Lots of us end the year by purging the unworn and the worn-out, emptying our closets just in time to reap a tax deduction for donations before the calendar changes. That frees us to begin the New Year shopping - after all, now we’ve got closet space!
Whatever you’re seeking, you need to shop smart to get real value from your purchase, and these tips will help.
January white sales
Back in the day (in this case, way back!) bed linens were only available in white, so putting those on sale was automatically a ‘white’ sale, and the term has stuck despite all the colors, patterns and styles of household linens available today. Retailers traditionally saw a slump after Christmas; that was eliminated by deeply discounting necessary household linens in the weeks immediately after the holiday.
Today, the tradition continues, and it’s still called a White Sale despite all the colors and patterns that are now available. Most national retailers participate, so you’ll find markdowns at Macy’s, JC Penney and Dillard’s as well as Bed, Bath & Beyond and Linens N Things. You can check stores that don’t have a Tucson outpost on the internet, of course, and as long as you’re there, be sure to visit websites of the bigger linen purveyors, like The Company Store or Boll & Branch.
All bedding IS NOT created equal, so figure out what you want and need before making a purchase! The fiber used for your sheets and pillowcases will be what determines their price.
Today, the least expensive bedding is created from ‘microfiber’ and often, that’s all the label will say. Microfiber is a broad term, and microfiber can be created from synthetics like nylon and polyester, or from natural materials like cellulose or wood pulp. The advantage of microfiber linens, whatever the source, is they are extremely thin and soft. These fabrics can be woven finer than silk and with a softer hand. Thanks to the way it is woven, microfiber fabrics can breathe and wick moisture in much the same way natural fibers do. On the plus side, microfiber linens will dry quickly and maintain their colors. On the minus side, the ‘hand’ of the sheet will vary depending on the fiber content, which means you will want to find a brand you like and stick with it, or be willing to experiment. Some microfibers ‘pill’ with use, a definite drawback for bedding. Others do not, so again, find a brand you like and stick with it.
Synthetic microfibers are largely derived from petroleum; those derived from natural products are largely using waste from both the lumber and paper industries.
Natural fibers: Cotton
Traditionally, natural fiber linens are sold by threadcount, which is the actual number of threads in one square inch of fabric IN BOTH DIRECTIONS. Meaning that if there are 100 threads across the inch and 100 threads down, the threadcount is 200.
When is comes to cotton linens, you really do get what you pay for. Inexpensive, short staple cotton in low thread counts will be inexpensive...and uncomfortable. The higher the threadcount and the better the cotton fiber (the longer the staple) means a more comfortable fabric, and cotton linens will continually improve with washing and drying over time. Egyptian cotton is highly desirable, as is Pima cotton, which was named for the Pima Indians right here in Southern Arizona who grew it; today Pima cotton is also grown outside of the U.S. because it is highly desirable.
When shopping for bed linens, Egyptian Cotton and Pima cotton will be labeled prominently (Pima is marketed as SuPima) and each commands a significant price because they combine comfort with long-term durability. Sheets that are simply marked ‘cotton’ will be made from lesser varieties that ensure neither. White sales are a great opportunity to add more fine cottons to your family’s beds!
Natural fibers: linen
Honestly, I can’t recall seeing linen sheets on sale in January (or any other time of year) but just in case...you should know why they are different.
‘Linens’ are what we call bedding today because linen is what they were made of for centuries. Linen is from the flax plant, and it is an incredibly strong, long staple fiber. It starts out stiff, but with handling and use and washing and drying, linen becomes soft. It is incredibly durable and extremely comfortable. On the downside, it takes a long time to dry, and it will wrinkle more than cotton. Linen is anti-bacterial and wicks moisture efficiently.
Be aware that linen sheets have lower thread counts, because the ‘yarns’ are thicker. It will have more texture than cotton, and feel rougher by comparison.
Natural fibers: bamboo
You will see bamboo sheets marketed at bamboo or as lyocell, the name of the fabric made from bamboo fibers. Bamboo is an extremely sustainable crop, and new manufacturing methods use less water than previous processes (and less than cotton and linen require). Bamboo sheets can be woven extremely fine, which makes them very comfortable. They are less expensive than quality cotton or linen sheets, so that’s a plus. However, they are not as durable
in the long term and require gentle washing. If that White Sale price is good, give them a try and see what you think!
Natural fibers: silk
Silk sheets have several significant advantages, and January’s white sales might give you the opportunity to try them at a reasonable price. Silk is extremely comfortable and durable and bed linens are sustainably produced without pesticides or excessive water.
The quality of silk is identified by momme weight rather than thread count like the other bedding fibers. Momme weight is a peculiar measurement: it is the weight of 100 yards of 45” wide silk, in pounds. Silk sheets are usually between 16 and 21 MM (momme); 19 is the most popular designation.
Silk sheets are incredibly durable, and have been used for thousands of years. You’ll enjoy trying them at your house!
About the Author:
Karen R. Smith is an award-winning journalist and publicist. Her book, "Stylishly Sexy" is available online and she takes private style clients throughout Arizona and across the country. Visit her at www.stylesmithtransformations.com
More information about Karen’s new book at TucsonHappenings.com/fashion