Getting a Handle on Quality
When it comes to sheets, the style you choose –percale, sateen, flannel, jersey– is often a matter of personal preference and seasonal conditions. But quality? That's less subjective. We asked Coyuchi CEO, Eileen Mockus to give us a primer on how to recognize high-quality sheeting, no matter which style you prefer. (Hint: It comes down to handfeel – textile industry lingo for a fabric's texture, drape and perceived coolness or warmth -- literally, how it feels in your hand.)
What properties do you look for in sheet fabric that tell you it is well made?
The property that makes the biggest difference isn’t always visible because it’s the fiber and the yarn. You can't see it, but you can feel it. Longer staple, combed cotton, gives a smooth and silky feel to cotton sheets. The touch of the fabric will be cool for percale, warmer for sateen. I prefer a dry hand – that’s when the cotton feels like cotton – without lot of finishes on the fabric that will make it feel soapy or slick.
What makes a good sateen? Percale? Flannel? Jersey?
A good sateen is where the weave is tight and the surface is very, very smooth. Sateen sheets that have a hairy surface will get roughed up with use and potentially pill if short-staple cotton is used. Sateen should feel somewhat warm, have a soft sheen on the surface and not wrinkle when bunched in your hand.
A great percale fabric uses single-ply yarns so the surface is crisp and smooth without any ridges that are caused by plied yarns. Percale will be cool to the touch. Personally, I prefer a percale that has a snap to it, like our 300 TC percale. For something softer and more relaxed, I recommend the 220 percale. It's less constructed, less crisp, so it will feel softer right from the start. Percale wrinkles a bit after washing, but a spritz of water once the sheets are on the bed can smooth it out again.
Flannel should have thicker, chunkier yarns that are packed in enough to allow for a lot of brushing (or napping). The best flannel is napped many, many times, and the base fabric needs to have enough weight to it so all that brushing doesn’t destroy it. The surface of flannel should be soft, and when you rub the fabric with your fingers, it shouldn’t pill up right away. All flannel will eventually get rough on the surface, and may pill, but the best flannels – like our Cloud Brushed flannel from Portugal-- are softer for many more washes before that happens.
Jersey should not be too thin or too lightweight. The yarns should be combed so the surface doesn't pill, and the fabric should be finished in a relaxed state, not pulled out on a wide frame, or it will shrink and twist too much.
What is your favorite Coyuchi sheet and why?
My favorite is 300 TC percale. I like sheets that are cool and crisp with a very smooth surface. I like a simple hem on the sheets and a case with an internal envelope construction to completely cover the pillow.
Many manufacturers finish their sheets with chemicals that make them feel softer or wrinkle less. Why doesn't Coyuchi use finishes?
Coyuchi doesn’t use any fabric softeners or easy care finishes on our sheets. The softeners contain silicon that gives the fabric a soapy or slick feel, which many people like, but they also inhibit absorbency -- the breathable, comfortable property that we all love best about cotton. Easy-care finishes are very popular for sheeting, especially high thread count percales, because they reduce the wrinkles that show up after laundering. Coyuchi doesn’t use these finishes because they frequently contain formaldehyde which is a skin irritant if not removed properly. In fact, many of the finishing agents used on conventional sheeting are unacceptable under our organic standards (GOTS, OEKO-TEX, etc.). Plus those finishes weaken the fabric. Quality sheets are an investment, and we feel they should last!