There’s a huge trend toward more natural fibres, such as linen, in bedding right now (see the gorgeous example from Au Lit Fine Linens, at left). A little birdie told me we may even see something similar in the Dream Home at the National Home Show next month. If you like the the look, but prefer something crisper, choose a linen/cotton blend. While I love both the look and feel of linen, you do have to be aware of how to care for it. Well-made linen can be extremely durable, and can actually get both stronger and softer with washing, as the weave will shrink slightly and get tighter and smoother. But you need to understand your linen. Unless they were very dirty, I’d be inclined to wash linen sheets on a fairly gentle cycle, as linen tends not to like to be twisted around too much. I don't have linen sheets (yet) but I do have linen table linens that came from my husband’s Grandmother and must be at least 70 years old. They are in pristine condition. While I'm not over-protective of it (we use it frequently), I try to be respectful of it.
That means, for example, never overdrying it. I take my table linens (and cotton bed sheets) out of the dryer after about ten minutes and hang them over a door or — on a nice day — on the line. Even if you love that fresh air fragrance, though, don’t leave them on the line for too, too long. Sunlight is kinder on fabrics than chemical bleaches (although I’m not adverse to the occasional use of bleach when necessary), but too much of it can weaken fabric. I want to pick up some old-fashioned “bluing” – a laundry additive that’s supposed to brighten dull whites — to try on some cotton/polyester sheets I bought years ago that have become dull. I’ll report back soon on that. Those sheets were actually the last ones I bought with polyester in them as I find it doesn’t “breathe” that well, and that it tends to pill. (I use them as an extra set at the cottage now.) And when laundering your bed linens, don’t forget to wash your pillow covers once a month or so, and mattress covers twice a year. For more good information on linen care, go to The Linen Way, a family owned company that distributes linen - mostly from Eastern Europe - to higher-end retailers across Canada. Good points — and gorgeous stuff to look at!