Decoding the mystery of Thread count

Does high TC really mean better quality? The answer might surprise you…

A long standing question with most people has been how to decide if a bedsheet works for their homes, in terms of durability, comfort as well as material. Most companies have started using Thread Count (or TC) as a barometer for quality. However, TC is not as simple as it is made to sound and not the ultimate judge of quality, so then what is? Read on to find out…

Hand Block print fabric

Let’s start with the basic; What is Thread Count?

In the most simplistic explanation, imagine a ‘Charpoy’ with horizontal and vertical weaves going across. Similarly, Thread count measures the number of horizontal threads and vertical threads in a square inch of cotton. So in reality only a limited number of threads per square inch can sit into that fabric and the exact number depends on the thickness of the yarn.  So a 200 TC bedsheet has 100 horizontal and 100 vertical threads, and a 600 TC bedsheet also has 100 horizontal and vertical threads, but the fabric maker has braided 3 strings of yarn together and then tripled the Thread Count. Which means a 200 TC bedsheet made with thick single ply cotton is way more durable than a 600 TC bedsheet made by stringing together three thin strands of thread.  So after research it has shown most good quality cotton bedding will be between 180 and 300-thread count.

So how do you know you’re buying quality bedding?

The best way is to look for organic cotton. It’s durable, soft, and breathable. Once the initial starch of the cotton wears off, these sheets will get softer and cosier with each wash. Lower-quality sheets or bedsheets with a lot of fibres strung together may come with polishes or waxes to make the feel of sheets at the store more pleasant. But those will wash off the first time you clean your sheets.

The above is of course for pure cotton bedding. But naturally all fabrics have a variety of qualities, your lifestyle and personal preference can decide what works for you.  For example, the manufacturing process for synthetic fibers yields threads that are very long and very durable. So polyester mix work well for durability and handling wear and tear.

Stunning Mughal Print bedsheets available at The Pink Elephant

Sateen weave vs Percale weave

The way the threads of a fabric are oriented to one another, known as the weave, makes a difference to the texture of the bedsheet.

A sateen weave uses a ‘one thread under, three threads over’ pattern of construction. Hence it has more vertical than horizontal yarns, making the fabric soft with an almost buttery texture and a sheen to the bedsheets. Due to the extra threads used, these feel heavier and warmer than percale weaves.

Percale bedding, uses a different thread construction to sateen bedding – in this case one thread over, and one thread under, like a charpoy. Percale is a more widely used weave, as these produce fabric with a matte finish which is cool and crisp to the touch. Fundamentally there is no difference between percale quality and sateen quality, be it the yarn or cotton – the only difference is weave, hence the two feel different.

So how do I choose my bedsheets?

Majority of Handblock print bedsheets are on Percale weave as Sateen weave makes the fabric pill and makes it difficult for the process of Handblock. Whereas, machine manufactured bedsheets of big companies use Sateen weave and hence feel soft and have a sheen. If you are a cold sleeper sateen works better and if you feel warm like me percale is more comfortable. In terms of quality, if either is made from single ply thread, they would be equally durable. Ultimately it comes to personal choice, my husband loves sateen and I love percale, so every alternate time we get our wish. When its sateen i reduce one layer of dohar and when percale he layers up!