• Hand embroidered bed linen


Home help

Jenny Deeming, co-founder of Cologne and Cotton, on choosing the best bed linen

Interview: Clare Finney

Where do you start when it comes to bedding?
The foremost consideration is your basic stuff—the pillow and duvets—and with those you should really get the best you can afford. Ideally, unless you are terribly allergic to feathers, this should be Hungarian goose down. It can be duck, but down is best—with a lighter tog in summer and a heavier tog in winter.

What is a tog?
Togs are really the only way people can identify how warm a duvet is. They’ve tried using other measuring descriptions, like fill-power, but the tog is the only one people seem to understand. What a tog actually is, no one really knows—it used to mean something specific, I think. All you need to know is that 10 is middling, 4½ is for summer and 13½ is for winter. Some people like an all-seasons—two duvets, one 4 tog and one 9 tog, which you button together in winter. That is very heavy, however. Our Hungarian goose down is 10½ tog, which is ample.

What about thread count?
I think people are at risk of getting seduced by these very high thread counts, and it is all rubbish—a marketing ploy. Two hundred to 400 is fine—it is the way the sheet has been made that matters. That is what gives our sheets a lovely feel, not a 1,000 thread count. It is really misleading—a lot of high thread counts are very, very heavy, almost like furnishing fabrics. The highest we do is Dorchester in 600, and that is lovely: plain but beautiful cotton, silken and lustrous. 

How do you look after good bed linen?
If you are not using the bed—as in the guest bedroom, for example—don’t leave it made, as the cotton will yellow slightly over time. Or else put a jacquard over the top to protect it. Also, you have to wash them with care. They wash brilliantly—you can put them in a wash at 60C—but they need to be tumble dried at very low temperatures, and ironed when damp. Look after it, and it will last you for years and years.

Is it possible to get something more low maintenance?
Washed linen. When we think of linen, we think of dresses and shirts which are a nightmare for creasing, but this washed linen style doesn’t need ironing at all—you just put it on and give it a shake. Linen is a totally different thing to cotton—we say bed linen as an umbrella term, but pure linen is very different. It comes from the flax plant whereas cotton grows in a boll around the seeds of the cotton plant.

Linen is good at controlling body temperature—men particularly like it—and it has a lovely texture. It is slightly more expensive, but you’ll find that people who sleep in linen will sleep in nothing else. We have a range of deep colours you can mix and match which are perfect for the master bedroom. For children, it’s nice to have something bright—so the red check, pink gingham or striped blue duvets are perfect—and they wash well.

What do you suggest for a guest bedroom?
It’s always nice to make a special effort with the guest bedroom. You are welcoming people into your home, and you don’t have to make it up every day like you do the master. Try an embroidered duvet cover and pillow case set like the Marguerite, with its flower motifs on the border, or the Seraphine. Hand-embroidery is rare these days, especially of this quality—we have ladies in Vietnam who do it for us. Also, while you don’t want to go overboard with cushions and throws in the master bedroom, as you just have to take them off each night, in the guest bedroom it is nice to have a few.

How often do you suggest washing bed linen?
It depends how you live. Really and truly, once a week, but that doesn’t always happen in the real world. It’s hygienic, and very good for the material: the more you wash it, the more the fibres are broken down and the softer it feels. That’s why cotton improves with age. Besides, it feels nice when you’ve got clean bed linen. It’s one of the nicest feelings in the world.