How would you like your bed linen to feel?

How your bed linen feels against your skin is usually the most important factor for choosing your bed linen. Some people know that they prefer the starched crisp cotton finish, or the unique feel of 100% Linen. We are all different, and thank goodness for that, it means we get to offer many different fabrics to make you all happy. Here we explain the differences between our four finishes...

Sateen Smooth

Sateen fabrics are usually made of 100% Cotton (All ours are). The weaving technique for a sateen finish, will leave you with a fabric that has additional sheen on one side. Sateen feels silky and softer than percale. It also has a floatier drape than percale. Sateen feels silky against your skin and is a real pleasure to sleep in. Most of our statement patterned bed linens have a sateen finish, and our luxury 600 thread count range too. Cotton sateen is low maintenance when it comes to ironing. Dry flat as much as possible and you'll need very little...if any. View all our Cotton Sateen Bed Linens.

Crisp & Cool 

If you like crisp white sheets, then "percale" is the one for you. Percale is the name for a crisp fabric where the yarns are very tightly woven together in a straight weave. Percales can be made of varying yarns, but we only use cotton. For a fabric to be named a percale, it must have a 180 thread count or higher (Threads per square inch of fabric). We have 200tc and 400tc percales, both in lovely crisp white. View all our Cotton Percale Bed Linen Collections.

Laundered soft

Harriet's favourite is our laundered bedding. We do this in both plain and patterned designs, and it's the softest finish we do. Once the pieces are made, they are washed, and sometimes combed to soften the fibres. This makes for the dreamiest finish, that just gets better with each wash. Our Relaxed Denim, and Coastal Stripe ranges have both been combed to release the cotton fibres from the surface of the fabric for extra softness. This laundered, realxed finish is perfect for lazy lie ins and lounging on your bed. In our opinion, it doesn't need ironing and looks even better with some crinkles. View all our laundered soft bed linens here.

100% Linen

Linen has very different qualities from cotton, and we could waffle on about it for hours. It is more expensive than cotton for 2 reasons...

  1. Cotton is far more widely produced, making it less expense
  2. Linen is also more labour intensive in spinning and weaving which adds the pennies too.

Linen is notoriously more prone to creasing, for example a linen shirt will crease more easily than a cotton shirt. However, this is part of the linen’s charm, it is a more crumpled relaxed look and we have spent many months perfecting our finish on our 100% linen collection to make its crumpled, soft and inviting.

Our linen has a vintage laundered finish. The Flax that we use to make our linen is grown in France, it is finished and dyed in Portugal with the rest of our bedlinen. One main difference is that our linen is piece dyed, this means that the items are made and hemmed before they are dyed and tumbled. This gives each piece an individual relaxed look and a heavenly feel. Dying in this way also creates a very slight irregularity in the colour, especially around the edges. This all adds to its charm and makes each piece look and feel like it’s been a favourite for years.

Linen also has different warmth properties to cotton, it is super absorbent and due to its chunkier fibres, it can’t be woven as tightly as cotton. This allows air to pass through the fabric keeping you cooler in warm weather and trapping heat to keep you warmer in the winter months. How clever!

The thread count of linen bedding is not important, it would be low compared to our cotton products because linen yarns are much thicker than cotton, so you can’t squeeze many into a square inch as you can with cotton. Linen bedding is special, it’s not for those that like a crisp and perfectly ironed bed, it’s made for a relaxed bedroom, no ironing needed and a long life. Looked after it will only get better with time.

If you haven’t tried 100% linen before, give a pillowcase a go and see what you think. It’s like nothing else and we're all queuing up to get some on our own beds.

What does thread count mean?

Sometimes it feels like thread count was just invented to baffle people into buying textiles. Over the years, we have been bombarded with a minefield of information, and everyone seems to have a differing opinion on the truth about thread counts. In fact, the most important factor for bed linen is the quality of the yarns, not the thread count itself. The finer the yarn, and the longer the fibres, the better the quality. We only use long staple yarns (of which Egyptian cotton is most recognised), but actually any long staple cotton yarns will feel amazing. 

So what is a thread count?

Before we can explain this, we need to understand how the fabric is woven. There are two types of yarn needed to weave fabric, the warp and the weft. The warp is the vertical yarn, threaded onto the loom. It takes a whole day to do this at the factory, and if you could see it, you’d understand why. A lot of it is done by hand, and it is a work of art. The weft is the yarn woven through the warp from right to left. When we are weaving, we tend to use a different colour for the warp and weft to show off our designs.

So now we know about warps and wefts, the thread count is simply the number of threads (warp and weft) in a square inch of fabric.

What is the best thread count for bed linen?

This is where it becomes trickier. See it would be simple if all yarns were created equal and therefore, the higher the count, the denser and more durable the fabric, and therefore the higher the quality. This is true in some sense, however, over the years, retailers have cottoned on (get it) to the fact that people expect higher thread counts to be the best, and have started to cheat by using lower quality, thinner yarns and twisting them together to state a higher thread count. A true thread count cannot be achieved over 600 threads per square inch, unless extremely fine thread counts are used or twisted.

So the best thread count, we believe to be between 200 and 600. With long staple (the longer the yarn, the better the quality), 100% cotton yarns, you can achieve a fabulous quality and feel at this level. Anything below 200 will not last as well, and will be thinner.

What thread count is best for sheets?

When it comes to sheets, we would say that the higher you can afford to go, up to a 600 thread count is the best option. Your sheets will have more wear and tear than your duvet cover, and the stronger the fabric, the longer it will last.

If you have any specific questions relating to thread counts, you can drop Molly a line at molly@secretlinenstore. As a Textile Designer, she has a wealth of experience, and could talk about it for hours. Really, she can…Zzzzz.

Different types of weaving...

Percale:

Percale is a straight weave, which means going over and under the weft, one yarn at a time. It makes for a tightly woven fabric and is usually plain. We have a crisp finish or a laundered finish for our percales. We have the thread count must be over 180 to be classified as a percale.

Jacquard:

Jacquard weaving was invented by Joseph Marie Jacquard in the 18th century (thank you Joseph!). The Jacquard attachment fits onto the loom, and allows the warp threads to be picked up individually. This additional control of the warp yarn lets us weave intricate patterns into our fabrics. It's facinating stuff to watch. We are continuously working on new techniques on the Jacquard loom, mixing more colours and using two colours in the warp.

Sateen:

Sateen weaving is two over, one under when weaving the weft through the warp, so you end up with a fabric that is different on each side. The side with the two yarns is the sateen side of the fabric, and has the super smooth finish. It has a floppier drape than percale, and a real pleasure to sleep in. The thread counts on our sateen bed linen range from 260 to 600. All of our sateen bed linen's have an Egyptian Cotton warp, and the weft is woven from high quality long staple cotton.

Twill:

Twill weaving has a characteristic diagonal line, the same as you will see in denim fabrics. We love this weaving technique, we think it add's a lovely level of texture to a plain bed linen. We use this weaving technique in both our sateen smooth Twill ranges and laundered soft Relaxed Denim ranges.