Your Guide to Luxury Linens
By Cindy McNatt / The Orange County Register
There are exotic vacations, fancy cars and Louboutin shoes. But those are fairly brief in terms of how much pleasure they give us. But since we spend up to a third of our life in bed, does it make sense to skimp on this very important part of our day?
Linen vs. Linens
Since linen has been used since 5000 B.C. and was the first fabric constructed, "linens" is the term used for bedding; all cloth was made of linen until cotton became king in the late 1600s. The term linens is also used for napkins, tablecloths and other household items, especially if they are of fine linen damask. Linen is cycling back as the fabric of choice for heirloom-quality household linens.
Bed linens are the complement to the perfect mattress. Sheets are the cocoons that keep us warm and cool. Linens are the luxury we rest our face on and the smoothness that covers our shoulders. There are ways to layer the lusciousness so going to bed is the most comfortable it can be. Design is fine, but textiles rule when it comes to bedding. Natural fibers are the most luxurious of all and the ingredients are few: flax plants, cotton, goose down and goats. All add up to a recipe for a delightful sleep.
Pure linen softens with use. It's not the hot water in a wash that softens linen, but the agitation of the washing machine and dryer. The more you handle linen fabric, the softer it feels.
Linen is wrinkled, but that is part of its charm. One way to reduce wrinkles and ensure longevity is to remove your sheets from the dryer while they are still slightly damp, then hang to finish drying.
Molly English at Camps and Cottages in Laguna Beach carries the vintage-washed Bella Notte brand, a lightweight and supersoft linen line. At $95 a pillowcase, you can appreciate that linen bedding is an investment.
Percale is a weave that is usually one under and one over. Sateen is more luxurious, with three to five under and one over, giving it a smoother hand. Premium cotton sheets won't last for hundreds of years as linen does, but they will easily last your lifetime and can be handed down. Cotton also gets softer with use. One set is all you need, so be sure to put them in your will.
Buying the thickest comforter doesn't work for everyone. "Fill power is what you want to shop for," Pierre-Louis said. "It describes the fluffiness of the comforter – or the space that equates to warmth." A comforter that traps more air will be warmer than, say, a comforter with more feathers. The quality of feathers matters, she said. Warm Things uses goose down, which it says lasts longer than duck feathers. Thread count on the comforter doesn't matter over 300. "It's overkill," Pierre-Louis said. Look for baffled-box construction that disperses the feathers evenly and prevents shifting.
And lastly, don't launder too frequently."We recommend professional laundering," Pierre-Louis said. "Not dry cleaning. Commercial washing machines and large cool-air dryers provide the best result." There is a small but growing trend in the U.S. to order two twin-size comforters, as the Europeans do, instead of a single king-size comforter for couples.
The cost of cashmere happens because of its rarity, as it comes from the soft hair from the underbelly of Mongolian goats. White goats are considered premium over gray or brown. European-made cashmere products cost more than Chinese cashmere. More care is taken with the handling process and the quality of the weaving. But all price points are soft and warm. Some softer than others.