Bedding can be the most important investment you make in your home; the key to a good night's sleep is in your bedding choices and I rate a good night's sleep pretty highly. But with the huge range of choices in the market (and it's growing every day) it can be really confusing to a novice to know you're making the right choice. So once a month I will do a feature on bedding and how to choose bedding that's right for you and your situation.
This month it's Quilts.
Quilts, doonas, duvets, whatever you want to call them, these are the large fluffy warm covers on your beds which can double as a bed cover and protector. There are many different types these days with different fillings, construction, and purposes.
The first big point about quilts is maintenance; quilts will need washing, airing and care. If not they can be susceptible (like all bedding) to hygiene issues, such as mould, dust mites, bed lice or even scabies. If you don't know what those are, google at your own peril - it isn't pretty. If your quilt is washable and your machine can take the size, then wash it thoroughly in boiling water once a month. If your quilt is not washable, it needs to be stuck in direct sunlight at least once a month (if not more). The sun is your natural defence against the nasties I listed above - it will kill off all of them (however if you realise you're infested with these, I would recommend a complete bedroom overhaul and a trip to the doctor; this advice is purely preventative, and cannot supplement the advice of your gp). On a daily basis, pull back your bedding when you get up and ensure the sun casts onto your bed through your window - let this air out until you're leaving the house or need to make the bed. Immediately throwing the covers back on will only increase the risk of nasties.
Now with that formality out of the way, lets look at the different types of quilt fillings:
Cotton: This is a great summer quilt. Cotton breathes and doesn't let you get all hot and bothered, but still has that little bit of weight we like in quilts. In Australia, it's great from Mid-November to end February for those balmy nights.
Eucalyptus: Some companies are starting to introduce Eucalyptus blends into their quilt ranges. These are a great eco-friendly choice, made from plantation trees (and some companies, like One Choice, promise to plant a new eucalyptus in the wild for every product sold) and natural fibres. They're great for asthma sufferers and warm sleepers; they suck out the moisture while keeping you warm, so there's less chance that you'll end up sweaty or cold.
Polyester: Synthetic materials are far better for the colder months. They're great because they're affordable, light and fluffy but very warm. Additionally they're nearly always machine washable. The only drawback is that they do not breathe at all - so if you're a hot sleeper prone to sweating, this will only make the problem worse. Great for cold kids though.
Wool: A classic choice for winter and autumn. Woollen quilts, made from natural fibres, breathe and aerate the body, and a lot of people swear by them. However they are quite heavy and compact, so if you want that light and fluffy feeling, wool isn't your best bet. Only some of these are machine washable, it depends on the maker. But they are a classic choice and most are Australian made.
Feather and Down: This often confuses people as they don't understand the concept of down. While the feather in the quilt is the actual bird feather with the spine going up it, the down is the fluffy tiny feathers that grow on the bird's stomach and chest. The percentage of down to feather is important in a quilt: the more down, the warmer, and fluffier it is (and luxurious), the more feather, it will be cooler, crunchier and flatter. Generally also, the more down, the higher the price. Feather and Down quilts generally cannot be washed, only dry cleaned, so they're not a great choice for kids. Additionally, they are not recommended for asthma or hayfever sufferers.
So there is lots to choose from, and these are only the most basic products - some more specialist stores do silk, or bamboo quilts. So always speak to the sales staff and see what they know about the products, as they tend to be trained on the differences.
The construction of quilts is also very important; when you see a quilt, generally it will have a pattern of boxes stitched into it. This is to stop the filling from moving around and bunching up in one spot. But some companies box it larger and some smaller. Smaller tends to be better, so keep an eye out for that.
Some companies are bringing out every season quilts too; this is where they sell 2 quilts in one packet, one heavier (Autumn weight) and one lighter (summer weight). These will clip or zip together to create one heavy Winter quilt. These can be great if you don't want to go through the entire selection process several times for the different seasons.
A final note is that across Australia there are retailing laws where quilts cannot be returned, refunded or exchanged for resale. What this means is that if there is not a fault in the product it cannot be returned - so no change of mind. This is for safety reasons as you can guess, sharing quilts with a stranger is not hygienic and can pass on some nasty things (this includes if you haven't opened it, as there's no way for a store manager to tell if a product has been opened and very skillfully resealed or not). So when you make your decision, make sure you're sure about it. This is a fantastic rule that protects all of us, so remember it when shopping.
Good luck with your quilt shopping, and comment if you have any interesting quilt experiences (or bedding shopping experiences). I used to work in manchester, so it's interesting to hear the consumer's stories
PS. For more information about bedding, the Complete Home website has heaps to offer