Types of Bedding: Which Material is Right for You?

Confused about all of the different types of bedding materials that are available? We at west elm have created this handy buying guide to help you find the best fabric for your needs. Keep reading to learn about the most popular fabrics for bed sheets, pillowcases, shams and other types of bedding.


Cotton is the fabric most commonly used to manufacture bed sheets, pillowcases and other types of bedding. Not only is cotton durable and breathable, it's also the easiest type of bedding to care for. However, cotton is more prone to wrinkling than other types of bedding and lower quality varieties of the fabric can feel abrasive.

There are several different types of cotton bedding, including Egyptian cotton, Pima cotton and Upland cotton. Cotton bedding can also be found under the trademarked names Supima and MicroCotton. Below is a brief description of these common types of cotton.

  • Egyptian cotton - Egyptian cotton is the most luxurious of cottons. This type of cotton is characterized by extra-long fibers that add softness and smoothness to the material.
  • Pima cotton - This type of cotton is native to the southwest United States and is known for its suppleness and natural sheen.
  • Upland cotton - Upland cotton fibers are shorter than Egyptian and Pima cotton fibers, so sheets made from this material are not as soft as sheets made from the other varieties of cotton.
  • Supima® - Refers to materials made entirely from American Pima cotton.
  • MicroCotton® - A trademarked name given to a highly absorbent variety of cotton grown in India.


Linen is made by weaving together hollow-core flax fibers. The result is a highly-breathable and very durable fabric that absorbs moisture while repelling bacteria and dirt. Linen sheets have a classic, relaxed look that complements any decorating style. They are considered a worthwhile investment, however, they can crease and wrinkle easily.


Velvet has always been associated with luxury and comfort, so why not use this soft, supple fabric on your bed? Velvet is made from a variety of fibers, including cotton, linen, wool and silk. Among the popular types of velvet are linen velvet, which is known for its striated texture; crushed velvet, which gets its characteristic appearance from a manufacturing process that involves crushing and twisting the fabric as it's drawn through a narrow cylinder; and silk velvet, which has silk filaments that reflect light, giving the velvet a "wet" look. Since velvet is an insulating fabric, it is ideal for winter use and colder climates. Velvet can also be more difficult to clean and maintain than bedding made from cotton, linen and flannel.


Flannel was traditionally woven carded wool or worsted yarn, but modern varieties of this popular fabric are made from cotton, wool and synthetic materials like polyester. Flannel is created by combing or brushing the fabric's fibers in the opposite direction of the grain to create a soft, fuzzy nap. Flannel sheets absorb body heat, making them a popular bedding option for cold winter months. Flannel varies in fineness and its quality is measured in ounces per square yard rather than by thread count.


Matelassé is fabric that has been woven using a special technique that gives the fabric a raised, almost quilted appearance. It is traditionally made on a Jacquard loom, by hand or using a quilting machine. Matelassé is designed to mimic the style of hand-stitched French-made quilts. This fabric is most commonly used to make coverlets and shams. Matelassé can make an alternative to down comforters and duvets during the warm summer months. Matelassé doesn't have much stretch, so you'll want to be sure to keep your bed and pillow measurements in mind when shopping for this type of bedding.


Jacquard is the basic name given to fabrics that are woven on a jacquard loom. Jacquard fabrics have more stretch and are more stable than fabrics created using other weaving techniques, but they require special care. Jacquard fabrics can fade quickly and may lose some of their suppleness over time.


Tencel is the trademarked name of a soft, durable fabric made from eucalyptus tree wood pulp. Tencel is known for its antimicrobial properties and ecologically-conscious production. While not as breathable as cotton, sheets made from Tencel will help keep you warm during the winter months and cool during the summer months. Tencel also absorbs more moisture than cotton, so you can be sure you'll stay dry and comfortable on even the hottest and most humid of nights. Tencel sheets tend to absorb skin oils more easily than other bedding materials, so they may require more frequent washings.

Choosing the right bedding materials is important to getting a comfortable night's sleep. The above list is a good place to start when considering which bedding fabrics are best for you.

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