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March 18, 2007

Funny Furrin' Beddin'

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

The first time I saw a duvet I thought the Stuttgart hotel hadn't finished making the beds. Such is ignorance.

Bed with duvets in German hotel room

This Wikipedia entry says that duvets evolved from peasants' bedding -- a handy one-piece sheet-plus-down-lining. It further states that duvets are common in Scandinavia and Eastern Europe.

I can't say anything about what German homes have, but I've seen a lot of them in German hotels as well as places farther east and north.

Even though I've encountered duvets since 1996, I'm still not fond of them, preferring the sheets-and-covers combination used in France, Britain, America and so forth. Covers can be added or peeled off at will, which strikes me as being handy when adjustments need to be made to suit bedroom temperature.

Am I making sense? Or is this one more instance of American insularity.



posted by Donald at March 18, 2007


Are there really many people left in Britain who still use blankets and sheets? I suspect we're part of duvet world now. Especially us toughies who eschew central heating.

Posted by: dearieme on March 19, 2007 5:10 PM

The latter.
I can't stand the sheet-plus-comforter practice in American hotels. Sheet never stays in one place, and it wakes me up at night.
All you have to do is to remove or change comforters (to the summer one) once the weather gets warmer, and in the summer hottest days do not use a comforter or duvet at all, only the sheet. It's that simple.

Posted by: Tat on March 19, 2007 5:26 PM

I made the switch to duvets when I moved to Hong Kong, and I have to admit they are superior to the sheet/blankets/bedspread rigamarole. Using one both makes it a whole lot easier to regulate temperature, like Tat has mentioned (sorry Donald!), and to make your bed in the morning -- just fold up the duvet and put it at the end of the bed. This is a big plus for those of us who struggle with household neatness issues, and it gives your bed a chance to 'air out' during the day!!

Strangely, I can't stand it when I'm in the USA and my sheets/blankets come untucked, which happens all the time because I'm so tall. But having a duvet loosely arrayed over my limbs bothers me not at all. So there's another good reason to switch . . . .

Posted by: mr tall on March 19, 2007 8:58 PM

"Duvet"? You learn something every day... I didn't know those things *had* a name for them in English. I always knew them by the German word "Federbett" (literally "featherbed"). I spent nine months in Austria during my college days, I've been back to Europe a number of times since, and I've never, ever gotten used to the things. As the Donald points out, it's either too hot with one on top of you, or two cold with just the sheet. It's probably just a matter of what you grew up with, and I got to it this too late...

Posted by: Dwight Decker on March 20, 2007 1:19 AM

Have to admit, I prefer the duvet-ish method myself. A single comforter is so much more comfortable than a pile of blankets and sheets. That whole complication is best if you're not someone who moves around a lot in your sleep. My wife, however, prefers to at least have a sheet under the comforter, so of course I've learned to live with it. :)

Now onto the real question: sleeping nekkid or not?

Posted by: Upstate Guy on March 20, 2007 7:07 AM

The average overnight low in Berlin in July is 57F(14C). I suspect that when it is ALWAYS cold overnight, having a permanent blanket is acceptable.

Here,(Texas) the average overnight low temperature is in the mid-70s (23C) in July. Chances are, if you wake at 4 in the morning in July, the AC is blowing, even when we set it at 80F(26C). (Windows open? As if - it's often still 90 at bedtime from June to August. That is 32 C for the unAmericans. I've seen 100F(38C) at 10PM a few times.) It isn't unusual not to ever be as low as 70F (21C) from June 1 through mid September. It was 66F(19C) this morning, March 20, and not considered particularly warm. In that universe, having a perma-blanket is absurd - using a separate top-sheet is necessary.

Posted by: rvman on March 20, 2007 9:47 AM

I'm with you, Donald. Even in wintry Michigan, if you've got central heating, a duvet is almost always suffocating. My wife and I have had one since we got married 15 years ago, and every night, I drape it over the footboard. In fact, when we bought a new bed, we made sure we got one with a footboard tall enough to keep the dang duvet up and out of the way. A couple of blankets gets the job done for us.

It sure does look perdy though, with its fancy, expensive cover an' everthang.

Posted by: Fred on March 20, 2007 10:29 AM

A duvet in the Deep South? Surely, you jest.

Posted by: Charlton Griffin on March 20, 2007 10:48 AM

Sleeping nekkid rules.

I used to be a sheet-and-blanket guy -- nothing nicer than a nicely-made bed. But I've converted, largely due to The Wife, who's a duvet person and who wasn't about the change. At first I found it weird, not having sheets and blankets and such. But then I started to see the advantages. One big thingee instead of a mess of them means that arranging (not to mention making) the bed is much easier. And, as Mr. Tall says, it also means that airing the bed out tends to happen more naturally, which makes for a fresher bed. Disadvantage is the whole too-hot/too-cold conundrum, though we've found that a way around this is to have (ta-da) two duvets, one heavier and one lighter ...

My own pet peeve is beds in hotels, even nice ones. Everything all tucked in, looking good, etc. Then you pull the top blanket-sheet out so you can get in and not feel like you're in a straitjacket, and the bottom sheet comes out, and you have to tuck that back in. Haven't hotels heard of fitted sheets?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on March 20, 2007 11:22 AM

You mix definitions, guys. Duvet is a cover for a comforter or a blanket, or a woolen plaid (if the size matches). Not the comforter or a featherbed or a blanket itself.
It's sort of a pillowcase on steroids, if that's clearer.
You don't have just one duvet, it's part of the set for one change of bedding. Say, 2 pillowcases, 1 fitted sheet, 1 duvet plus comforter (or featherbed; I use Mongolian camel-wool blanket instead) - for winter. Same for summer, except substituting duvet with flat sheet and wool blanket with light cotton one.
Could anything be easier?

Posted by: Tat on March 20, 2007 12:22 PM

On a second thought - not so sure. What is called featherbed is probably the duvet itself, since I just remembered that the store calls the item I described above "a duvet cover".
Oh, and if you do use featherbed make sure there are no actual feathers there, only goose (or duck) down!

Posted by: Tatyana on March 20, 2007 7:25 PM

Yes, Tatyana, I think the stuffing inside the cover itself is the duvet. And as you say, no one in a seasonal climate has just one duvet. Hong Kong is utterly stifling in the summer, which means virtually no one sleeps without air conditioning. So we have an 'air conditioning special' duvet that goes into our duvet covers.

I will admit that Mrs Tall and I do have a bit of trouble agreeing on how much warmth's needed for comfort in the transitional seasons of the year. At those times, I must admit she keeps the duvet du jour and I am relegated to my blankie . . . .

Posted by: mr tall on March 20, 2007 9:32 PM

No, I don't think I'd ever go for a duvet.

The reason in my case is quite practical— the whole purpose of making the bed in the morning is to keep crud out of it from cats (fur and whatever they get stuck between their toes), people (who lie on the bed and read, sometimes with snacks), and any other potentially grubby situations (kids, anyone?)

You air out the bed while you have breakfast, then make it so that it stays neat through the day.

But I can understand the simplicity appeal. It just doesn't work too well for me.

Posted by: B. Durbin on March 23, 2007 1:58 PM

Looks like shops, too, are at a difficulty discerning between an envelope and a letter:
This Portico Home bed linen ad has two conflicting sentences describing their product:
This duvet cover is constructed with a hidden zipper closure that can be left closed to convert into a bedspread.
But next they say:
All Retrosuede duvets are constructed with a hidden zipper for easy removal and cleaning of the insert and Duvet.

Posted by: Tatyana on March 24, 2007 4:10 PM

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