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Starting Fresh: Tips for Buying New Towels, Sheets and Dishes

As you packed up for the big move, did you ruthlessly distill your belongings down to only those that you love or that are in good shape? If you ditched — or (eek!) broke — a mismatched dish set, or abandoned sheets and towels that had seen better days, here are practical tips for restocking.


Picking the Perfect Towel

So you used all your towels to pack your china and now you need new ones? Fine towels can make every morning just a little special. Choose standard-size towels if that’s your preference, but larger bath sheets have that upscale-hotel feel to them (and that’s a great way to start your day). Some people prefer to double up — a bath towel for hair and a bath sheet for body — so think about your shower habits as you shop.


Check for softness. Egyptian cotton towels have longer, denser loops and are often more durable and super soft. But no matter where your towel is from, check out the nap of the towel. Run your hand along the fibers. If the towel’s backing shows, it’s not dense enough, won’t absorb well and probably won’t last as long as you’d like.
Check the weight. Does the towel feel heavy for its size? That’s a great sign. Check the edges and the quality of the sewing on the seams. Straight seams — not curved ones — indicate a well-made towel.


The Sweetest Sheets

The perfect sheets can mean sweet dreams. Whereas, lower-quality ones can be irritating or will need replacing sooner rather than later. Thread count — which indicates the number of threads woven per inch, ranging from 200 up to 800 or higher — is a quick way to judge quality, though it’s not the only factor to consider.


Sheets with higher thread count are softer and often feel smoother. But high-thread-count sheets are more expensive. Before making such an investment, consider how important a luxurious bed is to you and how you really like to feel when you’re snuggled up at night.


Cotton fabric is a time-honored choice, but it’s not the only material that feels soft and smooth. Flannel and fleece sheets are warm and toasty for winter months. Jersey sheets are like sleeping in an old T-shirt. Percale sheets are crisp but lightweight, and sateen has a silky and luxurious feel.


Particularly if you sleep with multiple pillows, consider buying an extra set of pillowcases, as they’re often washed more frequently. And it’s easiest to coordinate the color and style of throw pillows when you’re shopping for sheets — so browse decorative pillows, too.


The Dish on Dishes

It’s not an exaggeration to say you should really love your dishes — after all, you’ll use them three times a day! Of course, you should buy dishes in a color or pattern that fits your style, but they should also fit your lifestyle: If you regularly throw elegant dinner parties, consider a set of fine china, but if you entertain with buffalo wings more than duck á l’orange, a more casual set will do. Do you regularly refrigerate or reheat leftovers? Search for a set that’s fridge- and microwave-safe.


Fine china appears delicate, but is often more durable than casual dinnerware; both porcelain and bone china are quite strong. Patterns range from modern to traditional, and may have metallic bands or painted details that can’t stand up to extreme heat, cold or microwaves; you might consider choosing a set that can be passed down through generations. Typically, fine china is sold by the place setting — each set contains all the pieces a single person needs at a table.


Alternatively, durable casual dishware can endure everyday use. Often made of stoneware (refined clay) or earthenware (unrefined clay), these dishes come in an array of solids and patterns, many of which are dishwasher- and microwave-safe. These dishes are usually sold in boxed sets or individually (called “open stock”); determine whether you need an entire set, or single pieces to mix and match.


Can’t decide between the two? Consider a best-of-both-worlds set of “casual china,” porcelain or bone china dinnerware in a solid color or transitional pattern that can work for weeknight meals and more formal dinner parties.

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