When shopping for bed linen, what should you keep in mind? There’s a lot that goes into making the perfect bed sheet or comforter: the thread count, the type and quality of material, and the weaving and finishing processes. We demystify all these terms to help you make smarter choices!
Thread count refers to the number threads in 1 square inch of fabric. The mistake we all often make is to take the thread count as a measure of the quality of the linen – partly because that’s how we’ve been trained to think by the fabric industry’s massive marketing engine. While thread count is important, it is the quality of the yarn that goes into weaving the threads that determines the quality of the linen. Sometimes, manufacturers use low quality cotton and weave together a myriad of coarse yarns into fabric. This is a cheap tactic to increase the thread count, but it significantly depreciates the quality of the linen. In general, unless you’re buying from a trusted brand, be wary of bed linen touting 800TC or higher. In all likelihood, that number does not truly reflect the quality of the linen. Instead, pay more attention to the type of yarn used. More on that below.
There is a wide range of materials available from pure cotton to poly-cotton and blended ones. Cotton has always been the most popular material for bed linen as it is cool and comfortable. The real quality test for cotton is its fiber length: the longer the fiber, the finer it is, and the smoother, softer, and more durable the linen is. There are multiple types of cotton available in the market. The three most famous ones are Egyptian cotton, pima cotton (also known by the trademark name Supima) and microcotton. If you’re looking for the highest quality linen (and price is not an issue), you can’t go wrong with either of these. More recently, an “organic” cotton variety has also emerged promising bed linen made from pesticide-free cotton. However, this can often turn out to be a marketing gimmick because even though the cotton might have been grown organically, it does not necessarily mean that it was processed without chemicals. Always check the packaging for chemical-free certifications before buying.
The fineness of a yarn is measured by the yarn count. Yarn count is measured in units such as 40s, 60s, 80s and 100s. We won’t get into the technical nitty-gritty, but just remember that higher is better; finer yarns have higher yarn counts and can be spun only by long stapled cotton.
There are two famous styles of weaving in the linen industry: percale and sateen. Percale, is a plain weave, which gives a crisp and matte finish. This weave is lighter in weight and has higher longevity as compared to a sateen weave. Sateen weave places more threads on the surface of the cloth, which gives it a characteristic lustrous shine and silkiness.
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