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Thread count is one way to judge the quality of sheets, but it’s certainly not the only criterion.

Photographee.eu/iStockPhoto / Getty Images

The quest for the perfect sheet set is well worth the journey. There’s nothing like slipping into a just-made bed, the sheets pulled taut and smelling of fresh detergent … It’s enough to make me yawn as I write this. We spend between seven and 10 hours in bed each day, so that kind of time commitment demands comfort – but it’s easy to get overwhelmed by choice.

Thread count is one way to judge the quality of sheets, but it’s certainly not the only criterion. In order to decipher those tricky labels, look for 100-per-cent cotton and know the difference in how the cotton is woven. I won’t bore you by babbling on about warps and wefts, but here’s the long-story-short of it: percale is tightly woven and softens with washing; sateen is lustrous and silky, with a sheen that looks and feels glamorous; and oxford, like the shirt, is super-crisp and heavy, making it the most durable of the three. There was a jersey-knit craze some years ago, but I never really got it; I like sleeping in T-shirts, not on them.

Me, I’m Team Percale. These sheets remind me of the ones my mother used to line-dry in the summer sun. With something so tactile, the ultimate decision comes down to personal preference. When in doubt, try it out. Some specialty bedding stores will send swatches upon request, and Toronto’s Au Lit Fine Linens even has a Thread Count Bar where you can do a comparison touch-test on site.

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In terms of thread count itself, the term simply means how many threads are used to weave one square inch of fabric, and that’s why a higher thread count drives up the cost. But don’t get caught up on the status symbol; a higher number doesn’t guarantee better-quality Zs. Do buy the highest thread count you can afford, but don’t bother going above 500. That’s like buying a high-horsepower luxury car for city driving – it’s just not necessary. Sheets in the 300 to 500 range are plenty sumptuous and available at many price points.

There’s one more fabric contender worth discussing. Linen bedding is breathable and cool to the touch – perfect for warm weather. More casual and rumpled than its cotton counterpart, linen is great for those who love a slightly romantic look and feel. Sweet dreams!

Need some advice about interior design and decor? Send your questions to personaldesigner@globeandmail.com.

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