Thread Count & Quality
Posted: 31 October 2012 at 11:10 p.m.
This article does not pertain specifically to sewing thread, but we think you will enjoy learning about thread count and how it affects quality.
Thread count is a numerical value used to measure how many strands of thread are woven into a fabric. A higher number usually indicates a denser weave and therefore a higher quality, but there are exceptions and deceptions. The thread count does not distinguish between the thickness of the individual thread strands or the quality of those fibers.
Thread count is measured by counting the number of threads contained in one square inch of fabric, including both the length (warp) and width (weft) threads. The thread count is the number of threads counted along two sides (one horizontal and one vertical) of one square inch, added together. It is most commonly used in regard to cotton linens such as bed sheets.Thread count is often advertised as a measure of fabric quality. Common thread counts in sheets are around 150. Higher quality sheets are in the 200 range and may be labeled as percale. Percale pertains to the weave, not the fabric type, and may be used in describing cotton, polyester, or a combination of fibers. Percale is a closely woven fabric with a thread count of 200 or higher.
I recently saw a set of reasonably priced bed sheets prominently labeled “Egyptian 600.” The sheets were not cotton and were definitely not what I would expect a 600 thread count sheet to be. After examining the label more carefully, I realized the label did not claim the sheets were Egyptian cotton and did not use the term “thread count” in relation to the number 600. The brand name was merely Egyptian 600, misleading me to think they were something other than what they really were.
A quick search on the Internet shows bed sheets with thread counts of 300, 600, and even 1,500. An extremely high thread count may be misleading due to creative and deceptive ways of counting the individual strands or plies in a twisted thread. Cotton threads are made by twisting multiple strands together. For example, our King Thread is a #40 (medium size) 3-ply thread. Finer cotton threads are #50, #60, and even #100. When woven into a sheet, one thread should be counted as one thread count. However, to inflate the thread count numbers, some companies will count the individual plies and therefore count three or more rather than one. Some may use a larger area than one square inch. Such counting methods are rejected by the National Textile Association (NTA) but we know that crafty marketers ignore the rules and guidelines. Some sheets may be woven with single-ply threads (rather than multi-ply twisted threads) which results in a higher count, but not necessarily higher quality.
So what do we learn from this? Labels are often designed to mislead us. Whether it is thread, sheets, or other products, don’t be too quick to believe what a label or advertising says. Buyer beware.