Thread that counts


  • Business
  • Saturday, 01 Feb 2003

BY THEAN LEE CHENG

IT may seem hard to appreciate why people bother dressing up their beds at such high cost. The truth is, even if it were a bed of nails, if sleep comes, it just comes.  

And a bed linen is a bed linen. Nothing philistine about this! 

Not quite, says an ardent luxurious sheet collector who practically scoffs at such dismissal. 

Before going further, today's linen is quite different from those of bygone era, where sheets came in blue and white cotton, starched stiff and hard and ironed without a crease. 

The first week of laying on those sheets were wonderful. By the second week, all the starch is gone. Still good feel, though. 

Anyway, blue and white sheets aside, today's bed linen come in more than just that, although Syarikat Yoong Onn Sdn Bhd may still have a few samples of those oldies.  

The company started out in 1966 selling blue and white and machine-embroidered dragon and phoenix bed sheets.  

Way back in the 1960s, and beyond, it was the custom for the newly-weds to lie on one of those distastefully red sheets, with every square inch filled with the dragon's clawed feet or the phoenix's tail – something to do with being prolific with babies. 

Today, some 40 years later, without those sheets, population of Malaysia and elsewhere has continued to increase. So much for dragons and phoenixes. 

At the same time, having distanced itself from these legendary animals, Yoong Onn has continued to prosper. This family business has become the leading exporter of bed linen products in Asia today. In many ways, its success was due to the changing taste and lifestyle of Asian consumers. 

After years of concentrating on what was on the sheets, it eventually went between the sheets. It introduced bourgeois items like comforter and quilts. 

“We were the first to bring in comforters and quilts when no one knew what they were,” says general manager Jimmy Sun. So linen today is more than a pillow and bolster case and sheets. So let us throw in the comforter, quilt, quilt covers and skirting, pillow sham and all. Remember that bed of nails? 

“After we brought in quilts and comforters, competitors began bringing them in. But back to embroidered bedding, they need not be old-fashioned. It all depends on designs and colours. Ours are mostly pastel, nothing distasteful about them,” says Sun. 

Its embroidered range, launched two years ago, comes in both natural and synthetic fibres mixed with cotton. 

While embroidered sheets are pretty, there is a drawback. They have to be washed with care as threads tend to unravel after a while, according to a couple of linen fans. Sun is adamant that his brand of products – he has six – is as good to lie on after 30 to 60 washes. You may believe him, but you need not. Because not all pretty things are nice to sleep on as some embroidered sheets come in a mixture of synthetic stuff like polyster mixed with cotton. 

The best sheets are still cotton. Sun says even in the cotton range, there is a difference in different types of cotton sheets. There is the 100 per cent-combed cotton, where strands are combed to give uniform length, weight and texture. In the process, dirt is removed, enhancing the purity of the yarn. Combed cotton fabrics are soft and smooth to touch and yield higher absorbency and may have a thread count of 250 to 350 per 10sq cm. The higher the thread count, the better.  

A more comfortable grade is 100 per cent-cotton satin. Notice the word “satin”. Besides its shine and glow, it is supple and sensual.  

Probably the most comfortable and pricey of all cotton sheets are jacquard, which are silky to the touch and luxurious. Jacquard sheets usually belong to the high-end category with thread counts of 350 to 500 per 10 sq cm. 

Yoong Onn linen are displayed at most departmental stores, which also incidentally, tempt linen fans with imported sheets. If price is not an issue, among the popular imported labels are Sheridan and Martex. They come in absolutely beautiful colours and prints, and all natural. 

But there is a price to it. So much for that bed of nails! Where's that feather pillow?  

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