Fabric Definitions

Fabric definitions, Sizing and Product Care:

Cotton is a versatile fabric particularly well suited to bed linens: it is a natural fibre grown in many parts of the world, it is highly absorbent, gives year round comfort, it breathes and yet is durable and becomes softer over time. Cotton yarns can be transformed into an endless array of fabrics and we would like to give you some simple definitions of the main fabric types used to produce the sheeting for most bedlinens and at the same time explain some of the more common words used when describing different fabrics and their properties.

The finest quality cotton is said to be Sea Island Cotton, but there is a very limited supply and all of it is used by the garment industry. For bed linen the best quality is Egyptian cotton.

Egyptian Cotton:

A generic classification for the strong, lustrous, long staple cotton largely produced in the Nile River Valley. Although historically it all came from Egypt, today it is also produced in other countries, but still complies with the original Egyptian standards of quality. To qualify as Egyptian the staples must be at least 3 cm in length.


The quality of cotton depends on the length of the individual fibres or staples. The longer the staple, the better the cotton. Longer staples can be combed finer to remove small fibres allowing the cotton to be spun into a finer texture with more tensile strength and woven into a softer, more lustrous fabric.

Carded Cotton:
Carding is the process in the manufacture of cotton where the fibres are separated, cleaned and formed into a continuous strand. This process removes most of the impurities and all short and broken fibres.

Combed Cotton:

A refining process, which can only be used with higher grades of cotton. After carding the fibres are combed to remove the shorter fibres, leaving the longer fibres, which can then be spun into a finer, stronger yarn. The sheeting woven from such yarns will have higher thread counts than carded cotton.


A plain weave, lightweight cotton fabric woven from carded or combed cotton yarn with a minimum thread count of 180 threads per square inch. Any plain weave fabric can be called percale, even 100% polyester as long as it has over 180 threads per sq inch.


Sateen is cotton made with a satin weave. Rather than a one-over-one weave like percale, the warp or weft threads "float" or are passed over several filling threads, creating a fabric with a silken feel and a very smooth and lustrous surface. Sateen can be produced in both light and heavy weights. It is not as durable a weave as percale, and it should ideally be ironed to restore its lustre after washing.

Damask and Jacquard:

These terms are used interchangeably to describe decorative woven fabrics. Strictly speaking the term jacquard refers to the loom on which the fabric is woven and damask is the correct name for the woven cloth.
A damask design is one in which alternating satin and matte textures (produced by varying the warp or weft) create the pattern. Damask is often woven of a single colour, but it can also be woven with two or more colours. The pattern can be seen in the reverse on the opposite side. Designs are often woven in a satin finish so that the light reflects on the surface and highlights the definition of the pattern.
The loom was invented in France by Joseph Marie Jacquard in 1801 and enabled weavers to produce more complex and intricate woven designs than ever before. It is useful to know that the jacquard loom can only weave sheeting fabric to a maximum width of 295cm and bedspread fabrics to a maximum 275cm.


Micromodal is one of a group of organic man-made fibres and it goes through a number of processes to become a very thin fibre of less than 1 denier and with such a fine yarn it can be very closely woven.
Modal is a processed bio-based textile made from reconstituted cellulose from the beech tree. Modal is considered a type of rayon. While rayon may be made of the wood pulp of a number of different trees, modal uses only beechwood. Modal is considered bio-based rather than natural because, though the raw materials used to make it are natural, they are heavily processed using a number of chemicals.
Like other types of rayon, originally marketed as "artificial silk," modal is soft, smooth and breathes well. Its texture is similar to that of cotton or silk. It is cool to the touch and very absorbent. The combination of strength and lightness give this fabric its great durability, suppleness and incredibly soft almost silk-like handle.

Finishing Processes:

Finishing is the general term for a multitude of processes and treatments which a fabric may undergo after it has been woven. It is the final processing of the cloth and its purpose is to make the fabric suitable for its intended end use. That may mean making the fabric shrinkproof, softer or crease resistant, or a combination of these and many more.
High quality cotton fabrics are heat processed to remove surplus fibres from the surface of the cloth resulting in a very smooth finish such as the percale used in Pimlico and Brompton.
When cotton is processed, it is under tension and is essentially in a "stretched" state. If finished fabric is immersed in water under no tension, it will shrink, so a process called sanforisation/sanforizing is common for fabrics used for bedlinens. The fabric is passed between 2 rollers which apply steam under pressure. Fabrics bearing this trademark are generally accepted not to shrink more than 1%.


A decorative stitch, usually along a border or hem, that creates an openwork pattern by drawing out several weft yarns, and then sewing the warp yarns together in a uniform pattern


A row of fine closely stitched satin stitch embroidery giving a neat finish to pillowcases. Often this can be in a contrasting colour to the body of the linens as a design feature, but is also used in self colour and often more than one row of stitching is used, as in Brompton.

Thread Count:

This is a measure of the number of threads, warp (lengthwise) and weft (widthwise), which are woven into one square inch of fabric. Any type of fabric has a thread count, so to use the term solely as a means of describing the quality of that fabric is misleading. Generally speaking, when describing bed linens, the higher the thread count, the smoother and finer the sheet. However, judging a sheet by thread count alone can sometimes be deceiving. Thread count is important, but it is only one part of the story. The quality of the cotton fibre and yarns and the way they are woven and finished are equally, if not more important. It is possible to cram many inferior, short-staple cotton yarns into a square inch to create a high thread count, but the resulting fabric will feel heavy and coarse. A sheet woven from a high quality yarn described as 200 thread count will feel so much better than a basic quality product of a higher count.
It is not unusual to use plied yarn, which is produced by twisting together very fine threads. For marketing purposes it is not uncommon to count such twisted yarn as double or more. For example a fabric with 250 4 ply threads to a square inch becomes a 1000 thread count product.


The extremely soft, silky and strong hair of the cashmere goat.



This is a French term for embossed velvet. The technique involves passing plain velvet between a heated engraved metal roller and a paper roller to achieve a design in relief on the surface of the velvet.



Linen, woven from flax, is considered to be the finest material for table linens, and by many people for sheets as well. Linen is extremely durable, yet soft and lustrous, and it only gets better with age and washing. Linen's ability to "breathe" and absorb moisture, and its cool, smooth finish makes it particularly appealing in summer.

There is often confusion between King and Super King size beds. If the customer is not sure then ask if the bed is 5ft or 6ft. If that doesnt help, then ask if their bed is the same size as 2 single beds put together, if so this will be a Super King.

In the USA the terms Queen and King are used and these are the exact equivalent of UK King and Super King.

There is not a separate size of bedspread for the Super King bed, so the same size is used both for it and a King bed. This is primarily because of the limitations in weaving damask bedspread fabric - the loom cannot weave wider than 275cm.

USA pillow sizes are generally the same as UK but they have an additional smaller size, which they call Standard measuring 20x26 inches or 50x64cm. We do not produce pillowcases for this size of pillow. In the US a UK Standard pillow is called Queen.

Pillows and Pillowcases:

Pillowcases are often described as Oxford or Housewife. An Oxford pillowcase has a cuff or flange, which stands proud of the main pillow on 4 sides. A Housewife is the simplest style of pillowcase, which fits the pillow exactly with just an opening at one end.

A Euro pillowcase is the cover for the large square pillow sitting at the top of the bed behind the regular pillows. The Euro square measures 65x65cms and is mainly used as a decorative pillow, or for propping you up as you sit in bed reading the Sunday papers!

A Boudoir pillow (also called a Breakfast or Baby pillow) measures 30cm x 40cm and is used mainly as a decorative pillow. It can also be used as a travel pillow. For the showrooms we have proposed a Boudoir Programme for display purposes. Specialist linen stores in the USA use this type of presentation and it is a very practical way of showing your customers the complete range of linens without having to keep opening packaged goods. The Boudoir pillow shows the quality of the fabric and the style of design most effectively allowing the customer to feel the fabric and appreciate the quality of finish.

Another term used is Sham. This is an American term, which has primarily been used to describe the cover for a pillow, which is purely used for display and not to sleep on.


Fitted and flat sheets: The fitted sheet has elastic on each corner and fits the mattress of the bed exactly as an undersheet. All our fitted sheets have a deep pocket to accommodate deeper mattresses and/or mattress toppers.

Flat Sheets can also be used as an undersheet, although with a decorative edge are more often used purely as a top sheet with a duvet or blankets.

Valance panels:

Valance panels are made up of three panels, which you slip between the mattress and the divan base or box spring and attach with mattress or upholstery pins; it allows you to adjust the length of the valance to suit your tastes and the height of your bed, a very practical alternative to a traditional valance.