Ever dreamed of sleeping on linen? I know I have.
Before you buy, find out everything you need to know about linen bed sheets.
For the Love of Linen
Being a sewing and fabric enthusiast for over 25 years, I love linen fabric. It has to be one of my favorite fabrics of all.
I definitely lean towards natural fiber fabrics in general – wool, cotton, leather – but, linen has always been the one I love most.
I love the texture, the feel and the absolute comfort I feel when I wear linen. I am one of those people who really does not care about the wrinkles. Wrinkles be dammed…I am wearing linen.
Enter Linen Bed Sheets
Seeing that I love wearing anything linen, why wouldn’t I want to sleep on some linen sheets?
After doing some research on linen bed sheets, and seeing that they can be costly – more costly than good quality cotton sheets – I wanted to know everything I could about them…and ultimately, if they are worth it.
Let’s find out.
But, before we find out whether linen bed sheets are worth it, let’s take a look at the fabric itself.
What is Linen?
Linen is a woven textile made from the fibers of the flax plant.
A flax plant is a common looking plant with small blue / purple flowers. If I found it in my yard, I would probably think it was a weed…(although weeds are simply plants you don’t want or did not plant, right?)
Linen made from the flax plant is thought to be one of the oldest know fabrics or textiles ever made by humans – with wool being on that list too.
With that long history of fabrication, by now, any linen fabric must be well refined. Let’s just say, we know how to make linen – well.
Now that does not mean that all linens are created equal. Quite the contrary. If you have ever purchased linen fabric or a piece of linen clothing, you can often tell the difference in the fiber strength and the actual weave of the linen itself.
Properties of Linen
Linen, being a natural fiber, shares some properties with other natural fabrics.
Some of the properties specific to linen include:
- Long fiber length makes it very strong and durable
- Dries very fast – faster than cotton
- Breath ability – especially important in hot humid climates
- Naturally hypoallergenic
- Gets softer with age
These properties make linen suitable for clothing but, seemingly even more suitable for table napkins, drying towels, tablecloths, and bedding.
Manufacture of Linen
As with many things made from natural ingredients, they often cost much more to make.
This is the case with linen. It is very laborious to make and hence, the cost of linen is relatively high – especially when compared to other bed linen fabrics such as percale cotton, poly cotton blends and the newest trend in sheeting, microfiber.
While linen was first manufactured in Europe – surely you have heard of Irish Linen, French Linen and Belgian Linen – much of the linen bedding is now being manufactured in China. The majority of flax plants are still grown in these European countries. Much of that harvest then goes to China to be woven into bed sheets.
This is due to the industrial infrastructure which has been slow to evolve in Europe during the past century. When linen was first made in Europe at an industrial level, the machines were made to manufacture linen at a certain width. The standard width of European linen is 60″ wide, which does not accommodate making bed sheets or duvet covers without having a seam.
China has put more resources into and invested in modern double width looms (up to 130 inches) meaning they can produce linen fabric in a width wide enough to make bed sheets without a seam. There are some European and American manufacturers capable of this as well but, they are not as prevalent.
This does not mean that the quality will suffer, as often the fibers are still grown in Europe and sent to China to be processed into linen. And, ultimately, the quality comes mostly from the plant fiber itself.
Cost of Linen
As we just mentioned, because manufacturing linen – from growing the flax plant to looming the fabric – is very laborious, it does come with a high cost.
And because linen sheets, in particular, require a lot of linen (as with any bed sheets), the costs may seem even higher.
For an example of the price difference between a Queen size organic cotton sheets set versus a linen sheet set for a Queen sized bed, you will pay on average about $100-$300 for cotton versus $200-$500 for a linen sheet set.
Linen Thread Count
As you are probably aware, most sheet sets that you buy will specify a thread count. This signifies the number of threads – both vertical and horizontal – per square inch.
Generally, the higher the number, the better quality sheets they are. Note that this is not always the case. The length of the fiber is actually more significant and important when it comes to the quality of sheet sets.
This means that just because the sheet set has a 500 thread count, it does not mean that it will last longer than a sheet set with a 300 thread count. Durability and long lasting sheets are more dependent on the thread length.
Unfortunately, most sheet manufacturers do not specify thread length. However, you can look for sheets which state that they are made with long staple threads. As far as threads go, with any fabric, the longer the better – or more durable.
Having said all of that, linen sheets rarely specify a thread count. The reason is that linen threads are much thicker than cotton or polyester so the number would be – well…disappointing.
With our psyche already adjusted to hearing thread counts in the hundreds, hearing a thread count of 150 or less might scare most people away – even though it is really meaningless in terms of evaluating linen sheets.
Because linen threads are thicker than cotton or polyester, when woven into linen fabric, the threads may be more noticeable to the touch.
Some people characterize the texture of linen to be somewhat rough, and prefer to sleep on very smooth cotton sateen sheets.
If you do not like any texture, you may want to avoid linen sheets.
However, in my experience with linen, I love the texture and find it to be very comfortable – even with the occasional slub here and there.
As we just discussed, we cannot evaluate linen sheets quality by thread count.
We can, however, judge a linen sheet set by the weight. Generally, the heavier the sheet set, the better quality it will be.
A heavier linen implies that the thread fibers are thicker, and therefore, more long lasting.
When you buy linen bed sheets, check if they offer the weight of the set. Because you will find varying prices for the same set of Queen size sheets, this may help you evaluate the quality – and hence, you may understand the difference in price.
To generalize, the heavier the linen sheet set, the better quality it will be and the longer it will be expected to last.
As you are probably aware, linen wrinkles easily. That is just it’s nature.
If you have a strong disdain for wrinkles, then linen sheets may not be for you.
I would challenge you to try linen sheets before you deny them. The many valuable properties of linen, in my opinion, far outweigh any small wrinkle.
A with cotton, the flax plant which grows to create the fibers of linen can be made with or without chemicals. Manufacturers of organic linen must follow strict International standards in order for their linen to be labelled organic.
One of these standards is the GOTS 5.0 (Global Organic Textile Standard) Certified. In order for a product to meet these organic standards, it must contain 95%-100% GOTS certified organic fiber content.
And while I wish it weren’t so, organic linen sheets will cost you more. It costs more to grow the plant without pesticides or chemicals hence, making the end product more expensive too.
If you are able to purchase a set of organic linen sheets, you can feel comfortable knowing that you will not be exposed to added chemicals as well as enjoying the natural texture and feel of linen.
Linen Sheets Separates
If you do not want to invest in a full sheet set in linen, due to the cost or other reason, you can buy a flat sheet, fitted sheet, pillow cases or shams in linen – for just a hint of linen.
You can buy only a fitted or flat sheet and compliment this linen with a cotton sheet, and pillowcases.
Some manufacturers make available bedding separates, making it easy for you to ease into linen sheets.
Another benefit of being able to buy sheets separately is that you can mix and match your bedding – kind of like swimsuit separates. Buy a different color bottom and top for a custom look.
Linen Bed Sheets Buying Tip (for a bit of Savings):
If you would like to get a taste of linen sheets without spending on a whole sheet set, start with a top sheet in linen.
Linen Fitted Sheet Pocket Depth
As with any sheet set that you are considering buying, you should verify the pocket depth of the fitted sheet.
With limited linen bed sheets manufacturers – versus cotton sheets – the availability of deep pocket fitted sheets may also be limited.
Check your mattress depth and ensure that the linen sheet set that you purchase will accommodate your mattress size.
Linen Sheet Colors
While you may think that you can only buy linen in simple whites and light beige colors…well, maybe in the past.
Today, you will find linen bed sheets in numerous colors. As is typical with linen fabric, the colors, while varied, are still on the softer side with a built-in casual faded or worn-in look.
Various Colors of Linen Bed Sheets
Washing Linen Sheets
Linen sheet sets are very easy to care for. They do not need to be dry cleaned. In fact, they are probably better off not being dry cleaned.
They can be washed in warm to cool water and dried on low to medium heat in the dryer. Even better, hang them to dry on your clothesline.
As for fabric softener, some manufacturers advise against using any. Fabric softeners tend to create a wax-like build up on the linen, decreasing its natural breathability.
If you find your linen sheets a bit rough (rough is a strong word to describe the finish), you may want to use fabric softener on occasion versus every time you wash your linen sheets.
One of the beauties of linen is that wrinkles are a part of its nature. The same applies to linen sheets. They will wrinkle – but, that is just what they are supposed to do. They do not need to be ironed and instead, they should not be ironed. They will last longer without the added heat and pressure of ironing.
Lastly, but not the least important point about washing linen sheets…you should absolutely NOT use bleach. Bleach is inherently destructive to any fabric fibers. And with linen fibers being thicker, if only one thread is compromised, it can lead to a large hole quite quickly.
Are Linen Bed Sheets for You?
Now that you know everything you need to know about linen bed sheets – the many wonderful properties of linen, washing linen, costs, etc. – you should be on your way to choosing the best linen sheets for you.