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May 31, 2016

Is thread count all that its hyped up to be?

 Every linen company makes a claim about how high their products' thread counts are. But what does that mean exactly? And is it really an important metric by which to judge quality? Well, yes and no. 

 Thread count is defined as the "number of yarns per square inch", where yarns are the threads that are stitched together to make the sheet. Yarns are counted as one yarn, regardless of whether they are single ply or multi-ply yarns. A multi-ply yarn is where two or more individual yarns are twisted together to create a single yarn. Some manufacturers try to artificially boost their thread count by counting each individual ply as a single yarn. So you should probably be a little suspicious when you see thread counts in the thousands.

 

 Single Ply Yarn

 

All other things equal, a higher thread count would indicate higher quality - the more threads there are, the smoother the sheet. Which is not the case always, as there are a host of other features that have just as large an impact on the quality of the sheet.

Fiber

The fibers that form the yarn used in sheets have a large impact on texture and quality. There are two primary types of fibers used  - cotton-polyester blends, and 100% cotton.

Cotton-polyester blends are more wrinkle resistant and easy to care for but can pill easily which can be irritating to the skin.

100% cotton fibers are softer, cooler to the touch, and less likely to stain. The longer the cotton fiber, the higher its quality. The longer fibers mean that the threads are less likely to fray when stitched together, leading to sheets that are noticeably softer, smoother, and less likely to pill.

Weave

The manners in which the fibers are woven also affect the looks and longevity of sheets. The two most common weaves are percale and sateen.

 

Percale is an one-yarn-over and one-yarn-under weave that has a matte finish with crisp feel. Percale sheets are soft and sturdy, more suited to warmer summer months.

A sateen weave consists of three or more horizontal threads (weft) for each vertical thread (warp). Since most of the threads are on the surface, the sheet has a more soft and luxurious feel with a greater sheen. Sateen is usually more closely woven making it heavier in weight as compared to percale. These are ideal for year-round comfort for its silky smooth finish.

Finishes 

Usually, sheets are finished with some chemical treatment to increase luster, strength, and texture, reduce wrinkles, or to control shrinkage. Chemical finishing can often have adverse allergic effects and is more irritable to the skin. Organic cotton sheets are generally not finished with a chemical treatment.

While a higher thread count is a potential indicator of better quality, it is neither the best nor the sole indicator. The fibers and weave used in the sheet are just as important. However the best way to find your perfect sheet is to just feel it yourself before you buy.

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