The Truth About Thread Count

There is nothing better at the end of the day than slipping between fresh, soft blankets and sinking into the pillows of your bed! Our busy lives pull us in all directions and often getting an early night, or sleeping in late, feels like such a lovely indulgence – especially with good quality sheets! Here’s some helpful info about thread count and the types of cotton you should be looking out for in choosing luxury bedding.

So what actually is thread count?

Cotton is the most widely used fibre for fabric because of its strength, durability and breathability – but not all cottons are created equal…

Lets start off by dispelling a long-held misconception about thread-count… higher numbers are not necessarily better quality. Thread count is essentially the number of threads woven horizontally (“weft”) and vertically (“warp”) into one square inch of fabric. Most weavers will say the maximum number of threads that can be woven into one square inch of fabric is 500 to 600, but extra threads called “picks” can also be woven into the weft threads here and there in order to bump up the thread count. That is how some sheets end up having thread counts in the thousands and why the idea that high counts equal better quality isn’t really accurate. This is why you should watch out for low priced, high thread count sheet sets that seem like a bargain. Once you are aware of this, choosing your sheets is really all about preference – what feels best for you. If you prefer a lighter, silkier sheet, try a 300 to 600 cotton satin. If you love a crisp cotton, go for a 200 thread-count cotton percale or up to 800 for a softer dense feel and more durability. Its not only thread count that matters though, the quality of the cotton itself is just as important too.

What type of cotton is the best?

  1. Sea Island Cotton: Extremely limited in supply and very expensive to grow and to process. It is typically used in very expensive men’s shirts.
  2. Giza Egyptian Cotton: Egyptian cotton is a high quality species of cotton and Giza is one of the highest qualities of all the varieties of Egyptian cottons. Most of our bed linens are made of Giza Egyptian cotton. It is grown in Egypt and Turkey as well as a few other countries where conditions have to be ideal. Because the fibers are so long, it actually has to be hand harvested in order to keep the fibers intact. Machine harvesting damages the strands. Giza is the Egyptian cotton of choice for very high quality cotton goods. It is found in the very best bed linens and towels. It is also used for the highest qualities of embroidery thread.
  3. Pima Cotton: A very good quality long staple cotton. The word “staple” refers to fiber length. When someone refers to “long staple cotton” they are referring to varieties 1, 2, or 3. The longer the fiber size of a variety, the more difficult it is to grow, and the more difficult it is to process. Hence the longer the staple, the more expensive it becomes.
  4. American Upland Long Staple: This cotton is only “Long Staple” in comparison to American Upland Short Staple cotton. The American Upland cottons now comprise up to 90% of the worlds crop. They are much easier to grow and process, and are therefore much less costly. They are perfectly adequate for medium quality fabrics. They make poor down-proof fabrics for duvets and pillows, as they will ultimately leak. They are also unsuitable for high thread count sheets, as they will feel limp and coarse after a few launderings. This is the cotton used in bargain duvets, and in inexpensive “luxury” sheets.
  5. American Upland Short Staple: A less expensive version of cotton, very basic quality, suitable for denim for blue jeans.
  6. Asia Short Staple: Very easy to grow and process, and hence makes very cheap cloth. Unfortunately, lightweight fabrics made from this cotton are very weak and limp. They wear out quickly, and launder poorly.
Now you are armed with some valuable information about what’s in your sheets, maybe its time to treat yourself to some new ones – there are so many beautiful choices!