What’s in a number?
There’s a common misconception that if you like to sleep in luxurious sheets, you should ensure they’re made from cotton with the highest thread count you can afford.
Higher thread counts mean higher prices – they don’t necessarily mean higher quality.
People are being led to believe that thread count is everything when it comes to buying luxury cotton, but it’s not all you should be looking out for when you make your purchase.
Technically, the ‘thread count’ is the number of threads woven together in one square inch of fabric, counting the threads both horizontally and vertically. The idea is that the more threads you count, the more luxurious the sheet.
How do manufacturers work out a fabric’s thread count?
Manufacturers can use innovative ways to work out their thread counts!
Some count the individual strands that are twisted together to make a single thread. That could be two or three twisted into one single thread.
And while one manufacturer might correctly count that as one thread, others would count it as two or three threads. So, a 600-thread count could be just 300 two-ply threads.
Likewise, a three-ply thread woven 200 to the square inch could be labelled 600. This also means that a fabric with a thread count of 200 high-quality threads can have a better feel than a higher ‘count’ of 400 or 600 twisted threads of inferior-quality.
Are there other indicators of a quality cotton fabric?
Even if you could stand in the shop with your magnifying glass and calculator, counting the threads isn’t always an indicator of quality – the fineness of the fibres also plays a part in how luxurious your sheets will feel, as well as the way the fabric is woven, the finish applied and the way it’s stitched.
Think you’d be able to tell if a sheet is top quality simply by touching it? That’s not so simple, either.
Manufacturers often apply substances, such as polishes and waxes, to increase the lustre or soft feel of their fabrics. But these finishes don’t last – they can wash out after a few tumbles in the washing machine.
Superior quality sheets, though, should feel better – softer – after every wash. They’ll last for years and without pilling.
Before you buy, look at the hems and seams of your intended purchases. If there’s untidy, non-uniform stitching or loose threads, it probably means the items aren’t the best quality.
What’s the difference between percale and sateen?
Percale is a closely woven, plain weave fabric made from carded and combed yarns that usually has a cool, crisp feel. Sateen weave has more yarn surface on the face of the cloth than other basic weaves, giving a softer, more lustrous look that resembles satin.
The way a fabric’s woven has a big effect on how it feels to touch. Cotton sateen woven sheets often feel softer than those with a percale weave.
While it’s likely that percale sheets will age better, whether you prefer crisper and cooler sheets rather than soft and silky is a matter of personal taste.
Is Egyptian cotton the best?
An extra-long staple (ELS) cotton variety Gossypium barbadense is called Egyptian Cotton only when it’s grown along River Nile in Egypt. This cotton is rare and highly prized and consequently, and can be extremely expensive.
But manufacturers have cottoned-on to the fact that consumers look for the ‘Egyptian Cotton’ label, and most Egyptian-grown cotton sold today is a much lower grade of cotton.
You can tell by the price of an item if it’s made from the best, most prized ELS Egyptian cotton – it would cost many times more than the items on general sale labelled ‘Egyptian Cotton’.