What Is Percale?

What Is Percale?

Most of us have heard the term “percale” concerning cozy bed sheets, but what exactly is percale? Let’s look at this and help you to find the perfect bed sheets for your bed.

Percale 101

The term “percale” refers to a type of weave of the fabric as opposed to the fabric content itself. Percale sheets have a tight weave, which gives them a smooth feel and helps them to cool, crisp, and breathable. Most percale sheets are made from 100% cotton, but some comprise blended fabrics, including manmade or natural fibers like synthetics or silk. Percale sheets have a one-over-one-under weave, giving them that special percale feel and making the sheets strong.

Percale sheets have quite a pedigree. Percale cotton fabric was first imported from India in the 17th and 18th centuries, and it's believed that the word “percale” comes from the Persian word “pargalah,” meaning “a rag.”

Is Percale Better Than Egyptian Cotton?

Because percale is a weaving style and cotton is a fiber, there isn’t an exact answer to this question. Egyptian cotton is made from cotton that grows in the Nile region of Egypt. Both percale sheets (regardless of the fiber content) and Egyptian cotton sheets both tend to have a high thread count, making them extra soft. You can even get percale sheets made from Egyptian cotton. Percale sheets are a popular choice for luxury hotels because of their crisp and cool feel. Another luxe option you may want to consider is linen sheets. Another natural fiber, linen makes wonderful sheets that look and feel great and breathe—a key feature for hot sleepers. You will probably be less likely to find linen sheets in luxury hotels because linen wrinkles. Percale is a bit easier to keep looking guest-ready, even though they both make excellent sheet sets.

Are Percale Sheets Better than Sateen Sheets?

This is a matter of opinion. Both “percale” and “sateen” refer to the weave of the bed sheets as opposed to the fiber content. Percale is made from a one-over-one-under weaving pattern. Sateen is made from a one-over-three under-weaving pattern. Without getting too detailed about the warp and weft threads involved in weaving fabric on a loom, both make excellent fabrics yet have some distinctive characteristics. Sateen has a silky feel to the touch and is a slightly heavier weave than percale. Sateen sheets have a luxurious sheen to them, but they are a bit more prone to pilling over time and are less breathable than percale sheets because of the logistics of the weaving. If you are a hot sleeper, percale might be a better choice. If you love silk sheets next to your skin, sateen bed sheets might be for you.

Some people who like the silky feel of sateen but are hot sleepers will buy sateen pillowcases and put more breathable sheets on their bed. Having a silky surface next to your head is also better for not messing up your hair overnight, as there is less friction. Silk pillowcases are also popular because of this (and are sometimes sold in salons).

What About Flannel?

Ah… flannel sheets. We may think of them as just being for winter, but 100% cotton flannel can be comfy year-round. Flannel is combed as part of the fabric-making process, which creates the soft tufts that make it oh-so-cozy. As a breathable fabric, it is great for winter, but as long as you buy flannel sheets that are not heavy, they are also a great summer option for your bed.

Do Sheets Make Good Gifts?

Yes! Whether you are looking for a Mother's Day, Father's Day, housewarming, birthday, or wedding gift for a family member, consider a new sheet set. When shopping for sheets as a gift, start with their bed size. For a wedding, check to see if they are registered for bed linens at a retailer already—that way, you can get them the exact size, style, and color of sheets they prefer. Always include a gift receipt when giving sheets as a gift. Even if they love flannel sheets, maybe they would prefer a different color or pattern. Perhaps they love the idea of sheets, but percale would suit them better than the sateen ones you chose. This is fine, as you want them to be 100% happy with their new sheets, and whether or not they exchange them, they will still appreciate your thoughtfulness.

While you are thinking about gifting sheets, why not buy a new set for yourself? It is so easy to buy gifts for others and not think about how long it has been since we bought new sheets. A great sheet set will help you get the rest you deserve—and feel pampered to boot.

Whatever sheets you choose, make them cozy. Sweet dreams!


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