Finding the Best Bed Sheets For Your Needs...
What is the thread count of a sheet set?
Thread count is the single most important point consumers should understand about sheets and the manufacturing process. On the front label, manufacturers will tell you the tread count of the sheets. This refers to the number of threads per square inch in both directions of the weave. The higher the thread count, the more luxurious the feel of a fabric. Usually, the higher the thread counts the smoother the surface of the fabric. Because they utilize finer yarns using more material, higher thread count sheets tend to be more expensive. However, higher thread counts extend the life of the fabric, so you may end up saving money in the long run by replacing your sheets less often. For good wear and to get the softest feel, it is suggested you choose a thread count above 250 but no lower than 175.
Does a higher thread count mean the fabric is better and/or softer?
The thread count of the fabric determines its density, and that generally gives you a good gauge of its softness, although there are other factors that impact the softness of the fabric even more than its thread count. One such factor is "content." The content of percale can vary widely. Even a high thread count 60/40 percale blend won't be as soft or luxuriant as lower thread count 100% cotton. Also, a dark colored cotton percale will feel stiffer than a lighter colored percale with the same thread count (due to dye saturation). Even within cotton itself, there are many differences in grade. Just as grapes grown in certain regions are favored by wine connoisseurs over grapes grown in others, the quality of cotton can be estimated by its origin.
Our own domestic cotton is an excellent breed called "pima" cotton. This is long-staple cotton, and is relatively inexpensive, considering its high quality. The fertile Nile Valley, which also produces the same breed of Pima Cotton as the United States, calls their more luxuriant textile "Egyptian Cotton." With its longer, silkier, and thicker fibers, this cotton is woven into the absolute best percales. Unfortunately, since it must be imported from Egypt, and usually through Eastern European distributorships and plantation owners, it carries with it a heavy price tag. At the other end of the spectrum, some imported percales are very inexpensive, and for good reasons.
A combination of low thread count and high ratios of polyester to cotton causes these percales to rip easily, feel rough to the touch, and worst of all, pill. Pilling is that sand-paper feel that sheets can get after washing. If you find your sheets doing this, and are bothered by it, consider upgrading to a higher thread count, and better content. Though this may mean more expense, you really do get what you pay for. Often, you will see percale fabrics with a "sateen finish," which gives one side of the fabric a different satin-like texture and luster. This is achieved through a special elaborate process at the mill, where the fabric is woven. First, the fabric is woven in such a way that the threads are twisted on the front side of the fabric. Then, the fabric is "calendared" or passed under a steam-roller-like apparatus that applies 2000 lbs of pressure per square inch.
What is combed cotton?
Combing is an extra step during the manufacturing process that reduces the amount of short, uneven fiber in the cotton, leaving the longer and stronger fibers for weaving.
What's so special about Egyptian cotton? Why is it so expensive and is it worth it?
Fibers that comprise the yarn for your bed linens would be longer, and stronger, when choosing Egyptian cotton (and U.S. Pima cotton, for that matter) over regular cotton. Egyptian cotton fibers tend to be about 1 3/8" long, whereas regular cotton fibers tend to be around one inch. Oh...I almost forgot... the Pima fibers are still more than an inch long; generally a very close second to its Egyptian cousin.
So why is this so important? A longer, stronger fiber will keep its strength and is easier to work with. The result is a softer, stronger fabric for your bedding. The reason it tends to be more expensive is that there is not as much of it grown, or available, as regular cottons. This bedding lasts longer, is softer and is more in demand.
You will find some excellent deals for Egyptian cotton bed linens online, where intense competition for your business makes you the winner!
The fact is that even just regular cotton sheets, pillowcases and duvet covers will work perfectly fine for a while. Just be sure to wash warm and do not dry them on high, and you will get more use out of them. When you are ready to pamper yourself...I mean spoil yourself rotten, then you will need to try that Egyptian or Pima cotton!
I've heard that Pima cotton is exactly the same thing as Egyptian cotton. Is this true?
No, this is not true. Egyptian cotton is a species of cotton that has strong, long fibers, making it a very luxurious fiber for weaving into Egyptian cotton sheets. While pima cotton is also long fiber cotton and creates some very luxurious bedding, pima cotton is not exactly the same. Pima cotton is a grade of cotton regardless of where it is grown, while Egyptian cotton is a specific strain of cotton, grown primarily in Egypt.
What is it about Egyptian Cotton that makes it so unique?
Egyptian cotton, grown in the Nile Valley, is a long staple fiber famous for its lush feel and soft drape. It is often blended with lower grade cottons, so look for 100% Egyptian to get the ultimate quality*.
*All of our products are guaranteed 100% Egyptian Cotton.
Why do some people like polyester sheets and others cotton?
There are advantages to each type of fabric. Polyester tends to provide a wrinkle-free sheet and is soft hand, whereas cotton provides a crisp, cool feeling.
Polyester/cotton blends are often chosen because they can include the best of both worlds. Polyester, however, can pill over time and after many launderings. Cotton does not have this problem and will remain crisp for years. Cotton tends to gain softer hands over many launderings and is well loved for this factor.