When shopping for bed linens, particularly bed sheets, most people are under the assumption that the higher the fabric thread count the better the quality, however, this is not always true. There are many factors that affect the quality of a fabric. Before you decide how to spend your hard earned income (after all, purchasing bed linens is an investment), here are some things you should know:
1) Thread Count: Thread count is the number of threads woven horizontally and vertically into one square inch of fabric. In order to obtain high thread count fabrics, finer individual threads are plied (twisted) together to form one thread. This is called ‘plied yarn’. Threads can be either 2-ply, 3-ply or multi-ply. When a fabric is woven with plied yarn each individual ply is counted, so if there are three plies making up one single thread, it is counted as three threads, not one. With this fuzzy math method, it is easy to obtain higher thread counts, but not necessarily a higher quality.
Fabric that is ‘Single Ply’ is woven with long staple cotton fibers. Longer fibers come from higher quality cotton and produce stronger, smoother fabrics. With this, a true 300tc fabric woven from a single ply cotton can feel much softer against your skin than an 800-1000 thread count woven from plied yarn. It is possible to obtain a true 500 to 600 thread count fabric with these finer single ply threads.
2) Types of Cotton: The type of cotton used will also affect the feel and quality of the fabric. Here are a few of the most common types used in bed sheets:
- Egyptian Cotton: Grown only in Egypt, Egyptian cotton is a long staple cotton that has a reputation of being one of the highest quality cotton available.
- Pima Cotton: Ranked right behind Egyptian cotton, Pima cotton is also a long staple cotton with the same superior quality, however, it is grown in the Southwestern United States.
- Combed Cotton: Cotton that has undergone a process called ‘combing’, which removes the short fibers and any remaining debris with the cotton. Combed cotton is stronger and finer, and produces a higher quality cotton fabric.
- Organic Cotton: Cotton grown in conditions free of pesticides or herbicides. Organic cotton will have a government approved certification on the packaging.
3) Types of Weave: Although there are different types of weaves, bed sheets usually do not state what type of weave the fabric is unless it is a ‘Sateen Weave’. Sateen is a type of weave that places most threads on the surface (four over and one under compared to one over and one under with a standard weave). A sateen weave creates a luxuriously soft silky feel.
With all of this said, you may still be wondering what type of sheets are right for you. Before you buy, try to obtain all the information you can about the fabric you’re considering. The two most important things to keep in mind is: What kind of cotton is it made from? What ply is it…multi-ply or single ply? The bottom line is you spend one third of your life in bed, so treat yourself to the most comfortable and best quality sheets you can afford.