The Dummies Guide to Pillowtalk

The Dummies Guide to Pillowtalk

TLC tells you lots of technical stuff on their site – but what the dickens does it all mean? A simple glossary of textile terms to help you decide which pillow or quilt is right for you


Cotton is a soft fibre that grows around the seeds of the cotton plant, a shrub native to the tropical and subtropical regions of both the Old World and the New World. The fibre is most often spun into thread and used to make soft, breathable textiles.

Combed cotton

After carding cotton staple fibre, short fibres are removed and the remaining longer fibres are made to lie more parallel. After spinning, this results in finer, smoother and more lustrous yarn that produces superior, more expensive fabric.


See Feather and Down

Down proofing

It is important that feather and down fillings do not ‘migrate’ out of quilts, pillows etc. To avoid this, the weave needs to be tight enough to stop the feathers from sticking through, so a high thread-count fabric is required. TLC only uses good quality percale cotton fabric. To reduce the cost of having to use fabric that is too expensive, cheaper fabrics can be treated in finishing with a sizing type solution, or ‘down proofed’. The resultant fabric has an unnatural feel to it and no nice soft handle.

Dunlop process latex.

Is the original, simplest and most common method for producing latex foam, with thousands of manufacturers all around the world. Most use a blend of synthetic and natural latex which are mixed with chemicals and a foaming agent and then, poured into moulds and cooked (vulcanised), just like baking a cake. The pillow is then washed and dried to remove the rubbery odour. The foaming agent creates air bubbles throughout the pillow and pins in the mould create the holes we are all familiar with. A classic pillow made using this process will weigh about 1.4 Kg. The mix of synthetic to natural can go from 100% either way depending on the relative cost of raw material, but a lot of factories tend to use a mix of 60 – 70% synthetic.


Or Spandex is a synthetic fibre known for its exceptional elasticity. It is stronger and more durable than rubber, its natural (plant) competitor. It was invented in 1959 by DuPont, and when first introduced it revolutionized many areas of the textile industry.

Feather and down

A fill for quilts and pillows with enhanced thermal loft properties due to the ‘cluster’ that is produced when very small, soft down feathers are processed. Small feathers are combined with the soft, downy underbelly of ducks. The higher the down content, the lighter the filling and less is required for a warmer level in quilts. The birds have less down than feather, therefore a higher percentage of down makes the product more expensive. The best F&D in terms of loft comes from grey ducks, but white is often preferred and is usually a little more expensive because of its ‘cleaner’ appearance.

It is important that feathers are processed properly so that they meet AQIS requirements and a certificate is issued with the goods accordingly. This requires washing the feathers up to 12 times in very hot water. Done properly this process removes the feather smell.


Fibre is a class of materials that are continuous filaments or are in discrete elongated pieces, similar to pieces of thread. They can be natural (cotton) or synthetic (polyester). Fibres are often used in the manufacture of other materials after spinning into yarn for weaving or knitting. They can be used as a component of composite materials. The most commonly used fill fibre is polyester. Fibres can be blended, often natural and synthetic together to create all kinds of different benefits and ‘stories’.


In quilts and pillows the inside fibre or feather and down that creates warmth or loft is known as the filling.


A wall of (usually) 3-4cm around the sides of pillows or quilts, usually with piping at the top and bottom. Piped gusseting requires lots more work, but adds quality and a degree of plushness to up market product.

Knit fabrics

Knit fabrics are fabrics produced through the process of knitting or intermeshing loops of yarn. Most common knits in homewares and clothing are single jersey, interlock, rib, jacquard and netting – all of which have a degree of stretchability. TLC uses interlock fabric for all pillow covers because of the heavier weight and softness.

Latex – or latex foam.

Rubber. Can be natural from rubber plants or synthetic – an oil derivative. Latex is foamed and vulcanised to produce pillows. There are two processes for doing this – Dunlop and Talalay (both described in detail). TLC only uses 100% natural latex.

Memory Foam – or visco foam.

A material NASA engineered to make astronauts more comfortable during space travel. It is sensitive to the heat the human body emits and has the ability to automatically adjust to body weight and temperature. The result when used as a pillow is a luxurious sleeping experience because it removes irksome pressure points that interfere with a restful sleep. Visco is medium in firmness and responds to your body´s pressure and temperature. It conforms to the curves of the head, offering support along the spine with no discernable pressure on bones and joints and supports the neck.


Microfibre is a term for fibres with strands thinner than 1 Denier. Fabrics made with microfibre are exceptionally soft and hold their shape well. Microfibre fill in quilted product almost feels like feather and down and creates high loft for extra warmth. ‘Mock’ microfibre (using superfine fibre up to 3 Denier), still has a comparatively good feel and properties.


Percale refers to a closely woven, high thread count, cotton fabric often used for sheeting, quilt and pillow covers. Normal construction is 40 x 40 (same fine gauge yarn used in the waft and weft when weaving)/ 133 x 100 (rows of yarn per inch, in each direction).

Pincore/ Pinholes

Refers to the holes almost always found in latex pillows. They are produced by attaching rows of steel rods (or pins) to each half of the pillow mould, leaving neat, uniform holes once the pillow is vulcanised and removed from the mould. The interesting thing here is that the holes are only there to reduce the amount of latex in the finished pillow and thus reduce the weight of the pillow. This is important with normal (or Dunlop process) latex pillows because otherwise they would tend to feel too heavy. Even though each hole only goes into about 1/3rd of the pillow, some manufacturers like to claim that the pinholes improve air circulation, helping to keep them cool. This is only true for Talalay process latex pillows which have an open cell structure and can breathe anyway.


A fabric having a cut nap or pile the same as fustian or velvet. Originally the fabric was usually pure cotton, but recently synthetic faux fur type fabrics used for furniture covers etc. fall into the ‘plush’ category


Polyester is a synthetic fibre. It is produced directly from polymer, an oil derivative. Polymer is the end result of oil being ‘cracked’, then ‘oxidised’ with air, and hydrated. Then follows a complicated process of extruding the polyester, melting and spinning it at a great height so it solidifies as it cools into yarn – than can then be cut and crimped into fibre. The most commonly used fibre for quilts and filling is 6 denier (width) cut to a staple length of 64mm. The lower the denier, the better the loft.


Medium-weight, plain weave fabric, traditionally made from cotton, with a closer set warp than weft, giving it a ribbed appearance. The ribs run across the fabric from edge to edge. Typical poplin threadcount is around 200; e.g. 133 x 72, 40/40


Quilting is a method of sewing two layers of cloth with a layer of insulating batting in between.

Talalay process latex

A complicated method of producing latex foam with only 5 factories in the world capable of producing talalay process pillows in commercially viable quantities and one of these (Radium Foam, Belgium) doesn’t have the capability to produce pillows in moulds (can only cut to shape). The biggest supplier in the world is Latex Foam International (LFI) whose plant is on the East coast of USA The Talalay process is a lot more complicated in that moulds are only filled 40 – 60% (depending on required softness) and the air is then sucked out by vacuum. This causes cracks to form between the air bubbles, creating an open cell structure (breathability). The moulds are then frozen, causing the cracks to open up further assisted by an injection of CO2 and Oxygen. The pillows are then vulcanised and washed – as per Dunlop Process. Latex has many benefits such as durability, being naturally healthy & anti-bacterial and hypoallergenic. TLC’s talalay pillows have the added benefit of being 100% natural latex with an open cell structure that ventilates. A finished classic talalay pillow weighs 1Kg.

Thread count

The thread count is the number of warp threads per inch plus the number of weft threads.

TOG or TOG rating.

Measurement mainly used and understood in Europe to determine a quilts ability to retain heat. Heat is applied to the top and bottom of the quilt for a controlled amount of time. Once removed for a certain period the degrees Celsius change is recorded at the top and bottom and the % variance determines that products rating.


Refers to the process of setting the pillow while in its mould in an oven at a high temperature of around 100⁰C.