Bedding 101: All You Need to Know About Shams, Comforters, and Duvets

Bedding 101: All You Need to Know About Shams, Comforters, and Duvets

An average person spends about 33 years or one-third of their life in bed. That alone should tell us the importance of a well-made bed. You need one that’s not just comfy but also inviting enough to get you to lie down and relax.

But creating a cozy sleeping nook isn’t just about spreading a sheet over your mattress and smoothing the pillows. You also need shams, comforters, and duvets. And that’s what this blog is about- the essential items to make your bed the ultimate sleep haven.

So, let’s jump right in!

Table of Contents

Beyond Mattress and Sheets - What is Sham Bedding?

When you order a dish at your favorite restaurant, how disappointed would you be if it’s not presented beautifully? Even at home, every time you take the trouble of plating your meal well, you end up relishing it more. It’s because plating brings all senses together to enhance the eating experience. 

In the same way, a dressed-up bed is not just easy on the eyes but also more functional and practical. And a surefire way to elevate the beauty and style of your sleeping space is by adding bed shams. 

A sham is a decorative pillowcase designed to keep the pillows out of view. You can either pile them on top of the pillows or lay them all out to give your bedroom a stylish and cohesive appeal. 

Bed shams are typically removed when it’s time to sleep. Their origin can be traced back to the 18th century when people used ‘false front’ or ‘trick’ pillowcases to deck up their beds, along with bed skirts and dust ruffles.

Various Types of Bed Shams

Cotton Percale Pillow shams come in a variety of textures and designs. They may carry frills, lace, and embroidered patterns and are made using cotton, linen, polyester, or fancier fabrics like silk or velvet.

It is a good idea to go for a sham that complements the rest of your bedding. But many prefer to mix and match and get really creative with their shams. And that’s fun too! 

Now that you know what is sham bedding, here are some popular types:

  • Standard Shams: These measure the same as a standard pillowcase, say, about 26 inches x 20 inches. You can also get them in sizes that fit Queen size pillows (30 inches x 20 inches) and King size ones (36 inches x 20 inches).

  • Boudoir Shams: This type fits a small, rectangular-shaped pillow. A Boudoir sham typically measures 16 inches x 12 inches.

  • European Shams: These fit square-shaped pillows, measuring 26 inches x 26 inches, and are pretty decadent in their appeal.

What is Comforter in Bedding? 

As the name implies, a comforter is a fluffy, soft, quilted blanket that keeps you comfortable while also acting as a bed topper to make it look pretty. What’s great is that most of them arrive as a part of a bedding set, complete with matching sheets, shams, and pillowcases.

Since the filler inside cannot be separated from the cover, most comforters are dry-clean-only. Those who prefer comforters like it for its snugness and its ability to zhuzh up a bed within seconds. You don’t have to deal with the tedious process of changing covers as in the case of a duvet (more on that later). 

All you need to do is throw it over the bed, and you’re sorted! Ideally, most people prefer using a comforter over their blanket. Check out our all-season organic cotton blankets here.

Here are some creative and space-saving Blanket Storage Ideas to keep your living spaces organized and cozy.

Tips to Find the Best Comforter for Your Bed

Sustainable Outer Fabric

There are two types of materials that you have to pay attention to while shopping for a comforter - the outer shell and the filling. For a blissful and sustainable sleep, we recommend a comforter made from eco-friendly fabrics like 100% GOTS-certified organic cotton, Eucalyptus fibers, Tencel lyocell,  flax linen, or Bamboo lyocell. 

Down Vs. Down Alternative

Comforter filling made from down is super fluffy, but since it’s animal-derived, it may not suit those with vegan, cruelty-free, and eco-conscious lifestyles. Down also tends to trigger allergies. 

Instead, opt for alternatives like recycled fiber, Bamboo, and Tencel lyocell. These materials mimic the fluffiness and insulation of down without hurting the planet. 

Durable Construction

The construction of a comforter tells us about the stitching that keeps the outer case attached to the filling. If the stitching is not robust, the fill may shift inside, lump up in places and look like an eye sore. There are three main types of constructions used in comforters, and the most commonly used ones are Channel and Baffle Box. 

The channel features parallel columns of fill material, so any shifting only takes place within these columns. Baffle Box, on the other hand, boasts checkerboard stitching, giving the comforter a lofty and luxe appeal. 

What Is Duvet Bedding? 

Like comforters, duvets are made up of a cover and insert. But the outer shell, in this case, is removable. The removable exterior is the dressier part of the duvet, as the insert is generally plain and meant to be kept inside the cover. 

While the filling is thick and fluffy to keep you toasty, the changeable duvet covers give you endless options to deck up your bed. And unlike comforters, duvets are generally sold separately, although some bed sheets come with a matching duvet cover.  

Related Article: Polyester vs Cotton: Which is better?

Tips to Find the Best Duvet for Your Bed

Sustainable Covers

Since duvet covers are also available without the fill inserts, you get the freedom to choose from a wide variety of fabrics and designs. Sustainable options include hypoallergenic organic cotton, breathable linen, moisture-wicking Bamboo lyocell, and ultra-durable hemp, to name a few. 

Eco-Friendly Inner Fill

Down has been an all-time favorite when it comes to duvet inserts. But with the growing number of eco-friendly options available, it’s a good idea to go for down alternatives. Fill materials like Eucalyptus-based fibers, Bamboo, and organic cotton match up to down’s warmth and softness while also being low-impact.

High Thread Count

Not just for organic cotton sheets, thread count is important to factor in when buying duvet covers. Like sheets, a duvet cover with a higher thread count means a finer and softer weave. Aim for a duvet with at least a thread count of 300 or more. 

Related Article: Percale vs Sateen - Which one to pick?

Get Creative with the Designs

One of the best qualities of duvets is that they allow you to get creative with your bedding. You can slip your duvet insert into any cover that suits your mood and vibe. 

How are Duvets Different From Comforters?

Duvets and Comforters are two different types of bedding, even though in the U.S., the terms are often used interchangeably. And though they’re primarily used for their insulation qualities, there are a few factors that set the two apart.

1. Outer Cover

The biggest difference between a comforter and a duvet lies in how the outer case works. In the case of a duvet, the cover is separate from the insert and can be removed for washing or simply to revamp the bedding ensemble. 

Meanwhile, in a comforter, the cover and the inner fill are attached through Channel or Baffle Box stitching. 

2. Fluffiness and Warmth

If you go for Duvets or Comforters with down filling, you’ll notice words like ‘fill power’ and ‘fill weight.’ These indicate the thickness and warmth, which tends to be higher in a duvet insert than in a comforter. 

Let’s just say you’re better off with duvets in the colder months, whereas comforters are perfect for year-round use and might need layering up during winter. A comforter also flattens as it starts to wear down. A deflated comforter is usually a sign that it needs to be replaced. 

3. Maintenance

When it comes to care, duvets are relatively easier to maintain. A duvet cover can be removed and tossed into the washer with the rest of the laundry. Meanwhile, cleaning a comforter may require you to send it to the dry cleaners.

Benefits of a Spruced-Up Bed

Coming home to a clean and decked-up bedroom is worth making your bed a part of your daily ritual. You may not realize it, but the process of sprucing your bed pumps you up for the rest of the day. 

Here are a few reasons to inspire you to invest in good quality bedding and turn your bedroom into a calming sleep oasis. 

1. Improved Sleep Quality

A survey by National Sleep Foundation (NSF) revealed that respondents that made their beds in the morning are 19% more likely to enjoy a good night’s sleep. Why? Well, imagine a neat and beautiful bed, and now picture a lumpy, messy one. Which would you prefer to crash in? There’s your answer. 

2. Improves Productivity

A beautiful bed is an instant mood booster. It invites you to park all your worries aside and relax. And naturally, after a good night’s sleep, you’re sure to feel renewed and energized. 

Go beyond simply cleaning your bed to decking it with high-thread-count sheets, pillow shams, and matching duvets or comforters. Making your bed feels like you’ve started your day on the right note, having successfully completed a task.

3. Inspires Clean and Organized Living

You don’t come across homes with beautiful beds where dust and grime dominate the rest of the living areas. That’s because a well-made bed sets the tone for the rest of your living space. It inspires you to maintain your home and keep it aesthetically on point.

Final Thoughts

Throws, shams, accents, comforters, duvets, sheets - investing in a bedding ensemble is by no means indulgent but is crucial to forming healthy habits. You don’t have to go over the top, but make sure whatever you buy is high-quality and produced without harming the planet.

Organic percale sheets along with organic blankets enhances overall comfort and well-being through their natural and breathable qualities. 

Explore Organic Cotton Mart’s bedding catalog to find an array of premium quality bedding made with 100% certified organic cotton. And get ready to enjoy the best naps.

Author: Karen Lamar

Karen is the Chief Content Officer at Organic Cotton Mart. She has a Master's Degree in Environmental Science from NC State with a special focus in Energy Conservation and Renewable Energy. Since her High School days, she has been an Environmentalist and was the President of her High School's Environmental Club for 3 years before starting her freshman year at NC State. She has a deep knowledge and understanding of various environment-friendly movements like zero waste, minimalistic living, recycling, and upcycling.

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