At each of the many stages in the transformation of raw cotton to luxurious sheets, the manufacturer is faced with decisions that will either make the sheets better or make them cheaper. There are opportunities to achieve an extraordinary level of quality and just as many opportunities to cut corners. Most companies make each of these decisions based on the need to reach a predetermined price point. Between The Sheets makes these decisions based solely on our commitment to offer you the finest sheets in the world, the softest, most sensuous, and longest lasting as befits a true luxury product.
To begin with, we use only Egyptian cotton. Of the 28 grades of Egyptian cotton, we use only the finest grade, Giza. Egyptian cotton is a long fiber, about five times longer than other cottons. Other premium cottons, such as Pima or Sea Island, have fibers that are twice as long as regular cotton but still less than half as long as Egyptian. We use only Egyptian, and only the finest grade, because it spins into a much smoother, finer and stronger yarn than any other cotton in the world.
Raw cotton must be cleaned before it can be spun. Ordinary cotton is cleaned by a coarse “carding” machine, a cheap and quick process. Real cleaning requires thorough combing with very fine teeth, a process requiring much more time and care. We double-comb our cotton to remove all the impurities before it is spun into yarn.
All of our spinning is done in Switzerland, Italy and Germany, because these are the countries that have both the tradition and the technology required for the finest spinning. Fiber can be spun into varying degrees of thickness, known as gauge. We demand the finest and thinnest, or highest gauge, fiber possible. This can only be accomplished when you start out with the strongest grade of cotton to begin with. Most sheets are woven from 60- or 80-gauge yarn, which is relatively coarse. We weave a much finer 120-gauge yarn, even 140-gauge in some cases. If yarn were pasta, 80-gauge yarn would be spaghetti and 120-gauge yarn would be angel hair.
Our yarn is also plied, or twisted, an expensive process by which several very fine fibers are twisted together in the final yarn. This makes the fabric much stronger and more durable. It also helps to eliminate “pilling,” the annoying appearance of little pieces of fuzz caused by the simple friction of your body on fitted or bottom sheets of ordinary quality.
After spinning and twisting, yarn goes to the looms for weaving. There are different kinds of weaves, and most high-thread-count fabrics, including 600-plied yarns and 1,000-plied yarns sheets, are a sateen weave. But all sateen weaves are not the same. Here again, one can decide to go for ultimate quality or to cut corners. Most high-plied yarns sateen-weave sheets are woven three-and-one (three over and one under). We weave seven-and-one, which gives a much more silk-like hand or feel to the fabric, a quality we are particularly famous for. Such weaving requires special looms and goes much slower than other kinds of weaving.
So you see that high thread numbers alone do not make a fine sheet. If corners were cut anywhere along the way, the end result will still be ordinary. The ingredients and the labor that go into a sheet determine its price. We do not set out to make an expensive sheet, nor do we set out to make a sheet for a certain price, we simply set out to make the best sheet.
Another important step that affects the final quality of a sheet is the dyeing process. Woven fabric is first bleached to get out all the impurities, such as remnants of the wax used for weaving. In our case, the fabric then goes through a second process, called mercerizing. Very few manufacturers take the extra step of mercerizing, a process that removes loose hairs and fuzz and prepares the fabric to take color better, but it is nevertheless a key step to enhancing the luster of the fabric and achieving colors that are full, rich and beautiful.
After mercerizing, the fabric is dyed. Most manufacturers commonly use a simple pigment dyeing process, which covers the surface of the fabric much like painting your wall. Pigment dyeing also stiffens the fabric, especially in the darker colors. By contrast, we use dyes that actually penetrate the cotton, go inside, in a process called fiber-reactive dyeing. As a result, our colors are deeper and longer lasting, and our sheets are softer. Our blacks are as soft and silky as our whites because we put the color inside the fiber instead of on top of it. An alternative to dyeing an entire piece of fabric (piece-dyeing) is to dye the yarn before it is woven. This is called yarn-dyeing and we use it primarily in reversible jacquards where we create a design through weaving. A third alternative is printing fabrics, where you print a design on the fabric rather than dye the entire piece. Again, you can print designs with cheaper pigment dyes or you use more expensive fiber-reactive dyes, which we use.
As part of our final finishing, we use a process called calendaring which works the fabric to enhance its softness and lustrous finish. Most manufacturers do not take this extra step. Our sheets are then framed and heat set to minimize shrinkage, and finally cut and sewn by experts.
Our sheets are cut 118 inches wide by 120 inches long by 20 to 22 inches deep, where ordinary sheets are 106 inches wide by 108 inches long by 8 to 11 inches deep. Such large pieces of fabric can only be produced on special extra-wide looms, but the resulting generous size sheets make a big difference in the way our sheets fit your bed and in your sleeping comfort. For instance, Between the Sheets’ pillow cases are not just open pillow bags but are completely finished with generous flanged shams on four sides. They are designed for comfortable sleeping, not just for looks.
You can also easily see the difference in sewing between our sheets and others. Sewing is labor-intensive, requires real expertise and costs money. Our sewing is done in Europe by people who only know how to do things the best way. Tight, small, straight stitches, custom sewn to the proper number of stitches per inch is the standard at Between The Sheets. Ordinary sheets are mass produced on machines operating at such high speeds that loose and inconsistent stitching are unavoidable.
Quality control is an active, constant process at Between The Sheets. Where mass-produced sheets are turned out in the thousands a day, we turn out less than fifty. Slowly, carefully, taking every opportunity to improve quality rather than cut corners.
When you see our sheets in the retail store, you will notice that our packages are unsealed. You’re invited to reach in and touch them, because you can actually feel the difference. To touch, feel and dream the difference is what truly fine sheets are all about.