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Thread Count Basics


Thread Count Basics For Sheets and Duvets

Thread count has for several years been a buzzword in bedding. Let’s face it, at one point it actually got to be something of a status symbol, a “my sheets have more threads than yours” sort of thing as manufacturers and retailers, in order to sell more sheets, pushed the issue. 

So what exactly is thread count? It is simply a measure of how many threads—warp (lengthwise) and weft (widthwise)—are woven into one square inch of fabric. The thread count of “standard” cotton or muslin is around 150; good-quality sheets start at 180-thread count; and a count of 200 and higher is considered percale. 

Thread count also has to do with the yarn construction and quality of the yarn. With finer threads, like those produced with Egyptian cotton (see below), more can be woven into each square inch, producing a finer, softer, more flexible fabric. 

As we’ve said, thread counts aren’t the be-all and end-all when it comes to sheets you love to touch. Softness depends more on the quality of the fiber, which is why a 200-thread-count fine cotton sheet can have a softer “hand” or feel than a 400-thread-count sheet that uses an inferior grade of cotton or a twisted thread. 

Be aware that the type of cotton presents another area in which labels can be misleading—some may say Egyptian cotton, but in fact may contain only one percent. Look for labels that say 100% or pure Egyptian cotton.

Fine linens begin with fine cotton, and the quality of the cotton depends on the lengths of the individual fibers, or staples—the longer the staple, the better the cotton. Longer staples can be combed finer to remove more small fibers, allowing the cotton to be spun into a finer-textured thread with more tensile strength, and woven into a softer, more lustrous fabric. 

We at Luxury Egyptian Cotton only use 100% Egyptian cotton, acknowledged as the best quality, longest-staple cotton in the world. Although historically it all came from Egypt, today “Egyptian” cotton is also produced in other countries. It still complies with the original Egyptian standards of quality, including a 1 1/4- to 2-inch staple, compared, for example, with Pima cotton’s 7/8-inch staple.

Egyptian Combed Cotton

Once raw cotton is blended and cleaned, it is carded to remove any short staples and dirt that can cause yarn breakage in weaving. While carding will remove some 5 percent of the fibers, combing is a process that is much more thorough, removing a further 10 to 15 percent. This leaves the longest staples ready for spinning into yarn that is stronger and finer to the touch—yarn that will produce a high-quality fabric. That being the case, any sheets can have a high thread count, but if they are not made of long-staple cotton, they are not going to be as refined. The best-quality cotton results in a stronger fabric with a smooth, soft hand. 


Once you’ve established that you have the very best cotton, what’s next? Finishing processes have a lot to do with the way the bedding feels. Luxury Egyptian Cotton takes extra care to remove treatments used during weaving. This finishing process not only helps reduce wrinkling, it maintains the clarity or brightness of the color by preserving the cellulose core of the cotton and gives the fabric a smooth hand and silky, shimmering look. 

The way in which fabric is woven also has an effect on its feel—cotton sateen sheets, for example, are softer than those with a classic linen weave. A satin weave has more warp threads on the top surface, resulting in a silk-like touch and appealing luster. Which is better? It’s a matter a personal taste; some people prefer the crispness of a linen weave, others like the softness of the satin.