Anyone who has slept between bedding made of flannel knows the sheer joy of softness and warmth against the skin on a winter night. However, when selecting flannel as the fabric of choice there are several key facts one must know.
Weight Matters, Not Thread Count
First of all flannel is purchased according to weight, not thread count. Most of us have shopped for our sheets and pillow cases based on thread count. In fact, when most of us consider the quality of our sheets we think the higher the thread count the finer the sheet. Of course, we know that is not always true. And, in the case of flannel bedding, thread count does not even come into play.
Flannel is qualified based on weight. The heavier the weight, the warmer the sheets. Generally speaking a weight of four ounces is an average quality flannel sheet or pillow case. In fact, most sheets of the soft fabric come in the four ounce weight. Six ounce weight is heavier and warmer. Eight ounce weight is even better in the very cold climates. However, just as with thread count, the law of diminishing returns comes into play.
For those who live in the southern part of the United States, a four ounce sheet may be all that is needed. As one goes farther north, a heavier weight may be more desirable.
That brings us to the question of how is the weight calculated. If a one yeard square of the fabric is weighed, that is the weight of the fabric. Therefore, a sheet that is denoted as "four ounce" is stating that each square yard of the fabric weighs four ounces and so on.
Here's the catch. Presently, the trend is to weigh and advertise flannel in grams. So, for those of us who are not that familiar with the conversion rate, approximately 28.35 grams equals 1 ounce. Keep that in mind when shopping for flannel sheets, pillow cases and comforters.
Also, bear in mind that the heavier the flannel the warmer the sheets. Depending on your location, the four or five ounce weight may be more than sufficient for the winter months.
Yarn-Dyed vs. Printed Flannel
As one might have guessed, just as with woven cotton and percale, there is a difference in how the fabric is processed when discussing "yarn-dyed" and "printed."
Yarn-dyed flannel indicates that the fibers were dyed before the actual bedding fabric was made. In other words, each thread was dyed to its specific color and during the weaving process the design was created.
Note that most flannel bedding that is solid in color or in the typical plaid pattern has been yard dyed.
The pink set above is described as "printed." Simply put, this means that the process for adding the color to the pink sheets is much like the process of coloring percale. The fabric, without color, is woven into sheeting. Once the sheeting has been created the colors and patterns are sprayed onto the fabric. Of note, the flowers on the sheets above will only be visible on the top side of the sheet.
Care of Flannel Bedding
If there is one complaint about flannel sheets and pillow cases it is that the material pills. Flannel will create little pills or tiny balls that will cling to the fabric with use. The pills are created from wear on the looser "hairs" of the fabric.
We have devoted several articles to the care of bedding. Therefore, we refer you to:
- Care of colored bedding
- Tips on preventing flannel pilling
- Or, just browse... you will find helpful information!
Flannel is one of the best choices of bedding fabrics for winter. It is warm. It is comfortable. It is durable with proper care.