Does thread count matter when buying sheets?

Article by Homes to Love

We sat down with linen expert and Wallace Cotton owner Paula Wallace to ask her about thread count, what it means and why we should care

Wallace Cotton loft set

Bedlinen from Wallace Cotton.


What exactly is thread count and why should we care about it?

  • Basically, fabric is made by weaving vertical and horizontal yarns. There are a bunch of variables to determine the quality of the end fabric including the number of yarns used in each direction and thickness of yarns used.
  • Thread count is the gauge for measuring the number of yarns in fabric within 1 square inch or 2.5 square cms. A basic calico has 60 yarns in each direction so would be called 120 thread count.
    Calico yarn is usually thick and coarse, which doesn’t feel very nice to sleep on. One thousand-count sateen would have approximately 500 yarns in each direction, so is much more dense than calico, and requires very fine yarn which equals a luxurious-feeling sheet.

Calico yarn is usually thick and coarse

which doesn’t feel very nice to sleep on

Is it true that the higher the thread count, the better the quality?

This is true, as mentioned above, finer yarns must be used to make high thread count fabric. As long as good quality yarn is used, the quality should be premium. High thread-count sheets are usually sateen weave; percale (square weave) fabric is usually only woven to about 400-500 thread count – both of these are good options.


Happy Town sheet set from Wallace Cotton.


In an ideal world, what thread count sheets should we be buying?

It all depends on your preference, 250-300 thread count percale sheets are lovely and crisp, 600-1000 thread count sateen are soft and silky.

What should we look out for when buying sheets? Will the labelling/packaging tell us if the sheets are good quality?

It’s best to rely on the retailer’s reputation, and ask advice, as you really get what you pay for. If 1000-count sheets are a bargain, they will probably pill. Most bedlinen retailers will have customer reviews to help you decide.

If 1000-count sheets are a bargain

they will probably pill

What is the difference between cotton and Egyptian cotton?

Cotton is grown commercially in regions throughout Asia, the Middle East and America. Egypt has become known for producing long staple cotton, which is stronger and finer than cotton from other regions. As with all crops, there are various qualities grown in each region, i.e India and USA also produce long staple cotton for high quality.

Egypt exports the yarn to other manufacturing regions who spin and weave cloth. This is why you can find Egyptian cotton sheets made in China or India. The same thing happens with Belgian linen – most of the crop is exported to China to make linen garments or bedding.

What is a cotton satin sheet?

Cotton satin, or sateen, is made from fabric woven with a diagonal weave on the face side, the same as any satin or twill fabric. This fabric is produced by weaving weft (horizontal) yarn across several warp (vertical) yarns diagonally, which creates a satin lustre on the face of the cloth.

This type of cloth is prone to pilling because of the extra yarn exposed on the face side, and should only be made using good quality, fine yarn to prevent pilling. Sample fabric should be tested for pilling in a laboratory.

This type of cloth is prone to pilling

and should only be made with good quality yarn

Many cheaper sheets are a cotton/polyester blend – is this something to avoid?

Polyester was introduced to bedding in the 1970s as the brilliant solution to ironing sheets! Polycotton doesn’t crinkle or hold creases as much as pure cotton, the trade off is possible sparks flying or static as you roll around on your sheets… polycotton thread count goes up to 250 percale and is usually cheaper than pure cotton. It is used very successfully in the hospitality industry.

What’s your favourite sheet set?

We have Imperial 1000 count sateen sheets at home which are gorgeous, and 250-count organic percale sheets on the boat as they are crisp and cool. There is a perfect sheet for all locations!

Interview with Paula Wallace, owner of Wallace Cotton.

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