cotton makes for a stronger and more luxurious cotton product that rarely ‘pills' due to fewer short strands of cotton.
Machine wash before use, without fabric softeners. Dry on low heat in dryer. Remove from dryer while barely damp; iron crisp and smooth.
How can we tell which sheets have good or bad thread count?
Good would be a high thread count (300-600) and check for the type of cotton being used. Flannel, Cotton, Pima and Egyptian are all rated from good to best.
Most towels are made of cotton; some have a synthetic mix which do not make them as absorbent as all cotton towels. There are special towels for drying hair; they are all synthetic; its not what they are made of but the special weave of the threads that helps lock water and take away from the hair.
There are three main styles of cotton towels; VELOUR/CUT, LOOPED and WAFFLE.
Velour cut is the least absorbent, often used for beach towels or where you want bright colours to show up. Often the underside of a velour towel is looped so that it can offer some absorbency.
A looped towel is the most popular and useful. The cotton loops help to absorb and lock in the water. Looped cotton towels tend to show age the quickest.
Waffle weave towels are usually seen in dish-drying style towels but can be found in a large waffle weave as bath towels too. They are often made of a linen/cotton blend and are very durable. Not so soft and fuzzy, they are long lasting and very textural. Waffle weave towels are often seen in Euro-style spas and are not available in every store's linen department.
Towels, colours and patterns:
A good towel that has a print or pattern will have it woven into the design, not bonded on one side of the towel. Beach towels tend to have the patterns bonded; usually on the velour side of the towel.
Machine wash before use; without fabric softener. Fluff for 5 minutes, then let air dry. Fluff in dryer for 5 minutes at the end to soften. This will ensure that the heat of the drier does not wear down the cotton fibers.
What can you do about the puckering that happens to the ends of the towels?
Puckering happens when there is a foreign fiber blended with the cotton; it shrinks at a different pace and create an uneven edge or puckering. If buying a towel with embroidery make sure that it is made of the same material (often embroidery materials and treads are made of synthetic fibers which are different from the cotton towels.
If you have a decorating question that you would like Karl to answer, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For great decorating tips you can now follow Karl on Twitter @karllohnesCTV