How to Shop for Bedding on the Cheap

Shopping Guide

Ever had the hunch, when you're reading the thread count on a set of sheets, that the number might not justify the price tag? Us too. When you're shopping for bedding, it can be difficult to navigate the marketing materials and determine what really matters and how much to pay. Here are a few tips and sources to keep in mind when you're trying to find high quality at a good price.

Understand Thread Count

Thread count is defined as the number of threads (horizontal and vertical) per square inch of a sheet. Manufacturers sometimes crowd thinner threads together to increase the count so they can charge more. (See this article for more info.)

I'm generally suspicious of thread counts in chain stores over 400 — in 2008, a massage therapist who thought her 800 thread count sheets seemed a little scratchy actually won a lawsuit against Bed, Bath & Beyond for misleading consumers. The store has since settled and complied with ASTM standards.

5093f36bdbd0cb03540004de. w.94 h.71 s.centercrop West Elm
Their Organic Cotton Ikat Stripe Sheets have a 230 thread count and range from $79 to $119 for a set, and they're certified by GOTS (Global Organic Textiles Standard). If you check back often, you can often find markdowns at West Elm on organic sheets.

5093f36fdbd0cb03540004e0. w.94 h.71 s.centercrop Pillows & Throws
This website aggregates products from modern bedding designers, and their clearance section sometimes has good deals. For example, the high-quality, 200 thread count Unison Bamboo Cotton Sheet Set is marked down to $77 (reg. $140).

Shop for Simple but High-Quality Fabrics

Fabric has just as much impact on the quality of a sheet as thread count. Cotton is classic, breathable, and ideal for summer bedding. Nowadays, it's not hard to find affordable organic cotton, which the US Department of Agriculture certifies as a plant grown without pesticides or chemicals.

If you want to shop American, look for pima cotton, a soft, dense fabric — not all of it is made in the US, so check the label. (For more on cotton sourcing and classification, see the International Trade Centre's Cotton Exporters Guide.)

5093f36cd9127e2f1000047e. w.94 h.71 s.centercrop Garnet Hill
Their Hemstitched Flannel Bedding is made from American-grown "Supima" cotton (a trademark name that's an acronym for "superior pima"), although it's stitched in Portugal. Sheets sell for $44 - $74.

5093f36ed9127e2f26000490. w.94 h.71 s.centercrop The Company Store
They make their bedding in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, and they have a line of eco-friendly organic cotton bedding. Right now, their Organic Cotton Jersey Sheets are on sale for $24 - $64 (regularly $24 - $129).

Shop Sales and Outlet Stores

Bedding is one of those things that's fairly easy to find on sale year-round, since stores change their collections seasonally. Check the clearance rack or visit outlet stores for good deals on last season's sheets and blankets.

5093f36ddbd0cb03540004df. w.94 h.71 s.centercrop Crate and Barrel
Their online and brick-and-mortar outlets have a rotating selection of deeply discounted bedding, and you can often find Marimekko on clearance. Shown: Marimekko Plum Queen Sheet Set, on sale for $70 (reg. $130).

5093f36fd9127e2f26000491. w.94 h.71 s.centercrop MUJI
Linen is another lightweight, breathable material that works well for blankets and top bedding. Japanese/US store MUJI sells a cotton/linen gauze checked blanket that's currently marked down to $25 (regular $35).

RELATED RESOURCES
Best Bedding Stores 2010
Colorful Bedding on the Cheap: 10 Sources
10 Best Organic Bedding Sources

Photo: West Elm Organic Cotton Ikat Stripe Sheets