A bedroom should be a place of retreat, rest and relaxation, and the starting point to a beautiful bedroom is beautiful-quality bed linen.
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What makes our bed linen special?
After many years in the linen business we've tried and tested almost every type of bed linen and decided on our favourite qualities, each one offering a slightly different look and feel.
The starting point for great quality bed linen is that it must be made from the best quality yarn. I can't emphasize enough how important this is. On the high street today, there are fabulous quality, 200-thread-count bed linens (like those you find at The White Company!), made from the best yarns, that feel fantastic, and launder and wear really well. Then there are 200-thread-count bed linens that don't feel nearly as good and don't wear as well because they're made from poorer quality yarns.
Craftsmanship and finishing are also very important to how a bed linen looks and feels. It's crucial to buy special finishes and decorative trims from the right parts of the world as different places have different expertise. Hand drawn thread-work is done beautifully in some countries and not at all well in others. The same applies to damask and jacquard fabrics. Egyptian cotton may be grown in Egypt, but to create the finest quality bed linen it tends to be finished and stitched in Italy.
Four key buying considerations
The quality of the raw cotton and the fineness of the yarn (thread) it produces.
The way the threads are woven on the loom (the weave).
The number of threads there are per square inch of fabric (the thread count).
Any special features such as hemstitching, cording or embroidery.
A thread count is the number of threads in a square inch of fabric i.e. how many warp (lengthwise) and weft (widthwise) threads there are, and it tells you how closely woven the fabric is. Don't be deceived into thinking that the higher the thread count, the better the sheet, as different types of bed linen require different thread counts to produce the desired finished product. Consider too, that cotton bed linen with a very high thread count will not only be extremely expensive, it will also be so fine and silky that it won't launder well or last as long as linen with a lower thread count and lower price.
Linen will always have a lower thread count than cotton, however it is still considered to be one of the most luxurious fabrics to sleep in. Loved for its coolness and breathability, once you've discovered the joy and comfort of sleeping in pure linen, nothing else is quite the same.
Yarn & Ply
Yarn 'size' refers to the thickness of the yarns that make the fabric. A higher yarn 'size' means that it is a finer yarn. The finer the yarn is the more of them that will fit into a square inch.
The term Ply refers to the number of individual yarns used as a strand. Single ply fabric is woven from one, individual strand of yarn; 2-ply fabric is made from two yarns that have been twisted together and then woven. If a 2-ply yarn is used, the finished construction will have twice the thread count of the same construction made from single ply yarn. A 2-ply yarn must be made from a very high yarn size (100+) or they can feel thick and heavy.
As you can see the thread count isn't the only contributor to a good quality bed linen. The softness depends on the overall quality of yarn. For example a 200-thread-count fine cotton sheet can have a softer feel (or handle) than a 400 thread-count sheet which is made from a poorer quality cotton.
Pure cotton is the most widely used fibre for bed linen. Durable, easy to launder and long-lasting, it is renowned for its natural breathability and cool feeling, which makes it very comfortable to sleep in. Long staple cotton is used to create a yarn fine enough to produce smooth, strong and soft cotton bed linen. Short staple cotton produces a coarser yarn used to make rougher, more robust fabrics and therefore poorer quality bed linen.
This 'super cotton' plant is a cleverly cultivated blend of premium cotton varieties. Its growing season is 60-100 days longer than other cottons; producing a staple fibre that is 25% longer, for yarn 30% finer; resulting in a fabric that feels exquisitely soft like silk (and improves even further with time) and yet it is incredibly strong too.
Whether Egyptian Cotton or not, percale is made from high-quality combed cotton. The 'combing' removes the rougher, shorter, poor-quality fibres (called staples) to produce this fine, luxuriously smooth thread. To be classified as a percale, the thread count must be a minimum of 180.
For many years Egypt has been renowned for growing cotton that has a slightly longer-than-normal staple, thus Egyptian cotton is regarded to be one of the very finest. However, many other countries now grow long staple cotton that also produces wonderful quality bed linen.
In a modern life, easy-care bed linen is essential, but beware of poor quality easy-care that will soon bobble, and any easy-care finishes that will wash out. Our high quality 60% cotton 40% polyester percale feels very soft (thanks to the higher cotton content) and smooth, launders easily and needs little or no ironing. Our luxurious cotton/poly percale is superior to most you find on the market.
Widely regarded as one of the most beautiful fabrics to sleep under, linen is loved for its blissful comfort and breathability. Its loose, open weave means that as well as draping gorgeously over your body, it traps air to keep you cool in summer, yet cosy in winter. Made from the Flax plant, linen is the strongest of the vegetable fibres and has 2 to 3 times the strength of cotton. When new it can feel slightly stiff and rough (unless pre-washed) and have a 'slubby' look. With laundering and age this softens to a lovely light sheen and gorgeous feel (called 'handle'). As for wrinkles, they are all part of its charm!
Percale is made from a high quality combed cotton and has 180 threads or more per square inch. Combing removes the rougher, shorter, poor quality staples to produce a fine, luxuriously smooth thread. Percale is also called a plain weave, where one thread is woven over, and one under giving strength and a smooth, matte, crisp look and feel.
Jacquards are woven on special jacquard looms which give a matte/sateen self-pattern in the fabric - typically a stripe, check or floral. The weave is multidimensional as it has both raised and flat parts which is what makes up the sateen (raised) and matte (flat) finish. Jacquards should be 300 threads or more per square inch.
This special weave has a subtle texture and characteristic diagonal lines, and a lovely light sheen. More open than a plain weave, a twill weave fabric is more pliable so drapes beautifully and feels very soft against your skin. Though lighter weight, it is just as durable as plain weave percale and recovers better from wrinkles and so it is therefore easier to iron.
The word Seersucker comes from the Persian words "shir o shekar" meaning "milk and sugar" - the smooth stripe resembling milk, the crinkly texture resembling sugar. This characteristic, puckered look is achieved by using a slack-tension weave, where some groups of yarn are bunched together while others are left flat.
Sateen should not be confused with Satin. It is most commonly woven with four threads over and one under, and at an angle which places more threads on the surface of the face of the cloth giving the fabric a soft sheen, and making it luxuriously smooth against your skin. Sateen is less hardwearing than percale, but is very special to sleep in. Sateens should be 300 threads or more per square inch.
Our Oxford weaves are just like the fabric used for men's high quality shirting. It is a textured fabric made from luxuriously fine, soft cotton yarns that have been doubled in the warp for every soft, thicker yarn in the weft, and then woven into a special weave a little like basket weave. Oxford weaves are normally lower in thread count at 150 thread per square inch.
As the name suggests, this weave creates a fabric with a textural pattern of recessed squares that resembles a breakfast waffle. We combine textural waffle fabric with smooth cotton percale (on the duvet cover reverse, flat sheet body and pillowcase body) so that it is still very comfy next to your skin.
Hand-Drawn thread work or "Jour work" is done totally by hand. One at a time, particular threads are drawn out from the fabric leaving other threads exposed. These exposed threads are then either caught together in groups to create work like hemstitch or ladderstitch; or wrapped to create the most beautifully elaborate lace-effect designs.
There are many different types of embroidery on the market however we tend to predominantly use hand embroidery. As the name states, it is done entirely by hand with a needle, thread and thimble. It produces a much more delicate and individual design although it is a much lengthier process. We also like to mix in a little texture by using techniques such as shadow stitching (where the fabric is embroidered on its underside to create a shadowed appliquéd appearance), French knots (to add depth), and hand-drawn thread work (to give definition and create a frame).
Cording is a version of embroidery, where a technician will hand-guide the sewing machine to create an embroidered line along the seam. Classic, contemporary and versatile, it can be combined with many other types of designs. Our Single Row Cord is still one of our best selling ranges.
Hand-Guided Machine Embroidery
First, a stencil is created. Then, using rollers, temporary stencil dye is applied to the fabric through the template. When the dye is dry, a technician will guide the sewing machine to follow/fill the space in the pattern. Although the machine is doing the actual embroidery, it will still have a handcrafted, individual look because it is being guided by hand.
The design element of a jacquard is all in the weave and this fabric is a self-patterned fabric - typically a stripe, check or floral. It can be a single colour or a multitude of colours to add to the design and overall effect.
The design of the print is created on a screen or a roller by computer and then laid/rolled on top of the plain fabric which had not yet been cut. A screen/roller will be needed for each colour used in the design. The printed fabric is then processed and fixed so that the design stays in place. You can tell a print design as it will only appear on one side of the fabric, and you will only see a 'shadow' of the design on the reverse.
This is when fabric - whether plain weave, sateen or jacquard - is woven first then dyed later.
This is when the yarns are dyed prior to weaving and then used in both the warp and weft to create stripes, checks and jacquard designs.
Very simply, pieces of fabric or material are attached to the item by machine or hand, from something as simple as a contrasting colour on the edge of a pillowcase, to the more detailed designs that we use on our Little White Bed Linen which are often embellished with embroidery too.
A Housewife pillowcase is an edge to edge pillowcase which fits to the contours of your pillow, often the one that is slept on and the most popular style for children. An Oxford pillowcase has an additional border over the seamed edge which can make the pillowcase look deceptively large, if in doubt hold over the pillow. What you choose is simply down to preference, however we do suggest that when layering pillows to use a plain co-ordinating Housewife underneath.
Bottom Sheets (Fitted and flat sheets)
Fitted sheets work best as their elasticised corners keep the sheet secure and stop it coming untucked as you move around in your sleep. They are available in sizes from cot to emperor. Before you buy, check that they have a deep enough sides to fit your mattress and topper - we offer two depths in selected ranges. If your bed is non-standard or antique with a very deep mattress, choose a simple hemmed flat sheet and use the tailored corner folding technique for securing the corners.
Top Sheets (Flat sheets)
Using a top sheet is essential if you make a bed with blankets. It can also be a good idea to use one with a duvet too as it will give the bed a beautifully-tailored finish. When you're making the bed, make sure that the right side of the sheet is facing down against the mattress so that when you turn it back to create a cuff at the top, any embroidery or detailing will be on show. The bottom of the sheet can be finished neatly with tailored corners.
As the name suggests, this is what is used over your duvet. They mainly come in two styles, a "bag" or "standard", which is an edge to edge seamed cover, or an "Oxford", which has an additional border to the duvet cover, similar to pillow cases.
Many divan bases do not necessarily match the decor of a bedroom, unless like our beds they have a matching headboard. Therefore using a valance over the base covers these whilst still allowing access to storage and giving the finishing touch to your bed.
Always make sure that your pillowcase cases match you top sheet. You can use a different style of duvet cover as long as it co-ordinates well.
Sorry. Now it's time for the not so glamorous but absolutely crucial bit: how to keep your bed and bedroom clean and hygienic. The average adult perspires up to one pint of moisture every night and sheds tiny flakes of skin that attract the microscopic dust mite. It is a horrible thought but the dust mite, which is shorter than the width of a strand of hair and invisible to the eye, secures itself to the fibres of our bedding and secretes guanine - a substance containing saliva and excrement. It is this microscopic dust that can cause health problems such as asthma, bronchitis and eczema, particularly in those prone to allergies. But the good news is that dust mites can be controlled by following a simple and effective cleaning regime. Read on...
Protect all mattresses
Use mattress protectors. Remove once a month and launder at 60 degrees, and vacuum the mattress on a low suction using the crevice tool to remove the dust. Don't forget to vacuum thoroughly under the bed and under any storage boxes too. Why not buy spare protectors so that you can re-make the bed straight away without having to wait for the washing machine to finish?
Protect all pillows
Use pillow protectors underneath your pillowcases. Remove these once a month and launder at 60 degrees. Why not buy spare protectors so that you can re-make the bed straight away without having to wait for the washing machine to finish?
Keep the headboard clean
Vacuum fabric headboards once a month using the upholstery tool, and remove any marks with a specialist upholstery cleaner. Wooden and metal headboards should be dusted and polished.
Duvets, pillows and toppers should be aired regularly (hung outside if possible) and be cleaned at least every six months. Some can be washed at home and some require professional laundering. Always check manufacturers guidelines first. Many domestic machines are only big enough for a single duvet, so anything larger may need to be professionally cleaned, or washed at a launderette.
Care of bed linen
Wash bed linen once a week (twice in hot weather). Generally pure cotton, linen and cotton-poly wash well at 40 degrees (this kills dust mites and removes their residues). However many detergents are really advanced now, which means if you wash at 30 degrees you can save energy. Please check care instructions carefully before laundering.
Keep your whites white
To help keep your whites brilliant white use a 'White' washing powder with brightening agents. Remember never use it on bed linen with any colour though; use special Colour powder that doesn't contain these brightening (bleaching) agents.
Fold bed linen into a manageable size for your ironing board and iron right side out. It's really worth investing in a wide ironing board and also a good quality steam iron. I have one with a large removable water tank (avoid pressurised irons though, as you can wait up to 20 minutes for the pressure to reduce before you can re-fill). I also have a fantastic Miele rotary iron, it's a domestic size version of an industrial one. It was expensive, but a great investment as it substantially reduces ironing time. Finally, scented linen waters are lovely to use as a finial spritz but use them in a hand spray rather than in your iron.
Make sure your linen is completely dry before putting it away. Store it in a clean, dust-free place on a flat surface and away from direct sunlight which can bleach and mark it. A linen cupboard is ideal but there are countless other places to store your bed linen: in divan drawers; under the bed base; in an ottoman perhaps, at the end of the bed; in a lined bottom drawer. If you are using an airing cupboard, make sure you line the shelves with non-marking paper to prevent the wooden slats making indents and creases on the linen.
Make sure your linen is easy to identify, especially if you have different sizes of bed in your home. Create separate piles of linen for each bedroom and store on labelled shelves; choose a different style of bed linen for each bed or think of alternative ways to identify each set (by using coloured ribbons as ties, for example, or by storing each washed set in a different pillowcase).
You can also keep your bed linen on hangers, but make sure they are wooden and put the fitted sheet on first to reduce creases in your duvet cover or sheets.
Scenting your linen
There is nothing more lovely than lavender-scented linen. To achieve this, store your sheets and duvet covers with lavender-scented sachets and spritz with linen spray or pillow mist. Do the latter shortly before the bed is used. This will also freshen the bedroom and make it smell wonderful.
Our children's bed linen is all made from 200-thread-count pure cotton percale so it feels soft, crisp and smooth against their skin.
From our gorgeously appliquéd and embroidered designs to our cheerful, woven Gingham checks and our essential plain white range, it's all fantastic quality, and wears and washes beautifully. In fact it's well worth getting a spare set so there's always some ready and waiting in the airing cupboard.
A great alternative to a top sheet and blankets, our baby sleeping bags are specially designed to keep babies warm and snug, ensuring a good night's sleep. With no covers to kick off, even the most wriggly baby will stay cosy all night, and no covers means there's no longer any worry of baby slipping beneath them.
Available in two tog rating, choose 1 tog for warm weather, 2.5 tog for cold weather.
We also offer beautiful baby bedding to take baby from cot to first bed (0-5 years).