IN THE time before modern factories bed linen was made at home, a craft that showcased fine needlework and embroidery skills.
It was not unusual for sheets, pillowcases and quilts to be considered household treasures and passed on from mother to daughter as part of a wedding trousseau.
Now of course store-bought sheets have replaced handmade ones and range in quality, design, size and comfort.
Bed linen has to be more than functional as we demand choices that are not only practical and stylish but also reflect our personalities.
The right linen can complement and complete the decor of a room and often merely changing your sheets can take a room from summer into winter.
Experts say the when it comes to sheets, thread count is all important but before you even decide on what number fits your wallet consider the bedroom in question, the style you are hoping to achieve and the pieces used to furnish it.
Stark colours with minimalist designs would not really suit a country feel or shabby chic design for example, while pretty feminine florals would look out of place next to modern furniture.
Consider too the colours of the walls and the art that adorns it and whether you already have a signature piece in the room or whether you are relying on the bed to make a statement.
Okay, so in technical speak, thread count is the number of horizontal and vertical threads woven in one square centimetre of fabric and can range from 80 to 1000.
Generally the higher the thread count the softer and more durable the sheet with industry recommendations suggesting a count of at least 200 (Mercier and Reid 1000TC Hemsworth Sheet Sets, $79.95 at Adairs).
Bed linen can be made from natural or man-made fabrics or a mix of both so you can choose to go either practical or luxurious.
Pure cotton is a good everyday pick although you can opt for silk (Dreamspace silk sheet set, from $322) or satin for a touch of luxury.
Linen sheets (In the sac sheet sets, $375) are ideal for hotter climates as they tend to be rather cool and will last for years provided you look after them.
They often require ironing after a wash so allow for that time. Cotton sheets (Cottonbox 300TC Pintuck set, from $149.95) are perfect for any season and have the highest resistance becoming softer with repeated washing and use.
High quality cottons such as Egyptian cotton (Lux Koln 400TC sheet set, from $219.95) is extremely expensive as the perfect growing conditions along the Nile River make for cotton with exceptional softness and strength.
Pillowcases are usually included in sheet sets but follow the same rules if you are buying them separately. It is best to stick with two pillows on a bed and add interest with scatter cushions and throws.
Like sheets you are spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing a quilt or a doona as we so lovingly call it here. There are four main types of quilts each with its own subcategories so the whole exercise can get pretty confusing.
- Microfibre quilts (Tontine Simply Fresh, from $53.40) are made from a synthetic fibre designed to feel like duck or goose down. They are lightweight with great thermal properties, hypoallergenic and easy to wash and tumble dry. They are great for allergy sufferers and children. They range in weight from 250gsm to 350gsm and can be used all year round.
- Wool quilts (Australian Superwash wool quilt, from $159) are obviously made from a natural fibre, which keeps you warm in the winter and cool in the summer. Regulation of temperature makes for a better night's sleep and these quilts are resilient and comfortable. They range from 350gsm to 600gsm with 500gsm perfect for year-round use.
- Down and feather quilts (Benson duck down quilt, from $139) are lightweight but warm and can be revitalised and refluffed by airing them outside. Breathable and snuggly, they are machine washable and dry cleanable.
- Cotton quilts (Adairs Comfort cotton quilt, from $74.95) are excellent for allergy sufferers and are an excellent choice for warmer climates or the summer months. They absorb body moisture so you don't wake up clammy and are easy to look after.
Caring for your sheets
Now that you've invested in good quality sheets be sure to look after them to maximise your comfort and their shelf life.
Wash weekly and rotate to ensure even wear.
Spot-treat stains and swap harsh chlorine bleach for gentle oxygen bleach.
Use a mild eco-friendly detergent.
Wash in warm rather than hot water.
Try to line dry if you can instead of putting them in a tumbledryer.
Ironing is optional.
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