What does the term "thread count" mean in fabrics?
The term refers to the number of threads in a given area in a woven fabric. It is commonly the number of warp and weft threads in one square inch of fabric.
I have seen sheeting described as 250 thread count (t/c) and up to 1,000. So which is really better?
Firstly it depends upon the construction of the thread. Most quality fabrics are constructed with single ply yarns and depending upon the fibre quality, yarn quality and fabric construction a t/c of between 200 to 400 is good. Some textile mills use low quality fibre to spin yarns and need to use multiple ply yarns to improve the strength and can therefore have a two, three or even four ply yarn. So where a lower quality four ply yarn is used it is often incorrectly labelled as say 250 threads x 4 ply equals 1,000 thread count. This is misleading as its really only a 250 thread count fabric.
Some products are also branded as having a higher thread count by using the per ten centimeter square measure which also gives a higher number. Some packaging that I have seen simply doesn't state its unit of measure, only that its 1,000 thread count. This is clearly misleading.
The reality is that it is physically impossible to get much more than 400 spun threads per square inch into a fabric.
As an example, one of the best Italian linen companies uses fabrics that are between 200 and 250 t/c so the higher the thread count number isn't always true nor is it better quality.
Kelly & Windsor uses several styles of fabrics on its quilts with thread counts between 230 to 395 threads per square inch. These fabrics have been designed by use to suit our quilt styles and are selectively sourced from premium quality fabric mills with whom we have a long and trusted relationship.
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