If you’re like many people, you may find it a little overwhelming when you start shopping for linens. There are so many different terms…what do they all mean? Here is a quick rundown of the many words that you may come across when shopping for your new bedding:
Bed Skirt – a decorative fabric that fits between the mattress and box spring. Also called a dust ruffle, it hangs to the floor to cover the box spring and legs of the bed. A bed skirt was traditionally one piece of fabric that made to lie across the entire box spring and hang to the floor on the three sides of the bed; however, many modern bed skirts are now made of three separate panels which are pinned around the sides of the bed into the mattress or box spring.
Bedspread – a lightweight bed cover whose sides hang all the way to the floor, eliminating the need for a bed skirt. Also a generic term used to describe coverlets, quilts and comforters.
Blanket Cover – often used interchangeably with “coverlet,” a blanket cover is placed over the top of the blanket and bed sheets. Usually they are designed to fall to the bottom of the mattress, giving a finished look.
Bolster – a small decorative pillow, usually long, narrow and cylindrical, used for decorative purposes or lumbar support.
Boudoir Pillow – a small pillow, sized 12 x 16 inches, used primarily for decorative purposes.
Brocade – a lavishly-decorated, jacquard-woven fabric. Most commonly woven from silk, it is often embroidered with gold or silver thread. Its patterns are not reversible. California King – a king sized mattress that is longer and narrower than a traditional king. While a standard king size is 76” wide by 80” long, a California King is 72” wide and 84” long.
Comforter – a thick, quilted blanket used for warmth on top of a bed. Similar to a quilt or duvet in that they are constructed with a layer of filling, comforters are usually thicker than a quilt and filled with cotton, down or synthetic materials. Their weights vary and are determined by the thickness of the filling inside. Sometimes used interchangeably with the term “duvet,” comforters are generally printed with a decorative pattern and used on their own as the top layer of the bed covering. They are often sold in sets with matching shams.
Continental Pillow – a large pillow or sham sized 26 x 26 inches, usually used for decorative purposes behind smaller, standard-sized pillows. Also called a “European” or “Euro” size.
Coverlet – a lightweight, woven spread placed on top of the bedding. May be tucked under the mattress, left to hang down over the sides of the bed, or may just cover the mattress to expose a bed frame or bed skirt. They may be used alone or over a duvet. They are often made from matelassé and sometimes used interchangeably with this term.
Damask – a jacquard-woven fabric that features patterns, often florals or scrolls. Most commonly created from silk, it may also be woven of cotton, wool or linen. Its patterns are reversible.
Double Boudoir Pillow – a large, narrow pillow, sized 15 x 35 inches, usually used for decorative purposes
Dust Ruffle – see Bed Skirt.
Duvet – a type of bedding that consists a soft bag filled with down, feathers, wool or a synthetic alternative. Often used interchangeably with the term “comforter,” a duvet is generally not decorative and is covered with a duvet cover for décor and protection. The duvet can be used by itself as the top layer of covering, or folded at the bottom of the bed for décor and pulled up when needed for warmth. In some cases, they are also used as a layer of bedding underneath a coverlet or bedspread.
Duvet Cover – a decorative layer that slips over the duvet and closes with buttons or a zipper. A duvet cover offers a protective layer to keep your duvet clean and is easy to remove and wash. It also gives you the flexibility of changing the look of your bed without having to invest in a new duvet or comforter.
European or “Euro” Pillow -- a large pillow or sham sized 26 x 26 inches, usually used for decorative purposes behind smaller, standard-sized pillows. Also called a “Continental” size.
Jacquard – a style of weaving that produces a textured pattern within the fabric, so that the pattern may be seen on both sides of the fabric. Examples of jacquards weaving would be found on damask or brocade fabrics.
Matelasse (pronounced “matt-lah-ZAY”) -- a thicker cotton, jacquard-woven fabric featuring different textures. Most often used in coverlets, the term “matelassé” is often used to describe a matelassé coverlet.
Percale – a term used to describe a type of sheet characterized by a plain weave, matte finish and a crisp feel. They tend to be lightweight, soft and cool to the touch, making them particularly well-suited for warm rooms and climates.
Quilt – a type of bed covering traditionally made of three layers of fabric. Two woven cloth layers are sewn together with a layer of cotton batting in between and stitched with a decorative pattern all over. Quilts are generally pieced together with multiple pieces of cloth, but may also be found with a single piece of fabric on top.
Sateen – a term used to describe a type of sheet characterized by a satin weave, shiny finish and silky, slippery feel. Sateen is generally a bit thicker and more tightly woven than a percale, causing them to retain more heat. They are well-suited for cool rooms and more formal décor.
Sham – a decorative pillow covering that protects a pillow and transforms it into a decorative item. Unlike pillow cases, their openings are usually located in the middle of the back of the sham with overlapping fabric or a hidden closure. Shams may be easily removed and washed, and also give you flexibility in changing the look of your bed without having to invest in more expensive decorative pillows. They are generally used for decorative purposes along with “sleeping” pillows and are usually removed from the bed at night.
Thread Count – refers to the number of horizontal and vertical threads in one square inch of fabric. If a sheet reads “400tc,” or 400 thread count, that means that there are 400 threads in every one inch of fabric. Thread counts generally range from 60 to 1000 or more, and traditional wisdom has always stated that higher thread counts were more desirable and more expensive. However, there are many more considerations when purchasing sheets than a high thread count, and that should not be used as the exclusive means to determine a sheet’s quality. Read more on this topic here.
Throw – a small to medium-sized blanket used for decorative purposes or for an extra layer of warmth. Throws are a common accessory item that may be placed on a bed, armchair or sofa to add color and pattern to a room.