WHAT’S IN A THREAD COUNT?
Myth or Fact?
Thread count is the most important characteristic in determining the quality of bed linens. Myth. In reality, good sheets start with quality fibers that are made into the best fabrics and carefully finished to look and feel great.
High thread counts can certainly make for better sheets, but it's the thread that matters most. In fact, a sheet of a better-quality fiber with a lower thread count will feel softer and stand up to washing better than a sheet of a lower-quality fiber with a higher thread count. Besides thread count, here's what you pay for when you're buying sheets.
Here are some important things to consider when choosing fine linens:
Bed linens are made from natural or manmade fibers, or a blend of both. Which will be the best for you is a personal preference. Consider the following:
- Natural Fibers, such as cotton, silk and wool, will have irregularities which add to the natural beauty of the bedding. The most significant benefit is their ability to adjust to changes in temperature and humidity, thus ensuring a very comfortable night’s sleep. However natural fibers tend to wrinkle after washing, so remove promptly from the dryer.
- Artificial Fibers, such as viscose and rayon are man-made from natural raw materials derived from cellulose or plant protein. Tencel, Modal, and Rayon made from bamboo are some of today's most recognizable fabrics made from artificial fibers. These linens have many of the same qualities of natural fibers, but tend to be more durable. They are extremely absorbent, and have a soft, silky feel. Some may even be naturally anti-bacterial. Artificial fibers also to tend to shrink, so follow care instructions closely.
- Synthetics, such as polyester, acrylic, and nylon are man-made products produced from petrochemicals. This fabric can be dyed with more vibrant colors and are resistant to wrinkling. However, they are not very absorbent, therefore can be uncomfortably warm in some climates.
- Blends are combinations of two or more fibers. The fiber with the highest percentage typically dominates the characteristics of the blend. The best blends will have the good characteristics of all the blends.
Thread count is simply the number of yarns in a square inch of fabric. Back in the day, thread counts were no higher than 350. The higher numbers meant lighter, more supple, and durable the fabric. However today, with advancements in weaving, thread counts can be higher than 1200 which doesn’t necessarily mean the higher the better. How does one get 1200 thread yarns in one square inch of fabric? Fabrics are woven with multi-plied yarns, meaning two or more yarns are twisted together to make a single thread. Multi-yard insertions are created with multiple single yards woven with against one vertical yarn. However, fabrics woven through these methods tend to be less durable. The most durable fabrics are those made with single ply construction, which also result in lighter, softer bed linens.
Additionally, knowing the quality of the cotton fibers is often more important than just the thread count. For example, when considering flannel sheets, the weight of the fabric and quality of the cotton is more important than the thread count.
Cotton is the most common choice of natural fibers, so it is important to understand the different qualities of cotton.
- Long staple cotton, such as Egyptian or Pima, is used to make the highest-quality linens. Linens produced from long staple cottons are appreciated for their suppleness, smoothness, and sheen. While this level of quality is the most expensive, it ensures exceptional durability.
- Intermediate staple cotton is normally used for linens with thread counts up to 230. These linens are very good but have sheen and suppleness than long staple cotton bedding.
- Short staple cotton is not very common due to their lack of softness and durability.
- Organic Cotton is grown using farming methods and materials that have a low impact on the environment. Fields in which organic cotton is cultivated have not been treated with inorganic fertilizers for at least three years. GOTS Certified organic cotton products are produced to the strictest guidelines, ensuring that the product was produced through environmentally and socially responsible manufacturing and that the product is made of at least 95% organic material.
- Combed Cotton is another characteristic of fine bedding. Only the best grades of cotton can be combed, which results in a yarn which is finer, cleaner, more lustrous, and stronger than carded yarns. Combing is necessary for the production of fine yarns used to produce high thread count linens that are much more durable
TYPE OF WEAVE
The type of weave used in the fabric is significant to the durability and price of the final product. There are three basic fabric weaves used in bedding:
Plain Weave is the most basic of the three types of weaves and is used for about 80% of all bedding fabrics. The weave is a simple criss-cross pattern and produces a strong, durable fabric. Examples of a plain weave are chiffon, taffeta, percale, and gingham.
Twill Weaves are woven in such a way as to have diagonal ribs. This causes this type of fabric to have a softer “drape.” This weave is not as smooth, so stains are less noticeable. Twills are more durable and resistant to wrinkles, water and air. Examples are denim, upholstery fabric, and gabardine.
Satin Weave is typically woven to have a glossy surface and a dull back. If a fabric is formed using fibers such as silk, nylon, or polyester, the corresponding fabric is termed a If the yarns used are short-staple yarns such as cotton, the fabric formed is considered a sateen. The number of yarns exposed on the surface of the fabric gives sateen its characteristic sheen. Consequently, it is this same characteristic of exposed yarns which make this fabric more prone to snagging, so it is important that the sateen have a higher thread count to keep the yarns as close together as possible.