When it comes to choosing the right bedding it can get a little confusing. With so much terminology and without the right knowledge of all the bedding definitions, it can start to feel like you need a dictionary. Fortunately, we have quite a lot of experience with all things bedding. While we always stock the best bed linen with quality you can rely on, when it comes to softness and comfort it always comes down to personal preference.
To help you navigate some of the more confusing parts of bedding we’ve created our own A to Z of bedding terminology with quick and helpful vocabulary for all your bed linen needs. Whether you’re confused about what exactly a weave is, or simply want to check if cotton will suit the needs of your busy family life, these easy to understand descriptions should guide you to the right choice.
We’ve coded some of the key bedding definitions to help you further with an (F) for all the fabrics and a (W) for anything that’s a weave.
Bedding definitions A – F
Appliqué is a decorative needlework technique that involves sewing or otherwise sticking pieces of fabric onto a larger piece of fabric to create an image or design.
You may see this term used with duvets and pillows, both of which can contain fillings and materials that are irritable to some common allergies. Anti-allergen products therefore use alternative synthetic materials that are less irritable than natural feather and down. Other materials such as silk are naturally less irritable than fabrics such as cotton which may be irritable to people with allergies.
Bed in a bag
The bed in a bag is a complete set of bed linen with duvet cover, bed runner, pillowcases and even cushion covers. This is a quick and inexpensive way of getting a complete set of matching bed linen.
Pure cotton is widely used for bed linen for its soft and comfortable finish as well as it’s easy care and long lasting qualities. The feel of the fabric varies depending on the yarn size (see Yarn), weave (see Weave) and thread count (see Thread count).
Double size beds are larger than a standard single but the smallest of the double or twin sizes (see Single size, King size and Super king size). Double duvets are 200 x 200cm.
This is a filling for your duvet and pillows (see Fillings).
The duvet or comforter is perhaps one of the most important parts of your bedding. You can find various tog ratings (see Tog) to suit either warmer or colder months of the year, as well as various fillings (see Fillings) that affect the overall feel of the duvet. You can also see our duvet buying guide for more information.
Egyptian cotton (F)
Egyptian cotton is a more luxurious fabric than ordinary pure cotton. The fibres or staples are extra-long and fine giving it a much softer finish that lasts longer and softens with time. Typically, it also means more threads can be woven per square inch for a higher thread count (see Thread count).
Embellishment is the addition of any kind of decoration to improve the overall look or style of fabric. Decorative stitching, beading or tassels are all embellishments you may find on duvet covers and bedding.
Embroidery is decorative needlework or stitching used to create a stylish design onto fabric. Embroidery may be done by hand or by machine.
Feather/Feather & Down
This is a filling for your duvet and pillows (see Fillings).
Fillings are found in both your duvet (see Duvet) and pillows (see Pillows). Synthetic fillings such as hollowfibre are some of the cheapest and are also appropriate for people with allergies that may find feather and down irritating (see Anti-allergen). Feather duvets are usually the most inexpensive of the feather and down options, however feathers may poke out of the fabric and will fall out over time. Feather and down duvets offer a softer feel without the cost of a pure down duvet. Down duvets such as Canadian goose down or Hungarian goose down are known for their luxurious softness and are long lasting, but much more expensive. You can also see our duvet buying guide for more information.
The fitted sheet is used to cover the mattress of the bed and usually features elasticated corners to fit snugly over each corner and keep the sheet in place.
Flannelette (W, F)
Flannel or flannelette refers to both the weave and the fabric. Flannel fabric is woven and then brushed to give a super soft finish. Fibres are looser and may gather or collect, but the fabric offers superior comfort and is soft and warm to touch.
A flat sheet is also used to cover a mattress, but unlike a fitted sheet it doesn’t have elasticated corners and varies in depths to suit your mattress.
Bedding definitions G – O
GSM (Grams per square meter)
GSM stands for grams per square meter (g/m 2) and is a measurement for the area or surface density of something, most commonly used for paper and some fabric. While cotton and linen use thread count, fabrics such as flannelette or jersey will use GSM to measure density or thickness. You may therefore see GSM used for products such as towels as well as some bedding. The higher the GSM, the heavier, thicker and usually the softer and better quality the fabric.
A herringbone weave is also called the broken twill weave and produces a distinctive zig-zag type pattern. This weave is most often found in tweed and twill fabrics or clothing and has a soft finish in home furnishings. It is lighter but just as durable as the common plain percale weave.
Hollowfibre is a synthetic filling (see Fillings) made from hollow strands of polyester, hence its name. You’ll find this filling in our duvets (see Duvets), pillows (see Pillows) and mattress toppers (see Mattress toppers). The hollow space between fibres makes for a light filling while also trapping air, making it a great insulator. As a result duvets with this filling offer a breathable warmth with higher togs than comparable duvets using alternative fillings. Unlike natural fillings, hollowfibre is also anti-allergenic and many hollowfibre and microfibre (see Microfibre) fillings come with fibres treated with an anti-allergy coating.
Housewife pillowcases fit snugly to the pillow and are the most common type of pillowcase. An additional inside flap keeps the pillow inside and the snug fit prevents creasing and sagging.
This type of weave gets its name from the special loom it is woven on, the jacquard loom. It combines flat parts and raised parts to form a pattern, such as a stripe or a check. This weave uses finer fibres like Egyptian cotton so similarly produces higher thread counts.
King size is larger than a double bed (see Single size, Double size and Super king size) and is 230 x 220cm in terms of duvet sizes.
As with Egyptian cotton, Linen is known for ageing extremely well as it softens with each wash. This light fabric offers special insulating properties that keep you cool in summer and retains heat for warmth in winter.
Mattress protectors are used to protect the mattress to keep them clean or dry, and also to protect the sleeper from allergens. You can find waterproof mattress protectors as well as anti-allergy and quilted ones.
Mattress toppers are used as an extra cushioning layer. They can help make older mattresses feel comfier again or simply add extra comfort for personal preference. Like duvets, you can find mattress toppers with different fillings (see Fillings).
Microfibre is a filling (see Fillings) also made of fine strands of polyester similar to hollowfibre, but the strands are usually finer and are woven together tightly without the hollow space. This tight packing and the fineness of the fibres makes for a soft and spongy filling that can provide the feel of down duvets. Microfibre duvets also offer superb warmth but are still lighter than natural filled duvets and are also anti-allergenic (see Anti-allergen) like hollowfibre.
As well as fitting snugly to the pillow like the housewife pillowcase, the Oxford pillowcase has an additional border of fabric around the edge. The style of pillowcase you choose is simply down to preference.
Bedding definitions P – S
The simple percale weave is undoubtedly the most widely used and well known. This plain weave works by weaving one thread over and then one under, with combing used after to remove the shorter and therefore poorer quality fibres.
Pillows are similar to duvets in that they come with various fillings, from synthetic to feather and down (see Fillings). This is down to personal preference and other considerations such as allergies or muscle problems. You can also find various shapes, such as square and v-shaped pillows for pregnancy.
Ply is the number of individual yarns used to make a strand. A single-ply fabric simply uses one strand of yarn whereas a 2-ply fabric will use two strands of yarn twisted together to make a single strand. This is then woven as usual, giving a 2-ply fabric twice as many yarns for the same construction as a single-ply, generally making them a more superior fabric.
Polyblends are combination fabrics that use polyester. The most common type you’ll find is polycotton which uses polyester and cotton, but you may find other materials used as well. Different polyblends will have different percentages of each, giving them a different feel and overall quality. Polycottons, for example, are cheaper than pure cotton or Egyptian cotton, but cotton heavy polycottons can still offer a high-quality finish.
Quilting is a process that requires sewing two pieces of fabric together to create a thicker padded material. Often a third material of batting or insulating fabric is used in the middle. Quilted material is distinctive in its diamond shaped sewing pattern and can be used for pillows, mattress protectors, bedspreads and other bedding materials.
Rayon (or Viscose) (F)
Rayon is a semi-synthetic material that is manufactured from cellulose found in plant materials, particularly wood pulp. There are various names for rayon with each name using a slightly different method, the most common of which is viscose. Rayon is a versatile material that has similar properties to natural fibres and can imitate the feel and texture of silk, wool, cotton and linen for a fraction of the cost. Viscose rayon lacks durability but is extremely soft to touch.
This weave is much silkier and smoother than a plain percale weave and often has a slightly shiny finish to it. It achieves its smoothness with much finer threads that create higher thread counts (see Thread count) along with a distinctive weave structure and finish.
Silk fabrics are naturally hypo-allergenic and have similar thermal qualities to linen in that it can be cooling in summer and warmer in winter. Silk is great for people with skin conditions and prevents static, but is hard to care for and usually very expensive.
Single size is the smallest size of bed you’ll find for adults (see Double size, King size and Super king size). Single duvets are 135 x 200cm.
Super king size
Super king size is the largest size of bed (see Single size, Double size and King size). Super king size duvets are 260 x 220cm.
Bedding definitions T – Z
Thread count is simply the number of threads woven into a square inch of fabric and indicates how closely woven the fabric is. Thread counts are often misconceived for quality. Some fabrics simply need different thread counts to produce the desired quality finish depending on the type and size of the yarn as well as the weave used. It also comes down to personal preference.
A tog rating applies to your duvet (see Duvet). It concerns how good the duvet is at trapping warm air; in other words, its thermal insulating ability. A higher tog rating means a warmer duvet. Generally, up to 7.5 tog are lighter duvets appropriate for summer months. 13.5 tog and higher are for winter months, and the togs in between are for mild months or are even considered all season. You can also see our duvet buying guide for more information.
Valance sheets and platform valances go over your mattress like a fitted sheet but also have additional fabric that hangs down beyond the mattress to cover the base of the bed. These sheets are used for purely ascetic reasons and for personal preference.
Warp is the vertically woven yarn in the fabric and is fed through the weaving loom.
The weave is how a fabric is created and uses a weaving loom to thread yarn strands together. There are several types of weave that create different patterns, thickness and overall feel of the fabric.
This is the horizontally woven yarn and is woven through the warp.
The yarn is the strand of material and yarn size refers to the thickness of the yarns used in the fabric. Long yarn fibres are finer and make for a better-quality fabric, as with Egyptian cotton yarn.