Buying Vintage Linens


What is the difference between muslin and combed cotton? 

The sticker says 300 thread count.  I can see my hand through it.  Is the sticker correct? 

These are examples of the questions I get by e-mail, which lead me to believe that there is a lot of misinformation out there regarding the purchase of linens, especially vintage linens.  Let’s see if I can clear up a couple of questions I get most often. 

Muslin pieced

Muslin pieced (Photo credit: lovelihood)

Muslin vs Cotton.  If you have very young children and you are looking to stretch your dollars by buying long-lasting bedding for those rough little dirty feet, stick with muslin.  It’s a little rougher in terms of feel, but a lot tougher and easier to clean than pure cotton.  When your child grows out of their small beds, you can change over to a cotton blend sheets, usually called “percale,” which is softer because the thread count is between 160 to 200.  If you are buying 300 thread count or higher designer sheets for your little ones, I want to come live with you. 

Which leads me to my second question and answer.  Thread count.  Simple put, thread count is the number of threads per square inch of fabric.  Unless you shop with a “Linen Loop,” always on you, (a high-powered magnifying glass for counting threads) how can you tell if that sticker showing a 300 thread count is correct?  First look for a manufacturers tag sewn into the edging..  If none or faded into non-existence, hold the fabric up to the light.  If you can see the weave and the light through the cloth, you have a low thread count on your hands, probably 150 to 200 TPI.   Next, feel it.  The higher the thread count, the softer the fabric. 300 and higher thread count is very soft and not easy to see through. 

I hope this helps for now.  I’ll have more linen buying tips later.

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