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What does "thread count" mean?

What is thread count? Does it matter? What is the best thread count for sheets? Shop for linens like an expert with our guide to thread counts.

Have you ever found yourself wondering what the best sheets thread count is? Have you ever asked yourself, what does thread count mean? We’ve interviewed a few experts to expand on this topic and provide additional perspective. Dr. Ning Pan, a Textiles and Clothing professor at the University of California at Davis, describes thread count as “a convenient way to describe yarn thickness.” By adding each warp (the vertical threads) with each weft (the horizontal threads) per square inch, one can reveal the thread count.

Dr. Pan informed us that there are many ways to get around increasing thread count without really increasing the fineness or hand of the linen. We know, and Dr. Pan confirms, that the most thread that can realistically be woven into one square inch is 400. Customers should be wary of products boasting a higher number for this reason: Other manufactures can place multiple threads into the fabric that are not actually woven in. This process increases the thread count but does not increase the overall hand feel or fineness. In order for a manufacturer to add more threads per square inch, the threads themselves need to be thinner, which decreases the quality and longevity of your linen.

Lines Embroidered Sheet Sets
Valencia White Pintuck Duvet Cover
Linden Grey Duvet Cover
Noe Blue Duvet Cover

Julian Tomchin, who has worked in various positions from senior vice president and fashion director for home at Bloomingdale’s to senior vice president of creative services for home product development at Macy’s, also gives us insight into what we would like to call, the 1,000 thread count myth. According to his 2009 NY Times interview, some linens manufacturers use two or three-ply yarns and use simple multiplication to arrive at their thread count number. Next time you are on the hunt for 800 thread count sheets, remember this post and remember that anything above 400 is usually the result of “creative counting”, as Tomchin puts it.

As consumers, we know that you want a soft feel and something that won’t disintegrate, tear or fray quickly. Thanks to Dr. Pan and Julian Tomchin, we know that higher sheets thread count doesn’t necessarily correspond with a higher quality or softer feeling linen. We hope their expertise helps make answering the question "What does thread count mean?" a little simpler, and that it makes your future purchasing decisions easy.

If you ARE in the market for high-quality, yet affordable linens, you should check out our 400 thread count sheets collection!

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