Thread count measure how many threads lengthwise and widthwise are woven, on one square inch of fabric. As well, thread count is the number of threads going each way, in one square inch of fabric. Thread Count ranges 80 to 1,200. Improvements in spinning and milling technologies have increased the number of thread counts, per square inch. High thread count accounts for more densely woven fabric that lasts longer, and feels softer. However, linen, flannel, and jersey have a low thread count
Finer threads, such as Egyptian or Pima, and USA made cotton are equally comparable, and more of each one, can be woven into a square inch, producing a finer fabric, which feels softer and smooth. This means 350 threads sheet count, actually feels more comfortable than 600 threads count, depending on the quality of the cotton. Some manufactures will twist two thinner threads together, creating a double-ply thread, and advertise twice the actual number of threads. A high thread count sheets will increase the softness and luster, after a number of washings. A thread count over 180 is called percale. Good quality sheets have 200 or more thread count. A thread count above 400 is expensive to purchase. Most linen or retail stores sell sheets with thread counts ranging from 180 – 500. Also, the size of the yarn does affect the thread count. The higher yarn size, the better quality manufactured. When a lower quality thread is tailored, sheets feel stiffer. Good quality bed sheets having a soft and luxurious feel, have thread count 180 – 420, using one ply thread, with yarn size 40 – 100 pound/yard. However, rarely yarn size is printed on the package and the consumer has no idea of identifying the quality. Pacific Coast products print on their label package, actual thread count. Their fabrics have been independently tested, determined 102 percent above their printed thread count, and the highest in the industry. Ironing sheets containing high thread counts, improves the smoothness. Sheets that have cotton and polyester blends, don’t necessarily need ironing, but don’t breathe well and may feel uncomfortable. Reported in 1999 Trade publication Home Furnishings News, Americans spend more than $2 billion in a year on sheets. Contributing to forty-Four percent 180 thread counts, and thirty-eight percent for 200 – 500 thread count.
According to Consumer Report article “Don’t get short-sheeted by inflated thread count,” July 31, 2005, by the Editors of Consumer Reports: Recommends Target’s Premier 300 Egyptian cotton sateen is good value and contains 300 thread count, available in off-white shades and light green. Also, Sealy Best Fit having 300 thread count, and available oversized, which compensates for shrinkage, and available in seven colors. Packaged sheets should have elastic wrapping around the edges. Remember to keep receipts, which is required, when returning those sheets that fade after laundering or have other quality manufacture defects.
An international standard group, applies a Standard Test Method for Wrap End Count and Filing Count of Woven Fabric (ASTM), determines thread counts. The ASTM method instructs: “Count individual wrap yarns (ends), and filling yarns (picks) as single units regardless of whether they are comprised of single or piled components.” According to Mr. Wright, a consultant with Dan River Incorporated (textile maker), in Danville Virginia, referring to the ASTM method stated, “That’s been the method for determining thread count as long as I’ve been in the business, for 50 years now.” This concerns the Federal Trade Commission, that manufactures are counting individual yarn piles that make up each thread. Thus, when a consumer reads a label of sheet containing 600 threads counted, may actually have 300, made with two-ply yarn. In August 2005, The Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer’s Protection advised that companies should label products with additional information on the yarn’s ply. According to Professor Peter Schwartz, head of Polymer And Fiber Engineering Department at Auburn University in Alabama, no method to check the precise thread count, unless you have a microscope and are “sufficiently patient.” The Federal Trade Commission would prefer companies to list yarn-ply information, along with thread counts. In November 2002, Kathleen Huddy, Goodhousekeeping textile director, provided information upon testing thirteen brands of sheets, sold at national linen chains, including Synergy, Divatex Home Fashions, and Rainbow Linens – results had not shown anywhere near the 400, 600, or 800 thread count advertised. One of these tests, found that one sheet labeled having 1,500 thread counts, actually had only 300 threads per square inch. Kathleen Huddy suggest “The tip-off is a really high thread count is really, really expensive.” “You don’t get a 1,500 thread count sheet for $149.99 a set.”