First, a basic definition: thread-count is the number of threads woven into one square inch of fabric. Thread-count has become a popular buzz-word over the years, but very few people know that there are other more important components that make a sheet luxurious and long-lasting.
The 3 Main Components of a Good Sheet
1. What kind of cotton is it? Egyptian is the best due to the strength and length of its fibres.
2. Where is the fabric woven? Italian mills are the world's foremost experts.
3. Thread-count: Look for thread-count higher than 200 t.c., but remember, thread-count is a personal preference!
Thread-count is important, but equally significant is where the cotton is grown and where and how it has been woven. Egyptian cotton is acknowledged to be the finest cotton in the world, just as the Italians are renowned for their long-standing tradition of weaving. The softness of your sheets depends more on the quality of the fibre - the raw materials - which is why a 220 thread-count sheet can feel softer than a 500 thread-count sheet that uses an inferior grade of cotton or a twisted yarn. (The lower thread-count sheet using Egyptian cotton and woven in Italy will also last longer than a higher thread-count sheet woven from inferior cotton.) Remember, ten Chevy's don't make a Jag. Higher thread counts can often be a mask for inferior cotton and weaving.
Discerning consumers should always look for Egyptian cotton sheets. But be forewarned: labels can be misleading. While numerous brands claim to use Egyptian cotton, their linens may contain as little as one percent. Look for packaging that says 100% or pure Egyptian cotton. Also, where the product is made is not neccessarily where the fabric is woven.
There are 2 Types of Weaves: Percale and Cotton Satin
The way in which fabric is woven also has an effect on its feel. Percale is woven in a criss cross weave and has a thread-count higher than 200. Cotton Satin is woven in a circular weave to give the fabric a sheen and silkier feel. But that doesn’t mean satin is better than percale.
Although high thread-counts have become something of a status symbol, the hand of the fabric – as determined by the finish and the type of weave – is entirely personal.
Peggy Byron, owner of Au Lit Fine Linens, favours her 220 thread-count percale sheets over the best 1000 thread-count cotton satin sheets money can buy. Why? Because she happens to love the crisp, linen-feel of percale, and not the finer feel of a higher thread-count satin.
Though most consumers think thread-count is the way to choose quality bed linens, the truth is, it is the quality of the cotton and where and how it is woven, that matters most.