When it comes to purchasing bedding or linens, textile manufacturers say that thread-counts are an important factor to consumers. By definition, thread-count refers to the measurement of the number of horizontal and vertical woven threads in one square inch of fabric. Thread-counts can range anywhere from 80 (threads per square inch) to 700 threads or higher. Most consumers believe that the higher the thread-count, the better the product. Unfortunately, when it comes to purchasing fine beddings and linens, thread-counts are just one factor to consider.
Most department stores for example, sell bed linens with an average thread-count of 180 to 320. According to consumer reports, cotton and cotton-blend sheets, for example, with a thread count of 180 to 200 stand-up to longevity and wear and provide satisfactory comfort. A thread-count of standard cotton or muslin is around 150. Good quality cotton or muslin sheets start at 180-thread-count; a count of 200 threads or higher is considered percale or a soft fabric that washes and wears well and is guaranteed not to wrinkle. Luxury sheets have thread-counts of 500 and beyond.
Not surprisingly, thread-count is more than just counting the threads within one single square inch of fabric. With improvements in cotton and linen threads, improved spinning and milling technologies, thread-counts are something of a false concept. Very high thread-counts (500 and beyond) usually means the yarn has been plied in other words, it is produced by counting twisted yarn as double the yarn. A fabric that has 250 individual four-ply yarns in a square inch is counted as a 1,000 thread-count fabric.
The National Textile Association, which lists the international standards for the textile-fabric industry says it is a practice to count each thread separately when taking a thread-count reading from fabrics. Therefore, when all threads are counted in a two or three ply sheet for example, the consumer could easily be deceived.
Using two or three threads that have been spun together does not necessarily produce fabric that is more luxurious or longer-wearing. Where the threads in a one square-inch are counted though, the higher number will of course always be noted and that is what the consumer sees and often buys.
Luxury linens for example, begin with high quality cotton threads. Fine cotton depends on individual fibers or staples the longer the staple, the better the cotton. Longer staples can be combed finer allowing the cotton to be spun into a finer textured thread, which in turn means a softer more luxurious fabric.
Egyptian cotton has the longest staple in the world and is synonymous with world-class luxury, however what the buyer needs to look for on the label is that the product is made from 100 percent Egyptian cotton and not a 10 percent blend with a cheaper, less valued cotton. Such a blend results in a poorer end product.
Another factor the wise shopper needs to look for when shopping for beddings is the finishing processes. With modern technologies and the method in which a fabric is woven and dyed, the overall appearance, durability and wear-ability is determined. Make sure the manufacturers name on the label is a reputable one or one who will stand behind their product.
With today’s fast market and the ease of shopping and getting information right on-line, the consumer is not as easily fooled. Whether it is the crispness of cotton or the satin-smooth feeling of silky sheets, the thread-count factor is not the only thing to base your purchases on. A wise consumer is always an informed one.