What exactly is thread count, and why does it matter?

What exactly is thread count, and why does it matter?

What exactly is thread count, and why does it matter? 

It’s quite likely you’ve come across the term “thread count” before - but do you actually know what it means, or why it’s important?

The very simple definition of thread count, from How Stuff Works , is the number of threads woven together in a square inch. Counting both length-wise (warp) and width-wise (weft), the thread count is the sum of threads in this space. So, 100 length-wise threads woven with 100 width-wise threads produce a thread count of 200. Simple, right?

The likely reason you’ve come across the term “thread count” before is because this used to be the main barometer in the world of bed linen quality. People generally think that the higher the thread count, the higher the luxury - but there’s a bit more to it than that… 

When shopping around for bed sheets (pillowcases, duvet covers, mattress sheets… any or all of the above), the important factors to consider are actually: the material, how it’s made, and then the thread count. 

This is because thread count only really matters within a certain range. Without the quality in the first factors (the material and the process), there’s little point looking at the thread count. I.e. If you have a poor quality yarn and the manufacturing was lacking, a high thread count will not make any difference. Think of it like decorating a house; if it’s not properly built and on dodgy foundations, there’s no point forking out on Farrow & Ball paint to decorate the living room! See our point?

So, starting with the “foundation”, which is the material in this case. Unsurprisingly, the best fabrics are the natural ones, like cotton. You’ve likely come across “Egyptian cotton” before, and the term itself can conjure images of posh hotel beds or first class luxury. The reason for this is because Egyptian cotton is “long-stapled”, meaning the fibres in the material have fluffy heads and therefore make for a softer and more luxurious sleep. 

Pima, Supima, and linen are other cotton variants, made from flax plants. These are all quite cool and crisp to the touch, considered particularly comfortable and best for sensitive skin, and for avoiding overheating during the night. 

Next, we look at the process implemented on those materials. This typically involves the style and direction of the weave - i.e. if they are all facing the same way and the pattern they take to form the final bedding. 

Bed linen is usually available in two weaves, and these are the only two options we provide at Whisper: percale and sateen

Percale is woven one-over-one-under, creating a smooth and crisp weave. Percale allows more air to flow through, which is why it has a breathable, cool-to-the-touch feel.

Sateen is woven four-by-one, creating a luxurious hand feel. The densely woven fabric has a wrinkle-resistant finish for an always-polished look and easy breezy bed making.

The optimal thread count depends on how the product is woven, so with percale the optimal range is 200 to 400, and for sateen it’s 300-500.

We hope this article has helped debunked any myths you might have heard around thread count, and clarified your understanding so you can make better, more informed purchasing decisions. 

Head to our shop to browse our high-quality sateen and percale bedding ranges 

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