Photo: Leontine Linens, Sadie
What's worse than this conversation:
Me: "Sateen sheets are my favorite fabrication, they stay so cool and smooth."
Someone writing to this blog: "But they are sooo 80's."
Photo: Yves Delorme, Colibri
For those of you in fabric related fields, you need no review of what I meant in remarking that I prefer sateen, which is nothing at all like a satin: It is a sheeting fabrication which causes the Hostess to break out in hives and babble incoherently only occasionally spitting out a recognizable term such as, "slutty," "heathens," and "used car dealers". Indeed, it makes me as illogical as those who buy the absurd things. And another thing: Even in the '80's they were not passable.
Years spent on the production floors of some of the worlds greatest, largest, and worst fabric mills taught me to turn a blind eye to high fabric counts and country of orgins of a fabric but most especially those high-holiness count and COO claims made by linen brands. Firstly, the "perfection" of any article that comes in contact with your skin is subjective: Just note the number of sheeting types available at any high end linen shop. Secondly, various mills throughout the world have developed spectacular fabrications having nothing to do with thread counts but weave techniques and even more so, finishing. Ultimately, every part of the process is critical: The content and length of the staple fiber, the nature of the weave, the type and quality of the finishing, and the rigorousness of the quality control process for the fabric. Once all of that is complete, fabric is transferred to a cut and sew location. There, the goods are inspected carefully and cut, on the face side, against a marker which maximizes the longevity, quality, and feel of great fabrics and finishes.
It bores me when people attempt to impress with mention of Frette and Pratesi. I would never dare ask if they picked the linens for the feel or the conspicuous consumption of ownership, but if they have to tell me, I assume it is the later (Good taste and graciousness have nothing to do with the labels you buy or how much you spent. If I leave you with nothing else from our time together, that is what I hope will resound.). It is the ever-silent discerning host who has magnificent linens of any brand or level, who dresses the guestroom in them, and lovingly smooths them with the palm of his or her hand one last time while noting the high art they are, to whom I nod. Another nod to businesses with the same thoughtful touch: The Kimpton Group has drop dead magnificent sheets. It matters not to me who made them, only that they feel so exquisite they melt my cold fabric heart.
Photo: Restoration Hardware, Italian 600 Sateen
At the literal end of the day, no one checks the labels but everyone lays their head on your linen fabric to sleep. It is that feel, against a cheek, a hand, a leg which makes the difference. And the difference is made in comfort and great hand-feel. While these linens can be found reliably at the top of the market as can a great deal of worse-than average hand-feel items, they are also produced by all manner of mid-range manufacturer at more reasonable prices.
Photo: Williams-Sonoma Home, Foliage Sateen Bedding
The only absolute means of getting bed linens which are both aesthetically beautiful and completely pleasing to your senses is to make a sensory project of the hunt: Allow yourself some time to find new linens. Save a little if you can. Go to linen shops and stores and learn the various linen types, open the flaps of the packages and feel everything that is not made up on a display to be easily explored by your senses: I once located the perfect color of accent cases (from what, to the market unaware, would be a trusted designer but is actually only a licensee of that fine firm) which read "300 Count Cotton Broadcloth." Broadcloth? I wondered. Funny, that is shirting goods. Good thing I opened the packages and spread the cases out; they were so rough that to my hands it might as well have been burlap.
You should do the same. Don't worry about the labels on your sheets. Do worry about the way they feel and look: Do they please you entirely?
What do you prefer to sleep on?