What Is Thread Count – And Does It Really Matter?

Hint: There are better ways to gauge the quality of your sheets



Buying sheets is an excellent example of the tyranny of choice. Should you buy cotton, linen or sateen? Patterned or striped? Does your cotton need to be Egyptian, or will a long-staple cotton suffice? Given all these options, it’s hardly surprising that so many of us turn to thread count as an indicator of quality. 

The problem is that thread count isn’t always the best way to assess your bedlinen. In fact, since the advent of more sophisticated weaving practices (and wily manufacturers), it has become more of a marketing tool than a useful measure in many cases. Here’s what might help.

What exactly is thread count?

“Thread count is the number of threads used to weave fabric,” says Polite Society founder Scott Cooke. “It consists of threads woven in the warp in one direction (basically, lengthwise) and weft (horizontally) in the other. In Australia, it’s calculated by adding the number of threads in the warp and the weft of a 10 square-centimetre piece of cloth.”

Unfortunately, some manufacturers use shorter threads, or twist threads together, in order to increase the thread count. So, the thread count is higher for marketing purposes, but the sheet itself can feel thick or rigid.  

“The best quality cloth is woven with a single yarn thread, rather than more threads twisted together,” says Scott. “For example, Egyptian cotton produces extra-long fibres, creating smoother and stronger yarns when it’s spun. So, the quality of the cloth will be higher and lighter even if the thread count is lower.” 

What’s the best way to judge fabric?

If you can, it’s worth testing the feel of a particular fabric in store, considering its weight and softness. “For summer, the best fabrics are 100 per cent cotton or linen, or a blend of linen and cotton,” says Scott. Cotton absorbs and disperses moisture from your skin, meaning you’re more likely to wake up cool and refreshed on even the warmest nights. “Everyone has their personal fabric preference; I love 100 per cent cotton sateen, because it’s smooth and super-cool to the touch.” If in doubt, do drop into one of our stores where you can see and feel the options and we’ll happily explain the advantages of each.

“Thread Count has become more of a marketing tool than a useful measure in many cases.”