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How Is Thread Count Determined

When most people see a higher thread count figure on a set of sheets, they think “luxury”. The more the better, right?


Thread count is but one indicator of the quality of your bedding, and also not the most reliable one. Because of the way thread count is determined, it can make low quality sheets look luxury and vice versa. Read on to find out why you should put less trust into the thread count figure and what to pay attention to instead.

What is thread count?

Thread count refers to the number of threads woven together per 10cm2 of fabric (3.16cm x 3.16cm). (In Europe and the US the area measured instead is one square inch (2.5m X 2.5 cm). To get the thread count number, both lengthwise threads (warp) and widthwise threads (weft) are counted. So, for example if 10cm2 of fabric is made from 150 lengthwise threads woven with 150 widthwise threads, its thread count is 300.

The number of threads you can fit into this area depends on the kind of fabric as well as the quality of those threads. For example, good quality linen sheets can have a thread count between 80-150 – much lower than cotton – because the individual threads are a lot thicker. With thinner threads such as silk and satin you can have thread count as high as 1000.

More is not always better

When it comes to cotton sheets, the thread count is often abused by manufacturers to make the sheets look like they’re better quality than they really are.

“Now you see 1,000 thread count sheets but you just can’t get that many threads on a loom,” shares Pat Slaven, a textile expert at Consumer Reports.

How can manufacturers achieve this high number? By compromising the quality of those threads. Many manufacturers count thinner strands of fabric twisted together or threads of yarn that has been split and counted as if they were two threads and not one. So a 4-ply yarn will make a sheet that can be marketed as “1000 thread count” when in reality it’s only 250 thread count.

As you may have guessed, this approach bumps up the thread count figure without making the fabric any stronger or better quality. According to tests done by Consumer Reports their top performing percale (plain woven) cotton sheet had a thread count of only 280.

How to determine the quality of your sheets?

If you’re disheartened by this confusion around thread count – don’t be. True, you have no way of knowing whether a thread count figure is inflated or real. But luckily, there are other indicators of sheet quality.

First, if you see terms such as 2-ply, 4-ply and so on – be suspicious. These terms should make you doubt the validity of the number listed as a thread count.

Second, the length of the yarn is important. Long or extra-long staple fibers make the sheet softer, stronger and more durable.

Third, the type of weave matters too. Twill weave is one of the three basic types of weave (along with sateen and percale). While it ultimately comes down to personal choice, twill produces a heavier, more durable fabric that also feels lush and soft against your skin.

Finally, the type of fabric is important. While sustainably sourced cotton and linen can produce amazing bedding, we make Koala Sheets using Tencel (yarn made from the pulp of eucalyptus trees) that is known to be more absorbent than cotton and cooler than linen. Plus it is the most sustainable fabric without using any harmful chemicals to create, and feels so good it’ll make you want to sleep naked

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