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Thread Count 101

Thread-count is defined as the number of threads woven in to one square inch of fabric.

When it comes to buying sheets most of us have been taught the higher the thread-count, the better. It’s become such a popular buzzword that some high-end manufacturers have removed it from their packaging altogether. Why? Thread-count alone is only 1/3 of the story and, as it turns out, the latter third.

Here are three components, listed in descending order of importance, to consider when purchasing new bedding this fall:

1) Quality

Egyptian cotton is considered best due to its strength and length of fibers. Buyer beware – manufacturers often put Egyptian Cotton on their packaging even if its contents contain as little as 1%.

There are also two different kinds of Egyptian cotton – long stem and short stem. Long stem is the highest quality because it’s tighter and therefore wears better overtime.

To ensure the highest quality look for 100% long stem Egyptian cotton. Although some will argue you get what you pay for, the higher quality also comes with a much higher price tag.

2) Where and How it’s Woven

Italy is known for its superior cotton milling. Next is Switzerland, Portugal – really anywhere in Europe.

Also important to note is the type of weave.

Percale (one over, one under) feels more like a crisp button down shirt whereas Cotton Satin (four over, one under) gives a finer, silkier feel with added sheen.

Whichever you prefer ultimately depends on personal preference. For most people the look versus the feel can also present a bit of a tradeoff.

3) Thread-Count

Although we’ve all been told otherwise, thread-count is actually the least important component overall.

Personally I prefer the look and feel of a 400 t.c. Percale over a 1000 t.c. Cotton Satin because of how little it wrinkles, how cool and light it is against the skin and how crisp it looks on a freshly made bed.

There are lots of new fabrics on the market that have a similar feel to cotton and boast better wear. Bamboo sheets are all the rage because of their soft, breathable, hypoallergenic qualities that keep you cool in the summer and warm in the winter. They’re also a great alternative if you prefer the soft feel of high-end Satin Cotton without the associated price tag.

Buying new sheets is so subjective I always recommend clients come with me to make the final decision. When in doubt, weigh the pros and cons within your budget and follow your instincts. Having sheets that cost a fortune, last forever and rarely get used is the only real risk to avoid.

Most important remember thread-count is almost irrelevant if you disregard the quality of cotton as well as how and where it’s made.

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