You have certainly already heard about 300 threads count, 200, 120, 57, 118, 600 threads… Etc. Yes, but what does this actually represent?
It is said that the higher the number of thread count, the better the quality of the bed linen. Luxury brands have trained salespeople and users to the importance of a high number of thread count. It’s true that we have to agree on a way to measure quality, but who knows what the number of thread count is? So, how do you differentiate between marketing arguments and textile technology?
In this article, we will help you to “unravel”, all the codes so that you can, if you are interested, understand why and how your bed sheets are woven.
What is the number of thread count?
The majority of sheets are made from woven fabrics (some are made from knitted yarns as for a t-shirt for example like our Premium Jersey fabric collection).
Fabric bed sheets are therefore woven with warp and weft threads as for a shirt or trousers. The quality of a fabric is measured by its number of threads count per square inch (universal system shared by all countries, except France which is the only country in the world still using the cm² system).
One thus speaks about the sum of the number of weft threads added to the sum of the number of warp threads on 1 inch2 (or on 1 cm2 in France). You can read on our product descriptions 300tc, which means 300 T “Threads” C “Count”: 300 threads counted, in literal translation.
Concerning the unit of measurement, 1 inch = 2.54cm.
So for 300 threads/inch2 is = the sum of the weft threads on 1 inch (2.54cm) + the number of warp threads on 1 inch (2.54cm).
In the French system, only used in France, we calculate in equivalence for 300 threads count/inch2 = 118 threads count/cm².
Indeed, on 1 cm² = the sum of the weft threads on 1cm + the number of warp threads on 1cm = 118 threads (on 1+1cm linear). The conversion rate is 2.54, because 2 linear inches (weft+chain = horizontal+vertical on 1inch2). So 300 threads count/inch2 divided by 2.54 = 118.11 threads/cm2 (but beware that some brands tend to round up to 119 threads/cm2 or 120 threads/cm2, but mathematically 118.11 threads/cm2 rounded up = 118 threads/cm2).
The most common thread count numbers can be summarized in the small table below with the international equivalence versus France:
Kalani being a Belgian company we communicate with the international standard of 300 threads count/inch2 and give as reference the 118 threads/cm2 for our dear French customers.
It should be noted that the lower threads count correspond to low-end weaves with thick yarns and the higher threads count correspond to high-end weaves with fine yarns most often made from long-staple fibre cotton.
The industry agrees that the best ratio for the high end is 300tc. However 400tc exists but makes the fabric excessively fine and fragile. When you are looking for long lasting and high end fabrics it is therefore preferable to choose 300tc in single ply.
So we’re talking about plys now?
In addition to the number of thread count, the number of plys is also taken into account. And it is at this point in the explanation that everything becomes clearer (or confusing if the brands do it deliberately).
Each thread used in a fabric is made up of a strand of individual cotton fibres twisted together, this is called the ply. When two strands of fibres are turned together, it is a two-ply fabric. When three strands are twisted together, it is a three-ply fabric, and so on.
This number of ply multiplied is certainly not a guarantee of quality. It just allows to double or even triple the number of threads count and sometimes the prices. Some brands have made it their way of communicating on the number of threads count, thus misleading consumers who expect or believe in a high-end top quality?
These same brands therefore make 300 threads count with 2 twisted strands (then under the microscope you can see it and there are only 150 threads, but double threads (in 2 ply) twisted. Technically, this corresponds to 300 threads counted (150 double threads = 300 threads) but it does not bring the quality, softness, durability, or flexibility expected by a lamda customer looking for a “real 300tc in single ply”.
Of course, the majority of brands do not specify if they are talking about a number of single or multiple ply yarns. However, if we go into a subject of Textile engineering, it makes all the difference between honest brands and those who deceive their customers (sometimes even for lack of knowledge).
Pitfalls to be avoided on the number of ply!
If you have made a conscious purchase, if you opt for high-end bed linen with a higher price rather than, for example, bed linen bought in a large store for basic and low-end products, for example, you may go through a process of comparison.
In fact at Kalani, same as other serious brands, when we talk about 300tc (300 threads count per inch2), we are talking about 300 single threads count (1 ply as some will say).
So be careful, and don’t get trapped with the number of threads because there’s a trick that some big (and less big) brands, which we won’t name, use to make high end fakes at unbeatable prices.
And, by playing on words, they manage to confuse the consumer about the number of threads count!
Some of these brands exagerate even further by making either so-called 600tc (which is in fact either 200tc triple ply or 300tc double ply) or even 900tc, 1200tc or 1600tc (by playing on lower real yarn counts but adding plies of yarns woven together to mislead the consumer and give him one more impression for his money or falsely exceptional qualities.
Softness of the fabric, quality and number of threads count, how to get out of it?
A good way to know if you’re getting blurred on the number of threads count is to touch the sheets to feel the quality, because fabrics with a high number of threads are very soft, stay soft and become softer even over time when the cotton used has long-staple fibres.
Mechanical softness vs. chemical softness
When you offer high-end bed linen in 300 threads count, 1 ply, long fibres, it will be naturally soft and will remain so. This is mechanical softness. The linen is even supposed to become softer and softer as time goes by. That said, a first impression is still a first impression. You may also feel a softness that you might think is acceptable with low and mid-range bed sheets, but if the softness is chemical. It will only last for a few washes and your bedding will become rougher and rougher as you wash. This softness is said to be chemical because it comes from industrial washing before making the bedding, during which silicone is added to give an impression of softness.
At Kalani we do not use chemical softeners, our sheets are naturally soft because we select the best organic long fibre cottons directly with our organic cotton growing cooperative, this cotton is then spun fine by a top of the range spinning mill and finally we weave our fabrics in 300 single yarns (300tc) to get the best quality available on the market.
Kalani sheets meet Organic and Fairtrade standards, but on top of that they are wonderfully comfortable just like the good sheets of the days when there were no Fast Fashion and Fast Living brands that made bad cotton produce in deserts like today to produce in mass quantities for products that are too cheap.