Do not be misled; thread count is not an indicator of fabric quality. In most cases, it simply leads to confusion regarding the quality of bed linens. Many shoppers look to thread count when purchasing beddings, however, it is only a small part of the information required to judge fabric composition and feel to be considered. What thread count will not reveal is the quality of the fibers used to make the yarns involved, how they are woven and how they are finished. Of course how they feel and how they will wear are the most important considerations.
The finer the natural fibers are, the better the fabric. Egyptian cotton is renowned and respected as it yields one of the longest staple cottons in the textile industry. The staple is the fine individual fiber making up the yarn. The longer the fibers, the better they can be spun into a smoother, stronger, fine thread.
“Ply” is the number of yarns twisted together to form one single thread. This process creates thicker threads which affect the fabrics hardness. Finer threads allow a higher thread count and a softer fabric, whereas thicker two ply threads result in heavier and longer stiffer fabrics. ‘Stayput’ beddings are made with single-ply yarns only that make for a softer luxurious feel.
Weaving is a textile art in which two threads are interlaced with one another. There are two basic weaves, each producing a different feel, with pros and cons judged by one’s own individual tastes. Percale is a plain weave resulting in a lightweight fabric with a smooth soft feel. Sateen is produced allowing for more yarn or thread surface on the face of a fabric than other basic weaves.
After the fabric is woven, it goes thru a process of finishing. This is the important step that will determine the finished strength, color and texture, as well as the softness or hardness of the finished fabric. A sateen finish produces a very soft, smooth and luxurious feel resembling satin.
Single ply fabrics are woven with single untwisted yarns which produces a lightweight smoother fabric. Double ply sheets are woven using a yarn made of two threads twisted together making a single yarn, which produces a heavier denser fabric.