Luxury Linen Story

If you didn’t grow up sleeping on fine linens, maybe you – like most of the rest of us – wonder what makes a bed linen “fine”? What qualifies a sheet as a “luxury linen”? Is it like the term “organic” which requires that products be grown in a particular way, as certified by some governmental authority? Is there an equivalent Sheet Czar watching carefully, pulling linens off the market when they only say they are Fine when, in reality, they are simply Everyday?

To answer these questions in reverse order, no, there is no Sheet Czar (you may actually be relieved to hear this news), nor are there clearly identified criteria that customers can use to distinguish luxury linens from the non-luxury variety. But there are some insights you can take with you when you shop for linens that will enable you to make more informed choices with your hard-earned dollars.

  1. Thread-count. Not so long ago, a shopper could utilize this one piece of information – the number of threads in one square inch of sheeting – and be fairly confident that sheets bearing the higher numbers were correspondingly higher in quality. That, gentle readers, is no longer the case. This one bit of knowledge – the near meaningless aspect of thread-count numbers today – separates the linen-enlightened from those wandering aimlessly among the sheets and pillowcases. Today, you’ll find very inexpensive, often poorly-made sheets bearing a thread-count of 1000 or higher, and you’ll find some exquisite Italian linens with a thread-count of 250. Don’t be deceived. Clearly and logically, there must be more to the story, and, sure enough, there is.
  2. Feel. The way a sheet feels to your skin is often referred to as the hand. If you like a sheet that drapes itself around you, then a sateen fabric will suit you better. If you prefer a more crisp hand, a percale will feel better to you. There are sheets for every preference; you just need to know your own distinct preferences. Realize, too, that seasonal weather can influence your choice. Many people prefer a crisp percale in warm weather months and a more silky sateen sheet in cool weather seasons.
  3. Fiber. Even after centuries, there’s a reason why cotton remains the world’s first choice for bed linens. Cotton sheeting is breathable, soft to the touch, and durable, especially when made from long-staple, Egyptian cotton.
  4. Durability. Luxury linens are made to last, using European craftsmanship honed over centuries. The techniques used to “finish” the fabrics are time- consuming and costly, but they result in fabric that is silky soft, exquisitely beautiful, and quite durable. Less well-made linens may add a chemical finish that enhances the fabric’s feel in the package but that washes out in the first laundering cycle.
  5. Origin. Bed linens originate from all over the world – France, Italy, Portugal, the US, China, India, Pakistan, to name some of the largest producers of linens. Generally speaking, linens originating in European countries enjoy a long-standing and well-earned reputation for being more finely made, more durable, and, consequently, more expensive than those made in other countries. It stands to reason that very high-quality linens would be produced in Europe, since some of the world’s finest cotton is grown there. So, luxury linens often originate in Europe or are made in the United States from fabric milled in Europe.

So, options abound for bed linen shoppers! But if you’ve determined that you particularly want to treat yourself to luxury linens, you’ll know not to value too highly the thread-count number; to look for Egyptian cotton; to select a fabric type that suits your preference; and to check the product’s country of origin. Godspeed, enlightened linen shoppers!