In my defence, I had no idea flannel sheets were a thing you associate with being a kid. When I had my first taste of ultimate coziness, I was an grown woman. One fall evening, one of my chicest friends, whose home is like a hygge Scandi showroom (soft furnishings in soft neutral colors, balls of yarn, tasteful plants, books arranged by spine color, lots and lots of wood), said she was super excited to go to bed that night. She had just switched over to her flannel sheets, she said, rubbing her hands together in glee. Being an adult is fun!
But at the time, I was bewildered. Flannel sheets? Qu’est-ce que c’est? She looked at me, shock clouding her eyes. “You HAVE to get some,” she said. “They’re so warm and cozy.” Who was I to refute this wisdom? I duly went out and bought the Muji sheet set she recommended—they come, of course, only in stylish neutral colors like light grey and nut brown. From then on, I was a convert. Here’s why.
When I slid into bed that night, I said a prayer to the warm-n-toasty gods. How can I describe the feeling? It was like wearing an Ugg boot on your whole body. It was like the smell of chestnuts, if chestnuts were bedding. It was like snuggling with a between-movies Michael B. Jordan. It was like having a nap on Mr. Snuffleupagus: soft and fuzzy and safe. You know that crisp, cool feeling you get when you first touch regular bedsheets? I love it in summer, but in the winter, it’s not exactly the most snug of sensations. Flannel sheets eliminate that part of bedtime completely for the winter. As soon as you tuck yourself in, it’s warmtown.
Yes, there’s a scientific reason flannel makes for such warm and comfy cold-weather bedding. Flannel is a napped cotton fabric, which means its loose fibers are teased loose from the weave. These loose ends make flannel super soft and fluffy to the touch, plus the fibers trap air and keep in heat.
Since I’m relatively new to the pleasures of flannel sheets, I wasn’t aware there were detractors. I mean, how could there be? Who doesn’t want to be wrapped in a warm cloud on winter nights? But our features director, Kat Stoeffel, quickly set me straight when I mentioned how much I loved them. When I asked why she turned her nose up at these winter warmers, she had a couple of reasons. “Because of nightsweats,” she told me. “Also because they pill, which makes my bed feel like an overloved stuffed animal.”
Honestly, Velveteen Rabbit bedding sounds amazing to me, but I can understand where she’s coming from. There’s nothing comforting about scratchy pilling. I also tend to avoid flannel pajamas, since I overheat quickly at night. But I will say, as A Sweaty Person, I haven’t found flannel sheets to be that sauna-like, since I’m a one-leg-out-of-the-bed person all year around.
Kat was also the one to tell me that flannel sheets were something she had when she was a kid, and when I started looking into brands that offered flannel sheets, I could see that many had options designed to appeal to children. Obviously, plenty of brands offer adult-friendly neutral colors and prints, but just as many boasted big, bold checks or cartoony designs. Maybe you think a deer wearing a Santa hat will ruin your art deco aesthetic. That’s fair! On the other hand, because flannel sheets are such a seasonal item, they are often decorated with the most fun, festive novelty imagery. Holiday Dog sheets? Now you’re talking.
If you’re a skeptic like Kat, you could try a jersey sheet with a smidgen of fluff, like these Kip&Co sheets, which are as soft as a well-worn T-shirt but thicker and slightly nappier. Or there’s Brooklinen’s Twill range—made from long-staple cotton with a diagonal weave, which creates a softer, fuzzier feel than percale or sateen. Go forth and snug!