Monday, September 10, 2007

Three Sheets

What is this thing about thread count in bed sheets? It seems like something of which I was blissfully unaware until about 1990.

My childhood memories of bed sheets are of my mother hanging them on the clothes line and running between them as the breeze bellied them out against me. I was particularly aware of the quality of sheets because I had a habit of rolling the folded edge of my pillow case between my fingers and rubbing it until I went to sleep. When I was very small, sheets were always smooth and soft. They smelled of fabric softener, Florida sunshine, and occasionally my mother's iron (she hated to iron, but did run one over the sheets).

Then, probably when I was 10 or so, my mother bought a set of sheets for my brand new double bed that were awful. I mean, they were very plastic-y feeling, rough and actually NOISY. I hated them and avoided making my bed with them. I suspect they were both inexpensive and made with some new synthetic. I'm a little sensitive to synthetic fabrics, especially those introduced in the 1970s.

It seems since then, I've had to pay attention to my bedsheets. Still, it wasn't hard to find soft, cotton smooth sheets, and I had several sets I loved well into my 20s.

Then I married, and I was sleeping in a queen sized bed. He, too, had those nice, smooth, cotton sheets, because none of my old bedsheets fit (of course). But years went by and sheets wear out (a lot faster than I remember them doing, but that's another thing). I had to replace sheets.

And that was when I had to learn about thread counts.

I am currently sitting on our bed, which is made up with new sheets we just bought. These sheets are supposedly 250 count, which means they should be smooth and soft. They certainly wrinkle up like 250 count. But they don't feel like them. They are perceptively rough without that nice polished surface. In the closet I have other sets of sheets, some at 300 count and higher. But, as we can't afford to spend $125 for a topsheet and $50 for a pillow case. So, Costco to the rescue, and $60 for a set of sheets. These sheets, for reasons still mysterious to us, bleach where The Husband sleeps on them. I'm serious. Most of the sheets are colored, and there are weird, blotchy, yellow-white places on my husband's pillow case and on the bottom sheet where he has slept. My side shows no such inclinations. Thus it goes for bargain sheets.

So, now that I am very aware of thread count -- yet another piece of relatively useless information thrust upon me, I am quite sure, by marketing agencies and much technological endeavor -- I must also pay attention to the blend, to where the cotton originates, and to how it was prepared. What used to be a regular, ordinary method of weaving, and a regular, ordinary standard of blended cotton used for weaving, has been analyzed and studied and experimented with until the cheapest methods and blends were determined. Thus, poor people can't have what used to be just ordinary bedsheets, and the wealthy can be tricked into thinking there really is something special about 1200 ct Egyptian Cotton sheets.

I just wish I'd managed to hold on to those old sheets of my mom's.

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