When shopping for new bed sheets or other bedding items, it’s helpful to not only be familiar with the various types of fabrics and fibers but also to understand the different weaves. What does percale mean? Is sateen the same as satin? What’s microfiber? The answers aren’t complicated, but knowing them makes it easier to choose the perfect bedding for your needs, whether that’s warm sheets for winter, lightweight sheets for summer, or a duvet, sham or throw pillow.
Here is a guide to the 7 types of bed sheets you are most likely to encounter, plus info on the common weaves.
Flannel is normally made of 100 percent cotton and is a medium-to-heavy-weight bed sheet material. It has a napped finish on one or both sides, creating the "fuzzy" and soft feel that is characteristic of this fabric. Flannel sheets are ideal for winter because the fuzzy weave holds in body heat, and creates a warm, fluffy and cozy feel.
Percale is a plain-weave fabric made from both combed and carded cotton yarns. This type of weave is lightweight and closely woven, producing a smooth finish and a crisp feel. If you like sheets that feel a bit starched and crisp against your skin, this is the weave for you.
Sateen, which is not the same as satin, is a type of weave with more vertical threads than horizontal. This produces an exceptionally soft bed sheet with a smooth, lustrous finish that resembles satin. While luxurious, sateen sheets are far more fragile than percale or plain weaves.
Satin is a silky, smooth finish resulting from very thin, high-thread-count synthetic materials, such as nylon, polyester or acetate, woven or knitted tightly together. When buying satin sheets look for "woven" materials verses "knit" to get the smoothness desired in this weave. The shiny finish and silky feel of satin sheets have made them nearly synonymous with a sexy bedroom.
Microfiber is a tight weave made up of man-made fibers spun into a very fine yarn, which creates an ultra-soft finish and excellent wrinkle resistance. Because of the tight, thick weave, this fabric can be somewhat water resistant and allergen-proof, but may also be hot, depending on the denseness of the weave.
Pinpoint is a stitch pattern of two threads over and one under. It's commonly used in men's dress shirts and similar clothing items, but it's not as durable or soft as many other bed sheet fabrics.
Jersey bed sheets are often sold as "tee-shirt sheets," as they are the same type of knit cotton or cotton-blend fibers that are used in the ubiquitous clothing item. Jersey sheets are very popular with kids and teens, thanks to the stretchy and soft feel, but they rip or snag easily, so keep the family cat off the bed if you want to avoid holes.
Decorative Bed Fabrics
There are a few fabrics in addition to the ones above commonly used on duvets, shams, pillow cases, and other decorative bed items.
Damask is a reversible fabric with a woven pattern visible on both sides. Often intricately detailed, damask can be found on decorative pillows, pillow shams, or other decorative bedding pieces.
Dobby is a finely woven fabric that usually features a decorative pattern of geometric shapes or flowers. Dobby is often used on duvets, pillow shams, coverlets, or other decorative bedding to add a decorative accent.
Jacquard is an elaborately woven fabric containing a slightly raised area of embroidery or embellishment. This elegant and somewhat old-fashioned fabric is produced on a jacquard loom. It’s often used for formal style on coverlets, decorative pillows, pillow shams, and comforters.