Understanding Thread Count for Linens

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Understanding Thread Count for Linens
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Don't judge a sheet by the thread count number!

You first need to understand what creates the softest hand, the finest drape, the most lustrous finish, and the world's most luxurious  linens , you must consider more than just  thread count , which is a measure of the number of yarns woven into one square inch of fabric. Thread count is important, but it is only one part of the story. The quality of a sheet is determined by three other key components as well, but it all starts with the quality of the fiber itself, and the yarn made from it.

The Quality of the Yarn

The world's finest cotton is grown on the banks of the Nile River in Egypt. There, as the river recedes, it leaves a particularly fertile swath that nourishes the very best cotton. Egyptian cotton is renowned because it yields the longest-staple cotton in the world (the staple being the individual cotton fiber or "hair"). While others may claim their sheets are  Egyptian Cotton , the  luxury linen companies are directly involved in the creation of their sheets every step of the way, allowing them to hand-select only the very best cotton from the Nile River valley. Once they ensure the superiority of the cotton, they have the raw fiber cleaned and spun into smooth, silken yarns by their master craftsmen in Italy.

The quality of the yarn is largely a function of the length of the staple, or cotton fiber. This is because long-staple cotton can be spun into a smoother, stronger, much finer yarn, so that it is possible to weave more threads per inch into the fabric, resulting in a higher thread count.

Certainly, many inferior, short-staple cotton yarns can be jammed into a square inch to create a high thread count, but the resulting fabric can feel heavy and coarse, never comparable to the luxury linens like  Sferra or  Frette .

The Construction

In Italy they are known for enlisting  the world's finest spinners, weavers, sewers, embroiderers and artisans to craft their extraordinary linens.

Thanks to generations of experience and expertise, in Italy they understand yarns the way a vintner understands grapes: what type and fineness of yarn to choose for each weave, and how to fine-tune each technical factor, from the number of picks sent through the shuttle to the diameter of the yarn, to create the desired hand: chamois-soft or crisp percale, silken sateen, lustrous jacquard. They build relationships with the best mills who blend centuries-old history and knowledge of their craft with cutting-edge textile technologies, looms and facilities. How they create the world's finest cotton percales, sateens and jacquards are trade secrets, and we are the beneficiaries.

Many Italian linen companies use a variety of yarn sizes (and thus, yarn fineness) to produce the different desired attributes and qualities of our sheeting: For example, Sferra Bros. Celeste 406 percale has a chamois-soft hand, while the 800 count Sereno makes for a very crisp and cool percale. They also have been able to spin a yarn so fine that they created the world's first 1020 thread count sateen sheet, Milos.

The Finishing

After the world's finest cotton has been selected, spun and woven into cloth of the very best quality, the process doesn't stop there. The attention to detail continues into the fabric finishing and sewing  can also dramatically affect the feel and the quality of the final product.

Most all of Italian Luxury cotton sheets are mercerized - a process that helps plump the fibers, giving the fabric greater luster and strength - some linen companies don't Sanforize their sheets (a process designed to help reduce shrinkage), preferring instead to cut their fabrics generously to allow for shrinkage.

The state-of-the-art finishing brings out the subtle sheen of a sateen, the softest nap of cotton, the richest, longest-lasting colors and enhances both the feel of the fabric and the quality of the weave. The fabric does not leave the mills unless it is as unblemished, smooth and sleek as possible, and unless it has achieved  exacting standards and impeccable quality.

They offer several collections where the embroidery is done entirely by hand, whether it be subtle hemstitching, scalloping, or intricate embroidery. This allows for an attention to detail and a special grace that machine-sewn items will never emulate.

The end result of all this care and attention, every step of the way, is a difference you can feel, in sheets that are woven with the luxury of fine heirlooms. But don't take our word for it: feel a Sferra or Frette sheet for yourself.. Trust your hand, because nothing feels better than getting into bed at night nestled in the world's most luxurious linens.

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