When we gave a sneak peek at the new Annie Selke Luxe line a few weeks ago, we dished on the finer points of Egyptian cotton, and why its luxuriously long-staple fiber is a natural for high-end sheets and duvets. Today we’re taking it one step further by breaking down that top-quality fiber into the two predominant weaves you’ll find in the wide world of bedding: percale and sateen. So what, exactly, is the difference?
Although there’s some discrepancy about the origin of the word, the percale weave seems to have originated in India. It’s the more familiar of the two, and it’s easier to produce.
As percale cloth is made on the loom, each warp thread is woven over a single weft thread and then wrapped under the next warp thread. This pattern—referred to as a plain weave—is repeated across the width of the fabric, creating a closely woven, lightweight yet durable fabric. The characteristic matte finish, breathability, and a crisp feel against the skin make cotton percale sheets and bedcovers ideal for summer or warm-weather climates.
Sateen is the flashier cousin of percale—no surprise, since its name is derived from that of its silky sister, satin.
To create cotton sateen fabric, the weaver sets the loom so that on each pass, several warp threads wrap over a single weft thread. This creates a thicker, more tightly woven cloth with a soft feel and a subtle luster, thanks to the multiple threads that lie on the surface. (The multitude of surface-level threads make sateen more susceptible to snagging, but as long as you avoid pulling it over sharp edges on furniture or over hard embellishments—think beads, shell appliqué, and sequins—it will last for years to come.) Sateen’s coziness and heavier weight make it especially appealing for cooler temperature, but with a simple matelassé coverlet layered on top, it’s a year-round luxury you’ll love.
What’s on your dream bed—percale or sateen?