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Cotton, Linen, and Thread Counts: What's the Big Deal?

May 07, 2015

Cotton, Linen, and Thread Counts: What's the Big Deal?

Cotton and linen may both be natural fibres, but there are many differences between them that may help you choose which one you get for your bed.

America’s most infamous crop, cotton is harvested from the bolls of cotton plants. These small balls are soft, fibrous clusters that are harvested and turned into cotton threads. Unlike cotton, linen is harvested not from the flower or tuft of plants, but rather from the stem of the flax plant and has been used to create clothing and material for thousands of years, with some of the earliest examples in Africa coming from Egypt. The flax stems are broken down to their natural thread-like fibres before being prepared and turned into material.

Strength: The average lengths of the flax fibres used in the linen are far longer and as such give linen a much more durable and stronger nature. Because cotton threads are much shorter than those of linen, they are not as strong. This doesn’t mean that they are fragile however - the threads are spun together into a tight yarn to give them strength before being turned into a fabric.

Whereas cotton sheets will have a soft and supple texture right out of the box, linen will gradually gain its luster through washes. High quality cotton sheets will last several years without any problems, but the same high quality linen sheets will last far longer as they improve with age.

Moisture: If your are looking for a bed fabric that will wick away moisture then you will definitely be looking at natural fibres. Some claim that natural fibres can absorb up to 20% of their weight in moisture before even beginning to feel damp. This makes natural fibres ideal for sleeping as they will absorb your body’s excess moisture without making you feel uncomfortable or clammy at night.

Heat Retention: If you are looking for all year bedding, they you will definitely be wanting cotton bedding. However you may need to supplement your bedding with a blanket to ensure that you are toasty warm in winter. Linen bedding also requires layering in winter, but thanks to its hollow fibres it retains heat far better.

Thread Count: You’ll find that most bedding sets have a thread indicator. While this can often be used as a good indicator of the quality of the bedding, it needs to be taking with a pinch of salt. First off linen and cotton beddings have very different thread counts due to the size and shape of the fibres used in the weave, as well as whether it is being measured in Imperial ( usually one square inch) or metric units (10 square centimeters). Linen counts often range between 50-120, whereas cotton thread counts can be as high as 1000, but due to their very different nature’s it is unfair to compare them against each other. If in doubt go with what feels best to your touch, but remember that linen will get softer and more luxurious as you use it.

Is your current bedding starting to lose its appeal, or looking for some beautiful new bedding to match your brand new BedKing bed? Take a look at our range of bed linens for some great ideas.

Photo credit: Libeco Home Blanket via photopin (license)

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