Thread count–Does it matter?

Thread count has been considered a golden value in the bed linen industry for being a supposed potent indicator of sheet quality. The rationale of this common thread (pun intended) is: ‘the more yarns per square centimeters (or inch) of fabric, the softer the sheets’. Clearly, this conception misconstrues how a consumer is to assess sheet quality. Here are the two main reasons why:

1- Thread count can be calculated…creatively.

As thread count became a popular way of measuring sheet quality in the mid 1990s, quickly by the early 2000s certain bed linen lines were boasting as many as 1200 threads/inch, a number unheard before. However, any sensible observer could notice that this elevated number didn’t actually feel different. Indeed a 1200 thread/inch set may well be the same as a 400 threads/inch. This is because the practice of yarn count gradually became ‘customizable’ due to the nature of yarn construction.

A yarn can be single ply or multi-ply: a multi-ply yarn is created by twisting two or more yarns together. Traditionally, a multi-ply yarn used to be calculated as a single yarn but the thread count buzz caused brands and suppliers to start calculating plied composing yarns individually instead. In the US, where high thread count sheets became especially popular, the Federal Trade Commission recognized that this practice inflated thread count numbers to doubling or tripling levels, creating confusion in the market place, however the institution didn’t directly condone the measuring practice.

Julian Tomchin, former senior vice president and fashion director for home at Bloomingdale’s New York, told The New York Times “An 800-thread-count sheet made of two-ply yarn should legitimately be relabeled as 400,” he said. “That’s how you get 1,000 threads per square inch: creative counting.”

2- High number of threads can be inserted at the cost of the fabric

For Mr. Tomchin, “once you get beyond 400 threads per square inch, be suspicious.” The most threads that normally fit, he said, is 400, after which the threads are thinner and weaker.

Heavy threads tend to be unfavorable to quality as thread numbers can be inflated by manipulating the sheet-making process with low-quality construction or thread. Also big thread counts can result in heavy sheets that don’t breathe and feel stiff. The Huffington Post advises as a general rule of thumb to buy between 200-thread and 800-thread/inch count sheet, while Consumer Reports clearly states that their latest tests “again confirmed that higher thread count doesn’t guarantee better sheets,” with their top scoring sheets having a thread count of only 280.

Maison Sunberg sheets are 300 threads per inch. But again, numbers don’t necessarily matter.

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