With fall upon us and incoming cold weather, it can be hard to choose the best winter sheet set for yourself and your family. Do we tread the murky waters of the unknown with standard sheets that may leave us shivering? Do we spend hours blindly scouring the internet hoping to stumble our way into something that’s just okay ? We sure hope not. So we’ll save you the time.

 

What you’re looking for are cotton flannel sheet sets. Despite the mysteries and misconceptions, flannel sheets are some of the most accommodating, versatile, and cozy sheets around--made from an unparalleled fabric in a unique way that’s taken the better bedding world by storm. Don’t believe us? Check out this handy  FAQ, with everything you need to know about flannel.

 

What is flannel?

Flannel is a soft, medium-weight, loosely woven fabric, usually made from cotton. Originally handcrafted from carded wool or worsted yarn, flannel is now primarily made from wool, cotton, or synthetic yarn. Dating back as early as 16th century Wales, flannel has a history of use in everyday wear, including flannel clothing, flannel blankets, flannel bed sheets, and various other home decor. Its warm, soft, and cozy feel make it an ideal fabric for cold weather.

Flannel can be found either brushed or unbrushed . When brushed , the fabric is rubbed with a fine metal brush, which raises the fibers from loosely spun yarns to form a nap on one or both sides. If the flannel is not napped, the fabric gains its famously soft texture through loosely spun yarn in its woven form. Though flannel was originally made from a fine, soft, short staple wool, by the 20th century, what we know as ‘flannel’ commonly incorporated blends of silk, cotton, and various dyes.

The wide production of flannel, and its subsequent popularity, can be traced back to the 19th century--particularly in Wales towns like Newtown, Montgomeryshire, Llanidloes, and Hay on Wye. Its growing exposure is often attributed to the spread of carding mills, which prepared the wool for spinning. Back then, the flannel market was mostly controlled by the Drapers Company of Shrewsbury.

Photo credit: Chestofbooks.com

 

Why is flannel so popular?

Flannel can trace its current level of popularity back to the early 1900s. Around this time, flannel trousers gained attention and notoriety for their wide use in popular sports of the era. Athletes in sports such as cricket, baseball, boxing, golf, tennis, and various Olympic games were attracted to the fabric for its fit, comfort, and breathability.

It’s believed that flannel was also popularized by its perpetual use in fashion, particularly plaid shirts. This popularity peaked in the 1990s, with renowned grunge bands (such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, etc.) often implementing the wear as a trademark for their shaggy aesthetic. Fans and admirers emulated the style, which led to a boom in demand, and subsequently created a major trend.

Today, flannel is beloved for its soft touch, warmth, breathability, and unisex appeal. Though still quite popular as clothing, the fabric has since transcended the medium and become a mainstay in homes around the globe--commonly used for bed sheets and bed blankets.

Are flannel sheets good for winter?

Yes. Flannel bed sheets are ideal for winter, due to a loose weave that promotes breathability, which helps to regulate your natural body heat. Whereas other materials are tightly woven--potentially trapping heat and causing you to sweat--flannel sheets are great insulators due to how they’re made.

The loose weave creates air pockets between the fabric fibers, which allows excess heat to escape, while holding in enough body heat to keep your temperature regulated through the night. For this reason, flannel sheets sets, such as the 100% Turkish cotton flannel sheets from our Lakeview Collection , are preferable to the alternatives during the winter months.

Lakeview Collection 100% Cotton Flannel Sheets in Snow Lodge Print

 

Can I use flannel bed sheets all year round?

The short answer is, yes. It’s a common misconception that flannel sheets are somewhat seasonal. This isn’t true. In fact, the material structure of flannel bed sheets, a loose weave, gives them an unparalleled breathability. This allows them to both keep you warm and well insulated when it's colder as well as cool and cozy when it’s warmer. Think of them as the ‘ ultimate ’ nighttime companion--always fit for your comfort. If you’re looking for a great year-round cotton flannel sheet set, try out the 100%Turkish cotton flannel sheets from our Belle Collection to experience the difference for yourself.

 

What are some different types of flannel?

Flannel has been widely adopted and altered around the globe, can be found in many forms, and used in many ways. Some notable types of historical flannel include:

Wool Flannel - A soft woven fabric, of various fineness , typically spun from carded wool or worsted yarn. Prior to the rise of cotton, the Welsh traditionally made their flannel from wool.

Cotton Flannel - After gaining popularity during the expansionist period, cotton flannel is now considered the gold standard of flannel fabrics--highly regarded for its softness and versatility.

Synthetic/Mixed Flannel - The most widely available flannel on the market. This flannel is made from a blend of synthetic materials that include polyester, nylon, and artificial textiles.

Baby Flannel - Commonly used for children’s clothing, baby flannel is napped on both sides and valued for its fineness. It can be woven from any material, but wool and cotton are preferred for their softer texture.

Flannelette - A variation of classic flannel, woven from napped cotton fabric, that imitates the texture of flannel. The slight weaving variation results in a coarser texture, when compared to true flannel.

Vegetable Flannel - Invented by Léopold Lairitz, in 1800s Germany. This variation uses fibers from the Scots pine as opposed to wool.

What is the difference between fleece and flannel?

Fleece is a knit fabric that’s typically made from wool and man-made materials like polyester. Crafted by wrapping threads around each other--to make for a thicker fabric--fleece is commonly considered warmer than alternatives, due to trapping heat better than most.

However, this can be problematic, particularly if the user in question has a tendency to overheat or finds too much warmth a tad uncomfortable. Unlike flannel, the tightly woven fleece leaves little space between threads, which is what traps the heat. This makes for an end product that’s heavier than flannel and poorly insulated. It may be ideal for some and torturous for others.

Alternatively, the loosely woven flannel allows for better insulation, while enabling excess heat to escape, thus keeping your temperature better regulated, no matter the season. Flannel sheet sets, such as the 100% Turkish cotton flannel sheets from our Nordic Collection , can keep you more comfortable and better rested year round.

Nordic Collection 100% Turkish Cotton Flannel Sheets in Blush Pink

 

What is the difference between cotton and flannel?

Cotton is a soft white fiber, known to grow around the seed of the cotton plant. It’s commonly manufactured for sewing soft textile products that you likely see every day (bed sheets, pillowcases, clothing, etc.). The first recorded use of cotton dates back to 5000 BCE.

Cotton is often blended with other fibers and materials to craft various products. Unlike cotton, flannel is a soft woven fabric that can be made from cotton, but was originally made from wool, and is often manufactured from synthetic fibers and other materials. It’s a bit confusing, but think of it like this: Cotton is a plant. Flannel is a style.

Photo by 🇸🇮 Janko Ferlič on Unsplash

 

Do flannel sheets get softer over time?

Yes. Like most bed sheets, flannel sheets will get softer over time. However, be sure to follow the proper care instructions when using and washing your flannel sheets to ensure they remain in premium condition.

How do I wash flannel sheets?

We’ll always recommend following the proper care instructions provided on your product or available on our care instructions page. However, we can give you a few tips for that often terrifying first wash.

1. The first time that you wash your flannel sheets, use one-half cup of white vinegar. This will prevent the fibers from pilling and forming . It also helps to prevent fading.

2. Use warm water instead of hot water. Hot water can cause shrinkage and reduce the softness of the material.

3. Stay away from fabric softener. Though this seems crazy, many fabric softeners have chemicals that can potentially stiffen the fibers of the fabric and reduce softness if done repeatedly. Additionally, this can increase the likelihood of those unseemly pilled fibers.

4. In lieu of fabric softener, try using a tennis ball...No. We’re not kidding. The movement of the ball will reduce fabric clumping and prevent the fabric from rubbing together.

5. If possible, air dry your flannel sheets instead of the traditional tumble dry. This will help you to avoid any extra wear and tear.

6. Change your sheets every two to three weeks. Overuse and lack of care can cause irreparable damage, no matter what fabric you’re using.

What are the best sheets to buy?

The best bed sheets that anyone can buy are available at Great Bay Home.

Why?

Because we’ve always got you covered.

Until Next Time,

-- GBH