Pretty Holly writes:
Can I ask you about sheets? I’ve read your site long enough to know you’re a fan, and probably have vast knowledge. I, on the other hand, seem to be a bit of a nincompoop. After my current sheets wore out (holes I tell you!!), I decided it was time to shop for new ones. Newly familiarized with Overstock.com from your site, that’s where I started. I found some 820(!!) thread count sheets for about $80 and thought that would be the height of luxury at a good price, so I ordered them right up and waited patiently by the door for the UPS man. Anyhoo, they came and they feel like cardboard! I am not even remotely persnickety, but they’re really non-stellar. So that leads to the big question — how does one choose sheets?? I assumed that the thread-count number was directly proportional to the goodness number. Alas, it is not so. Fortunately the Overstock was kind in taking the cardboardy sheets back, but I’m stuck now with no knowledge regarding the purchase of new sheets — now that my thread-count number equals goodness number theory has been shot I feel paralyzed by ignorance. Any ideas?
Ooooooh. There’s nothing worse than buying something expecting it to be luxurious and having it arrive and be… not. I’m sorry your sheets were like cardboard! That’s no fun.
As to whether I have ideas, well yes, of course I do. I have lots of ideas! Oh, and some of them are even about sheets.
There are two main things that determine what your sheets feel like and how well they’ll hold up.
Fabric content refers to the material which composes your sheets. Cotton, pure cotton, and nothing but cotton, will always be the softest. Solid cotton will also wrinkle, so if that matters to you, take note—you may be willing to trade off a bit of softness for sheets that pop out of the dryer all nice and smooth.
Thread count refers to the number of threads in the weave per square inch, but be careful here because this number can be deceptive. Theoretically, sheets that claim to be 820 threads per square inch should be even better than sheets with a threadcount of 410, right? (Maybe even twice as good?) But if the 410 TC sheets are woven with single-ply yarns and the 820 TC sheets are woven with multi-ply yarns, in fact the higher thread count will feel significantly lumpier, coarser, and less luxurious than the supposedly lower-thread-count ones.
So your first lesson is that when you look at thread count, you always want to look for something that says this is a single-ply weave. I suspect the sheets you sent back were a double- or even triple-ply weave. That’s usually what results in sheets that feel like burlap.
Within these parameters, Egyptian cotton is going to be superior to everything else in terms of feel, but again—just as with thread count—labels can be deceptive. Depending on the country of origin, something may be labeled as Egyptian cotton when it’s not.
So what does all of this really mean, when it comes to choosing sheets?
1) Read the labels. You always want single-ply yarns. But as for thread count, remember that even amongst single-ply, higher isn’t always better. My most luxurious sheets are a set that’s around 400 thread count. When we moved and my daughter needed new sheets for a new bed, I found a deal on a 600 thread count set so I picked them up. I like mine better than hers (mine are a bit thicker).
2) Know your baseline. Anything below 200 threads per square inch and you’re venturing into uncomfy territory. I tend not to buy below 250, but that’s really a personal preference.
3) Read the reviews. This is one of the reasons I like to buy sheets at Amazon or Overstock, where there are reviews I can read before buying. There are too many wild cards in the process to be able to pick quality based on a number or a description. The best way to get a quality set of sheets is to pick something that has a hundred reviews that all say “Wow, these are soft!” I just don’t know of a better way to put it than that.
The sheets I love, by the way, are these ones from Amazon. I bought them in white (which is no longer available) way back when they were in the Friday sale one day. As you can see, the reviews aren’t unanimous, but they are overwhelmingly good, so I took a chance. And if you poke around Amazon a bit you’ll see that the reviews on that brand of sheets vary wildly. Without the reviews I never would’ve had any idea which ones to buy.
Hopefully this will help you a bit as you venture out for the next purchase, Holly.
One last thing—those cardboardy sheets of yours? I hope you went back to Overstock and left an appropriate review. It might help the next person!