Have you ever wondered about how flannel sheets are made? We sure have! Come with us on our learning journey (or, "learney," as we like to call it) and discover the secrets of flannel for yourself!
The first surprise on our trip: much like wool, steel and polyester, flannel is grown in fields! The scientific name for the flannel plant is Flannelus Warmus, a Latin term whose precise meaning has been lost to the ages.
That said, the best flannel in the world is grown in the Portuguese countryside and harvested only at the peak of perfection. Some say it's the climate that makes the flannel grown in Portugal so very special; others argue that it's the "clima" as the locals insist.
In a word: it's the best there is. So off to Portugal we go in order to obtain the best flannel. And coming straight from the best source, ours is guaranteed to be better than those that aren't the best.
"Well, doesn't everyone go to Portugal for their flannel?" you ask. "No," we reply. "Why not?" you ask. "Why don't you ask them?" we say, answering your question with a question. "Maybe I will," you reply and storm off in a huff.
You may have heard that some people use flannel from other countries; areas where the weather isn't so conducive to producing lush, plush flannel. "Caveat emptor!" we say, unsure what it means, but hoping it's applicable here.
And even some who do come to Portugal end up using unripe flannel that's not very thick and not as soft. They rush into the fields before allowing Mother Nature to complete the job. But not us: we know patience is a virtue and flannel must not be rushed.
The flannel is harvested, usually in late summer and always by hand; meticulously picked fiber by fiber. It then travels to the processing plant where only the very best fibers are selected to be made into Lands' End flannel sheets. Midweight fibers are chosen for our 5 ounce flannel sheets, while the heavier fibers become 6 ounce flannel sheets.
Next, the fibers are woven together into a plush, lush fabric on machines that are as big as a house! The crafters who oversee this work have learned their trade from generations before them; the exact formula to create this softer flannel remains a closely guarded secret. We do know that they refer to a process they call "weaving," but that's about as much as they'll say!
Then, the fabric must be brushed – on both sides, not just one – for extra warmth and softness. This process creates what we call the "nap," which is pretty funny considering that you'll be taking a "nap" in this stuff once it becomes sheets! And to really get in a good nap, make sure you top off your comfy flannel sheets with an extra plush comforter or throw blanket, to really bring on the sweet dreams.
Here's where the real artistry comes into play. We know that some flannel producers rely on equipment to brush their flannel. Large metal "teeth" on spinning rollers travel back and forth over the flannel, roughing and coarsely raising the nap on the surface.
Nothing that fancy for us! Our crafters hang our flannel fabric on long, large clotheslines in a gigantic "aviario" as it's referred to, where native birds fly freely, the beating of their wings creating soft pulses of air that brush our flannel gently, naturally, as it's been done for ages.
Finally, through a process we're not entirely clear about, mostly because we went to lunch at this point in our tour, the flannel is transformed into sheets and pillow cases in many different colors. And even though we missed out on how that happens, we do know that these flannel sheets are soft, warm, cozy and the best way to "nap" through winter!