thread count

Cotton thread count explained

Thread Count Explained

Buying bed linen can be confusing. Everywhere you look you find 200 thread count, 300, 400, 600, 800… What does it all really mean? What you’ll also notice is, as the thread count increases, so does the price. It’s almost as if we’ve been led to believe the higher the count the better quality the sheets. Many consumers try and pick out a high thread count duvet cover, regardless of price, because they want what they think is the best quality. Is higher better? Will a high count number improve your sleeping experience?

We’ve got to let you in on a little secret. A higher number doesn’t always mean a better quality. The truth is, this has been given hugely exaggerated importance in the world of bed linen. Over time, retailers and manufacturers have increasingly used this number for the quality of the bedding they sell.

Unfortunately, the truth is, high thread count doesn’t make bed sheets superior. It is a very convenient marketing tool. However, it really isn’t the determiner of quality that we’ve all been led to believe.

Confused? It’s not your fault! Do not despair.

Let us explain. Give us two minutes, and you will be a (rare) educated bed linen consumer! Here’s why a higher number doesn’t mean better quality.

What is thread count?

Thread count (sometimes abbreviated to TC) is just a measure of how many threads are woven into one square inch of fabric. Both the vertical (warp) and horizontal (weft) weave of the fabric are counted to determine the thread count. For example, an authentic 300 TC sheet will be made up of 150 horizontal single-ply threads and 150 vertical single-ply threads woven together.

In reality, it’s only possible to fit a limited number into that square inch. The exact number depends on the thickness of the threads, but it is normally around 400.

With retailers wanting to offer more and more products, at higher and higher prices, they asked manufacturers to produce bedding with higher TCs, boosting the perceived value and quality of bedding in the now established ‘higher TC = better quality” world.

Does thread count matter?

So surely the more weaves in a square inch, the better quality of the sheet? Not necessarily. Don’t let numbers rule your bed!

If you consider a low count sheet, say 140, you’d be able to lift it up to the light and see tiny holes, visible to the naked eye. That’s no good. It would be very light, have no insulation properties and not be hard wearing. However, keep in mind it is only physically possible to get a certain amount of weaves in a square inch; if you had high TC sheets with a count over 400, the fabric would be dense, lacking softness and very hot to be underneath due to a lack of space for air circulation.

To boost this number above the upper limit at which they would fit, manufacturers began wrapping individual cotton yarns around each other to create a plait-like-yarn i.e. using more than one single ply thread of cotton. In the industry it’s called double- or triple-ply. An 800-thread count sheet will usually be made up of 150 horizontal multi-ply threads and 150 vertical multi-ply threads. But, the difference here is that the manufacturer will use multi 3-ply threads to achieve this. To increase the thread count and make their product sound superior, they twist the end of the multi- ply threads together and force it into the one square inch of the fabric. This then triples the thread count, which is seen as desirable in the eyes of the consumer. We will look at ply threads in a future blog post.

The great irony in all of this is that a single ply construction, such as the construction we use in our bedding, creates a softer, longer-lasting and more breathable cotton.

And before you ask, it’s not just us saying this. The TC myth has been busted by The Huffington Post and Business Insider (for example).

What’s an ideal range?

As a rule, anything 200 and over indicates a high-quality sheet, and you should certainly meet anything over 400 with a healthy dose of scepticism.

Looking for an ideal range? Try a TC between 180 and 400, which will feel smooth, soft and breathable – a great combination for a good night’s sleep. Some say the best TC is between 200 and 300 – the sweet-spot of optimum durability, softness and comfort. This TC delivers the optimal level of comfort, softness and of course that all important luxury feel.

Linen Quarter’s ‘The Organic Range’

We believe we have found the perfect bedding, made from the finest quality long staple cotton in a single-ply 200 and 300 TC weave. We are all about honesty and transparency – selling pure, natural sheets made from the finest organic cotton, which become softer and softer with use.

Our ‘Cool & Crisp’ percale weave organic cotton bedding has a 200 TC; and our ‘Soft & Smooth’ sateen weave organic cotton bedding has a 300 TC. The difference between percale and sateen weaves are discussed in a previous blog post we have written.

It goes without saying that your sheets should be 100% organic cotton as this gives the best breathability and comfort. Why you should switch to organic cotton bedding is also discussed in a previous blog.

Our organic cotton bed linen ranges can be seen here.

Thanks for reading. Please let us know if there are any topics you’d like us to include in our future posts.

Sara x

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