Before heading out to the store or logging on the internet to buy a comforter or sets of bed sheets, its pays to do some homework about the terms associated with bed linen fabrics. What follows are some basic terms and definitions associated with many types of bed linens.
Absorbency - a textile quality measured by the rate that fabric can absorb water.
Angora - a very soft wool fiber derived from the goat of the same name.
Bamboo - a strong and renewable plant fiber. Fabric is made from the pulp of bamboo grass and has a long lasting antimicrobial property. Bamboo can be cultivated without the use of chemical fertilizers, herbicides and insecticides.
Cashmere - An extremely soft wool fiber derived from the goat of the same name.
Cellulose - a substance that forms the primary part of plant cells. Cellulose was widely manufactured for making parchment paper. Now it is used to make rayon and acetate fabrics.
Cotton - used as a fabric source since the eighth century BCE. The fibers are harvested from the boll of the cotton plant. The fiber can vary in length up to two inches long. Egyptian cotton, with its long fibers is considered the finest in the world.
Damask - a fabric of silk, linen or wool, made by weaving the weft into the warp to create a fabric pattern. The name comes from the Syrian capital of Damascus where it was first manufactured. Linen damasks were often used for table cloths, while silk and wool were found in furniture fabrics.
Fitted Sheet - a sheet that is tailored to fit a number of mattress sizes. Different from a flat sheet, the fitted sheet has sewn pockets in each corner that fit snugly over the mattress.
Flat Sheet - a sheet that tailored in size to fit a number of mattress sizes. Different from a fitted sheet, the flat sheet lacks corner pockets and is hemmed on all four sides.
Gingham - a cotton or synthetic fabric, differing from calico in that the colors are woven into, not printed on, the fabric. Stripes, checks and plaids are most the most common. Gingham was first produced in India but is widely manufactured today.
Hemp - a very strong and versatile fiber with many uses including, paper, fabric and rope. Hemp also has many other non-textile applications from plastics to bio fuels. Hemp fabric is long lasting and is often blended with cotton and natural fibers. Hemp can be cultivated without the use of chemical fertilizers, herbicides and insecticides.
Linen - a general term used to describe fabric articles such as bed sheets, towels, tablecloths and napkins. Linen cloth is woven from spun flax and is stronger and smoother than cotton cloth.
Merino - a very fine, oily and short length wool fiber from the Merino breed of sheep.
Muslin - a finely woven cotton cloth that originated in Northern India during the seventeenth century. It is commonly made from cotton yard cords.
Organic - referring to plant fiber sources that are grown without the use of chemical herbicides, pesticides or fertilizers. Sustainable growing practices are used to reduce any adverse impacts on the environmental.
Percale - a tightly woven, smooth fabric that can be made from cotton, cotton blends and polyesters. Percale is most commonly used for bed linens.
Pima - a very soft, long fiber length cotton that rivals the quality of Egyptian cotton.
Satin - a very tightly woven fabric made from silk.
Polyester - a synthetic fabric fiber that is strong and stain resistant. Polyester is one of the most widely used fabrics in the world. Wrinkle resistant and long wearing, it is used in clothing, linen, bedding, upholstery and many commercial applications.
Thread Count - is measured by counting the number of threads per inch in the woven fabric in both directions of the weave. The weave is comprised of the warp and weft. Generally speaking, the higher the thread count, the silkier and lighter the sheets.
Weaving - the art of making cloth from threads or yarns on a loom. Two sets of threads are needed. One is the warp which runs the length of the cloth, while the weft or woof runs crossways.
Wool - fibers derived from various animals such as sheep, alpaca, goats and even camels. When properly spun, wool is a very durable fabric. It is used for everything from clothing, rugs, carpets and upholstery. Cashmere and angora wool comes from the goats of the same name.