About Thread Count

Thread Count

Thread count is Not the Whole Story...
Thread count is simply a measure of how many threads are present in a square inch of fabric. It is a combination of the number of horizontal and vertical threads found in that square inch.

Thread count is one relatively minor measure of quality in a fabric. The quality of the fibre used to make the thread is far more important than the thread count of the fabric. To make high thread count fabrics, thread must be spun very fine in order to fit a lot into a square inch.

With cotton sheeting the highest possible thread count is just over 400, with very few exceptions. When a fabric is listed as anything higher than 400, red flags must go up. This means they are actually quoting strand count and this is not the appropriate method. For example we have sheeting materials with 600 or 1,015 strand count. Transparency is important to us, and as such we correctly market these as 300 and 380 thread count. Yes, there are even sheets out there marketed with as high as a 2,000 thread count. This is purely marketing and is not mathematically possible.

Certain types of fabric may exceed a 400 thread count. For example, silk may exceed 450 thread count due to how fine the fibres are. The Giza 45 Egyptian Cotton found in the St Genève Flora sheet set is one other notable exception, with a staggering 500 thread count. This is due to the super fine Giza 45 fibres.

It is entirely appropriate to use short staple cotton for fabrics such as denim, canvas and other heavier fabrics. However, when it is used to make fine threads, they are too weak, and the resulting fabric will be unsatisfactory.

Start With Good Cotton Fibre...

These fabrics have the same 300 thread count. The one on the left is of a much lower quality. You can see that the threads are of an uneven size, which results in an uneven weave. There are thin patches throughout this fabric. This will cause the fabric to wear out faster and launder poorly, as it is only as strong as its weakest areas. Poor quality thread is spun from cheap shorter staple cottons.

The fabric on the right is a German made sateen. The mill started with a high quality thread to weave this cloth. It is even and smooth and luxurious. It will provide many years of service. This thread is spun from a more expensive long staple cotton.

Good quality long staple cotton will spin into good quality thread. Good quality thread will weave into good quality fabric. All three stages must be completed in a quality fashion, or the result will be inferior. Some fabrics will appear to be a bargain, but they won't be a pleasure to use, and they won't last. While not obvious on the surface, you can see that close magnified inspection shows a surprisingly large difference.

Which thread count is the best?

The answer is, it depends. If you'd like a softer, thicker feel then choose a twisted strand. The smoothest feel is with a high thread count, but this does not automatically mean the softest feel - a twisted strand cotton typically feels softer than the same thread count single ply cotton. Alternatively if you like a crisp, light feel choose a lower thread count and likely in a percale weave type.

Also keep in mind that a high thread count will not breathe as well and will be warmer to sleep on. Thread counts in cotton exceeding 380~ are typically considered dust mite proof, which means they really don't flow as much air as typical 200~300 thread count single ply fabrics such as Capri, Nico, etc

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