Do British people use sheets?
October 11, 2005 2:07 PM   Subscribe

Brits: Do you use sheets and blankets? Or does everyone use a duvet and cover now? Any ballpark guess on percentages of the population using each?
posted by Mayor Curley to Home & Garden (52 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I don't get it...why couldn't you use sheets with your duvet? I have a duvet and use sheets too. I'm not a brit, but I would think using sheets with your duvet keeps the duvet cover cleaner, cause it's a bit of a pain to take off and wash.
posted by duck at 2:14 PM on October 11, 2005

I'm Irish not British but I will weigh in here because I've noticed the difference. I never used sheets with my duvet until I came to the States. Never saw them together either, at friends or relatives homes - only hotels and posh places like that.
posted by jamesonandwater at 2:16 PM on October 11, 2005 [1 favorite]

My guess is a very high percentage: something like 90/10.

It's easy to buy sheets in shops, but I can't remember the last time I saw proper bed blankets in a shop - not that I look for them.
posted by selton at 2:17 PM on October 11, 2005

I use sheets and a duvet and I'm totally not ashamed.
posted by xmutex at 2:21 PM on October 11, 2005

Just a duvet. Can't remember the last person I knew who used sheets and duvet on their bed. People do it, but the times I have encountered it have been hotels, B&B's and older relatives in their guest rooms.
posted by fire&wings at 2:22 PM on October 11, 2005

Well, I use a duvet and sheets, because then I don't have to wash my duvet cover as often.
posted by gaspode at 2:24 PM on October 11, 2005

Duvet only dude.
posted by brautigan at 2:35 PM on October 11, 2005

Agreed. I use sheets, a wool blanket, and a feather duvet with cover. The sheets I wash every few days, the blanket, duvet, and cover once a season. I'm highly allergic to even my own skin oil and dandruff if it's in high enough concentrations, so being able to wash the sheets frequently helps keep me sleeping comfortably.
posted by SpecialK at 2:37 PM on October 11, 2005 [1 favorite]

Ok, well forgive me again for being a non-brit...But am I to understand British people just throw a duvet on a mattress and that's it?
posted by duck at 2:41 PM on October 11, 2005 [1 favorite]

Mattress is sheeted, covered with duvet in cover. Simple.
posted by brautigan at 2:44 PM on October 11, 2005

duck - not a bare mattress if that's what you meant. But yes, a lot of people just have a duvet in a duvet cover on top of a mattress which is covered with a sheet.
posted by fire&wings at 2:49 PM on October 11, 2005

Just a duvet. (with sheet on the matress). I hate sleeping in beds with sheets+blanket instead, I generally get tangled up.
posted by Lotto at 2:50 PM on October 11, 2005 [1 favorite]

If I can butt in, when you do this duvet and no top sheet thing, do you wear a lot of clothes to bed?
posted by dame at 2:51 PM on October 11, 2005

posted by brautigan at 2:59 PM on October 11, 2005 [1 favorite]

Wow. That's a cultural difference that I never knew about even after living in London for a year during high school. Don't you get chilly? Duvets are great for general warmth, but I always find that little bits of chilly air sneak in unless I have a sheet tucked snugly around me.
posted by MsMolly at 3:00 PM on October 11, 2005

Response by poster: If I can butt in, when you do this duvet and no top sheet thing, do you wear a lot of clothes to bed?

It's actually pretty comfortable-- the duvet is usually quite heavy, but because there's no sheet it's easy to vent in your sleep if you get too warm. But if you've ever changed a comforter cover, you can see the downside to the arrangement, laundrywise.

But am I to understand British people just throw a duvet on a mattress and that's it?

It isn't unique to the British Isles. It started in northern mainland Europe. But I am interested in the progress of its adoption.
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:03 PM on October 11, 2005

Okay, I'm confused, is a duvet the same as a comforter? Don't sheets get sold in sets?

I stayed a Westin recently and it was mattess-fittedsheet - flat sheet - blanket - another flat sheet - comforter with a cover on it. Like this.

It was indeed heavenly, but it had one too many sheets, it seems to me.
posted by dpx.mfx at 3:03 PM on October 11, 2005 [1 favorite]

sheet (+ blanket if it's very cold) + duvet
I feel like my duvet cover is too nice to touch my feet while I sleep.
posted by clh at 3:07 PM on October 11, 2005

Ooof! Just saw you are asking Brits. Ignore my American answer.
posted by clh at 3:08 PM on October 11, 2005

Mayor, I think I'm weird. In winter I sleep under a duvet, comforter, blanket, and sheet, and open the window. So I get cold under just a feather duvet. I was wondering if I am indeed that odd. Especially since heat in Europe is rarely as warms as it is here.
posted by dame at 3:08 PM on October 11, 2005

I don't wear a lot, and I very rarely need more than a duvet (if it gets exceptionally cold I lay a wool blanket over the duvet, but that would be 1 or 2 freak nights a year) My amazing duvet cover (? dunno the US term) so it's a lot warmer than cotton anyway. I'm surprised that a few people find washing the duvet cover more of a chore than washing a sheet. Maybe I am just used to doing it.

And Lotto is correct regarding the tangling.
posted by fire&wings at 3:10 PM on October 11, 2005

yeah - definitely just a duvet on a sheeted mattress. The extra top sheet thing seems superfluous and the duvet always ends up on the floor leading to cold 3am wake-ups.
posted by patricio at 3:10 PM on October 11, 2005

Duvet cover and quilt. It was top sheet, blanket and candlewick bedspread when I was a kid, but we moved to quilt-in-duvet-cover about, oh, 15 years ago. Before I went to university, for certain. But you still tend to find older people using the old-style sheet-blanket-bedspread, or even sheet-quilt-bedspread.

It's very rare to find in Britain the kind of covered comforters sold in the US to be used on top of a top-sheet. Conversely, it's much harder to find the kind of lovely fluffy flannelette sheets on sale in the US that are common at home.
posted by holgate at 3:26 PM on October 11, 2005

Ugh! I have an ongoing feud with a Brit over this topic. He's *horrified* that we use a top sheet under the duvet; I'm disgusted that he doesn't. It is perhaps the single most divisive cultural difference, out of all of them, seriously, when Brits and Americans pair up. As to your question: from what I understand from the New York Brit expat posse, and, obviously, this is an obsession of mine, *none* of them use a top sheet with duvets.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 3:26 PM on October 11, 2005 [1 favorite]

I never realized this was a cultural thing, interesting. I sleep with a duvet and a sheeted matress, but I'm American. So go figure. It just came about because the sheet always ended up at the foot of the bed and I hated pulling my bed away from the wall all the time to fix it.
posted by atom128 at 3:31 PM on October 11, 2005

For the cooler times of year, I'm with the sheeted mattress/duvet/no top sheet crowd here.

No pjs, and the window always open, anything from just a tiny crack to wide open, depending on how cold it is.

In very hot weather (yes, we do occasionally get very hot weather in England) I find it better to sleep in pjs on top of the duvet, with just a sheet over me.

Thus I avoid overheating under the duvet, throwing it off in my sleep and waking up at 5am, icy cold and uncovered with gnats feasting on my ample butt.
posted by essexjan at 3:35 PM on October 11, 2005 [1 favorite]

(Dame: I too sleep with the window open all winter. In Michigan, even. It makes the comforter cozier.)
posted by dpx.mfx at 3:42 PM on October 11, 2005

I'm a Brit and totally confused by this thread.

Well, I use a duvet and sheets, because then I don't have to wash my duvet cover as often.
posted by gaspode at 2:24 PM PST on October 11 [!]

I honestly can't tell if you're joking or not. You use a sheet to cut down on washing your duvet cover? What's so hard about washing a duvet cover? Tell you what, why not get another sheet to protect the first sheet to cut down on having to wash that too.
I must be missing something here. Are duvet covers made of some difficult to wash material in the US? In the UK, they are just cotton, like sheets.
posted by chill at 3:49 PM on October 11, 2005 [7 favorites]

It's a complex and sweaty dance to get the comforter covers on and off the comforter (using USian terminology here). Makes it a pain to wash.

I think you all are crazy. I keep the windows closed, and use pajamas, a down comforter, blanket, and flannel sheets from about September to about May.
posted by matildaben at 3:53 PM on October 11, 2005 [1 favorite]

Duvet covers are bigger, heavier, and more of a pain to take off & put on.
posted by dame at 3:53 PM on October 11, 2005 [1 favorite]

It's not a pain to wash the duvet cover, it's a pain to put the duvet cover back on the duvet after it's been washed.

I'm an american and use the sheet + duvet cover combination (plus a blanket in the winter). I like to sleep in a cold room, snuggled under lots of blankets. I had no idea this cultural difference existed. I'll have to poll my english friends about their sleeping habits.
posted by discokitty at 3:57 PM on October 11, 2005

Well, I use a duvet and sheets, because then I don't have to wash my duvet cover as often.
posted by gaspode at 2:24 PM PST on October 11 [!]

I honestly can't tell if you're joking or not.

what discokitty said. It's a lot easier to wash a flat sheet than it is to wrestle the duvet cover on and off.
posted by gaspode at 4:03 PM on October 11, 2005

It's a lot easier to wash a flat sheet than it is to wrestle the duvet cover on and off.

Ah, there's a knack: you wear it.
posted by holgate at 4:07 PM on October 11, 2005 [2 favorites]

I've tried that. It's easier to pin the corners & then flip. It's even easier to was a flat sheet.
posted by dame at 4:21 PM on October 11, 2005

I moved to the UK this month and was told that duvet with fitted sheet is the way to go here.
posted by k8t at 4:52 PM on October 11, 2005

I'm also an American who uses mattress+fitted sheet+duvet, mostly cause I used to put on the flat sheet, but I always kick it off in the night, and whenever I washed sheets I washed everything anyways (cause I can't stand the idea of the wash fading some items and then having others not match because of it). I never really thought the duvet cover was a bigger pain than you'd expect from a giant it's like I'm sleeping in a giant feather pillow, warm and toasty, perfect with an open window from fall to spring.
posted by nile_red at 4:56 PM on October 11, 2005

What's hard about taking a duvet cover off, or putting it on? Taking it off - you just, uh, pull it off. Putting it on - turn the cover inside out, put your hands inside into the far corners, grab duvet, and shake the cover down the duvet.

Also, I have never come across a topsheet + duvet combination in my life, and had no idea such a thing existed (and yes I'm British).
posted by influx at 5:01 PM on October 11, 2005

Huh. I didn't realize it was a cultural thing - this American just thought the scout staff were peculiar during his stay at Oxford this summer.

Also, dpx.mfx, open-window-in-the-middle-of-a-Michigan-winter sleepers unite!
posted by electric_counterpoint at 5:07 PM on October 11, 2005

influx writes "Putting it on - turn the cover inside out, put your hands inside into the far corners, grab duvet, and shake the cover down the duvet."

Do brits generally have double beds? It takes both my wife and I to get the cover on our down duvet and I can't imagine this technique working for a king duvet.
posted by Mitheral at 6:19 PM on October 11, 2005

I picked up the duvet + bottom-sheet-only habit when I was dating a Brit in college. At the time, duvets were a lot more uncommon in the US - the norm here "bedspread" is a quilted thingy: cheaper, but not nearly as heavenly warm as a duvet / tick. That's probably why all the extra sheets and blankets. I now use top sheets and blankets with the duvet, because my husband is a furnace and it's good to be able to have some adjustable levels. Also, changing the cover on a king size duvet sucks.
posted by mimi at 6:21 PM on October 11, 2005

For a data point, when I was an Aussie living in the UK it was not possible to buy woolen blankets at any of the normal department stores (my tip is to seek out the charity/goodwill shops if you want them).
In Oz it is fairly normal to have a top sheet then a "Doona", which is a brand name for a down filled duvet.
I was aware of the no top sheet scenario in both the UK and Europe, but also think the benefit of wrestling the duvet cover off less often makes a top sheet worthwile.
Also, what happens to all the flat sheets when Brits buy a sheet set?
posted by bystander at 6:35 PM on October 11, 2005

I have a King-sized duvet and I'm 5 feet tall. When I'm done getting that cover on, I need a nap. Changing a top sheet is definitely easier. And I have corners sewn into the one side (the foot side) of my top sheets (so the bottom at the foot end of the matress, it's like a fitted sheet), which prevents the sheet from moving out of position and getting tangled. That plus the king-sized duvet (just too big and heavy to get tangled by my rolling around), prevents tangles.
posted by duck at 6:50 PM on October 11, 2005

I was a sheet + blanket + bedspread person in NZ until we went to the US, when we switched to sheet + duvet. The big thing was that it was easier to make the bed -- just pull the sheet and duvet up, and tuck in the sheet. I hate putting covers on duvets so a sheet certainly saves that hassle. Now that we're back in NZ, it's quite common here to use duvets and bedspreads are hard to find in stores. We have a cold bedroom so our bed has sheet + continental + duvet. A continental is like a duvet, but with sewn on flaps on the sides and foot-end so you can tuck it in for no draughts.
posted by tracicle at 7:22 PM on October 11, 2005

I got addicted to the feel of a duvet, no top sheet, tucked around my feet (lift feet in air under duvet, lower feet quickly to trap end of duvet under feet), when I lived in Sweden. Then I came home to the reality of cats and their shedding and hadn't realized just how much hair they could leave on top of a duvet that would then fall off onto your fitted sheet so you have to roll in it all night. I went back to a top sheet then.

Everyone I knew in Sweden had their own individual twin-sized duvet regardless of the size of the bed or number of occupants. Twins are much easier to get a cover on (I use the wear-it method) and provide maximum burrito-like wrapping goodness. Screw snuggling under one blanket - it lets too many drafts down between your respective shoulders.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:55 PM on October 11, 2005 [3 favorites]

So if a sheet + duvet gets tangled, what prevents the duvet from slipping around inside the duvet cover and getting all lumpy?

(To say nothing of duvet / continental / comforter / blanket / quilt / etc. etc. - why can't we just call them all the same thing?)
posted by attercoppe at 8:11 PM on October 11, 2005

What's the best way to refluff a duvet? Mine's got partial baffles throughout, for reasons I've never understood -- all it seems to accomplish is to allow the down to flow toward the outer edges as the hang over the side of the bed.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:18 PM on October 11, 2005

Ok. I bet I have the weirdest arrangement yet. I'm American, and I use:
Very old, lumpy & uncomfortable mattress+ Eggcrate foam (to make awful mattress bearable to sleep on)+ Flat Sheet to cover foam+ Feather bed (again to make mattress bearable)+ Fitted sheet to cover feather bed+ us+ flat sheet+ comforter.

I like to have it that way because my top half gets hot but my feet still remain cold. I can't sleep without something covering me, so unless it is super-cold, I fold the comforter down cover myself to the neck with the flat sheet, and tuck my feet under the flat sheet & folded comforter. It's also essential we use a sheet, because our uncovered comforter had to be dry-cleaned. Weve never checked into it, but dry cleaning a king size comforter is bound to be expensive. I've seen a few "duvet cover" type items, but I've never really known any of my fellow Americans to use them. My older relatives seem to use blankets & bedspread more than comforters, but I'm not sure if that is a regional dfference or a generational one.

My ex-husband and I used to have our own individual comforters (like the Swedes, I suppose), and I wish I could persaude my current husband to do that. On nights when I really would like the comforter he tends to steal it. And completely denies doing so. Sometimes I wonder if we wouldn't be more comfortable just putting the foam and the feather bed right on the floor and ditching the mattress.

I have the same trouble as FFF has with my feather bed. The feathers gather around the feet and in between us, and just shaking it doesn't put them back where they are supposed to be.
posted by Shoeburyness at 12:24 AM on October 12, 2005

Another Brit here, never occurred to me to put a sheet between me and my duvet. The saving getting the duvet cover dirty thing seems weird, to me it seems like it would be putting a clean sheet against a partially dirty duvet cover. Weird.
Mitheral: I use a king size duvet and have no real problems putting the cover on by myself.
However, what continues to surprise is that duvets continue to be sold with fasteners only along one side, why not two or even three so it would just be a matter of opening cover, laying flat duvet on top, folding cover shut, fastening. Wouldn't that be easier for everyone?
posted by biffa at 3:56 AM on October 12, 2005 [1 favorite]

Bed sheet (the thing that goes on the matress) and duvet only. Duvet is a thin summer thing (about 4.5 tog?); heavy duvets are so uncomfortable. It feels as if like the Michelin man is sitting on me.

It's not that hard to take the duvet cover off; neither is it a particular chore to put a cover on a double duvet.

No clothes. Window is always open, even in winter. (I like being a little cold - to the point where I've been know to wear a T-shirt outside when it's snowing).

The duvet needs an occassional tug to keep it in the right position inside the cover.
posted by Boo! at 4:11 AM on October 12, 2005

Duvet over a sheet? Wow. I'd never heard of that.

I grew up sleeping under a sheet and blanket (two in winter), and my family switched to duvet only about 10 years ago. Now, just a duvet (light one in summer, big heavy thick one in winter - I LOVE my thick winter duvet), with a fleece blanket on top if it's especially Baltic, and I sleep naked in summer, and in a t-shirt in winter if it's especially cold.

I'm a little over five foot myself and have no problems changing the cover on my king size duvet alone (which I have to because my boyfriend either is incapable of helping or pretends to be)

I'm British, and now I shall go and quiz all my American friends about their bedlinen.
posted by corvine at 6:32 AM on October 12, 2005

Another Brit who has never, ever heard of a top sheet under a duvet cover. That's just toooo much stuff stirring about in the bed with you, too much tangledom potential, and guys, it's not that hard to change a duvet cover (maybe the British are slowly evolving longer arms for this very purpose and so are perplexed by the way our cousins struggle with what to us is an elementary task? I think I see an opening for imported labour...) Also, I like the sense that the room changes its look and feel a little every time you change the duvet cover. Do you guys just look at the same duvet cover day in, day out?

As for buying the stuff, we know not of the sheet sets you speak of in your futuristic otherlinened world: the most usual ways to buy bedding are:
1. Duvet cover and matching pillows
2. Just a flat sheet (for use either above or below)
3. Just a fitted sheet (for use below)

2 & 3 might also be available with matching pillows, but they're more likely to go with the duvet cover.

I like these weighty discussions on world issues.
posted by penguin pie at 6:32 PM on October 19, 2005 [1 favorite]

I'm American but have always said duvet. My wife says comforter and it sounds like it's for babies, like pacifier.
posted by jragon at 7:45 PM on November 14, 2005 [1 favorite]

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