Vol. 12, No. 18 Sept. 23 - Oct. 6, 1999


The Secret Shopper

If You're Looking for Sheets, Local Stores Have it Covered

What do you look for when you're buying sheets? Price, of course -- no one likes to needlessly spend more than they have to -- and design -- sheets dominate the look of our bedrooms. It's important to also pay attention to quality. The quality of sheets will determine how comfortable they are to sleep in, and how long they last. Better quality sheets can be less expensive in the long run, because you'll replace them less frequently --- and who can put a price on a good night's sleep? If you're choosy about colors and designs, you might find yourself spending more --- the cheaper brands tend not to be too adventurous in their designs.

The label on bed linens tells a lot about the product within. Sheets are classified by the number of threads per inch (TPI), a number which can range from 120 up to 300. The more threads per inch, the tighter the weave. A tighter weave is smoother and more comfortable; it is also more durable. One hundred eighty TPI is acceptable quality; two hundred is nicer. Most packages will tell you the thread count, but also take a close look at the sheets --- the less space you can see between the individual threads, the better. As I shopped, I saw a lot of sheets that claimed to be 180 TPI, but didn't look it to me. When in doubt, trust your own eyes.

The cotton content of the sheets can also be important. Some people prefer cotton because it is a natural fiber. When I started shopping for this column, I assumed that only 100% cotton sheets would satisfy me. Then I looked at the sheets in my closet --- my favorites are 100% cotton, but lots of nice ones are 50% cotton, 50% polyester. (My least favorite sheets --- hard and pilly --- are also 50/50). The higher the percentage of polyester, the greater the likelihood that the fabric will pill.

Most neighborhood stores sell sheets in complete sets --- flat sheet, fitted sheet, and pillowcases (one for a twin set, two for larger sets). This is usually more economical, and saves you a lot of time hunting through sale bins for matching pieces. Some things are hard to judge before you buy. Is the elastic good? Will it fit the bed well? When in doubt, I tend to trust brands I've used before over no-name, off-brand products.

If your budget for sheets is really, really tight, your best bet is probably the off-brand "Perfection" sheets at Price Busters (340 E. 204th St.). One hundred eighty TPI, 50/50 sheet sets in various prints are priced from $9.99 for a twin to $24.99 for a king. Slightly cheaper sheets are available at Lot Stores (110 E.188th St.) --- $7.99 for a twin set --- but the thread count looked like 120, and the sheets were 65% polyester. You're worth the extra two bucks.

If you can afford a little more, you have a lot of choices. Several neighborhood stores carry more recognizable brands -- Martex, Stevens, Utica, Springmaid and Colormate (the Sears house brand). These are also 180 TPI, 50/50 sheets, but they appear more tightly woven, and the seams and other details appear to be higher quality. Stella (3125 Bainbridge Ave.) offers some of these brands; twin sets are $14.99 to $19.99, Queen sets are $24.99 to $29.99. Golden Linen (3468 Jerome Ave.) has a nice variety of 180-count sheet sets that cost $34.99 for Queen size and Utica 100% cotton, 200 TPI checked sheets in pink, yellow, or blue; a queen set is $44.99. You'll see these brands also at Hollywood Linen, Paramount, and Legacy Home Fashions. Sears (400 E. Fordham Rd.) sells Springmaid and Colormate. Colormate solids with 200 TPI are currently on sale; twin-king $12.99 to $53.99.

Stores specializing in household linens usually offer a greater variety of price and design. Also, since these stores carry curtains, comforters, and other accessories, they make it easy for you to coordinate your decor. Most of them offer one or two items the discount stores don't.

Hollywood Linen (119 E. Fordham Rd.) had luxurious satin sheets, a decadent splurge for you romantics at $79.99. I would stay away from their "Renaissance Collection" sheets --- they have been repackaged, and although they claim to be 250 TPI, 100% cotton sheets, they don't look like it.

Legacy Home Fashion (2512 Grand Concourse) had one brand no one else had --- Caribbean Brights. These sheets were colorful, had quality details like satin piping, and a queen set was $39.99. I'd love to see more of these in neighborhood stores. Paramount Silk House (378 E. Fordham Road) had another brand that was new to me --- Soft Touch. Soft Touch sheets come in bright colors and prints, and 200 TPI, making them smooth and comfy. At $14 to $34, a great deal.

Parkway Clearance Center (311 E. 204th St.) has top brands like Ralph Lauren at discount prices. On my last visit, they had Charter Club queen sets, Macy's very good house brand, for $35. They also had Dan River separates, in solid colors with embroidered edges, for $12.98 each. You'll find some especially lovely sheets here --- some are sets and some aren't, so read the labels carefully.

Relatively new on the market are knitted sheets --- made of the same cotton jersey fabric as your favorite T-shirt. Fans say they are cool in summer and cozy in winter. You can get them at Parkway Clearance (sets from $19 to $29); Sears ($24 to $59), and Paramount. Let me know how they are. And tell me where you're shopping.

The Secret Shopper is a monthly column. If you have questions or comments, write: Secret Shopper, Norwood News, 75 E. 208th St., Bronx, NY 10467.

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