Thread Count Be Damned

Let’s say you’re trying to get in the best shape of your life for that upcoming beach vacation. You take a quick look at what the internet says is the tried and true method. Soon enough your browser is filled with muscle head men and women dead lifting what seems to be a small oil tanker. But if you were to consult a health professional, they would tell you that the amount you squat in the gym is not the most important part of a healthy lifestyle – not even close!
Now, let’s say this new “healthy you” mentality extended to some new interior decorating, and you want to start with your bedding, and specifically with your sheets. When you’re shopping for this next set of sheets, it’s also a waste of time and energy to focus on another set of numbers - thread count. Don’t let the thread count enthusiasts (or gym rat enthusiasts for that matter!) intimidate you into thinking that’s all that matters.
So instead of thread count, what’s the number one thing you should be looking for in your prospective sheets? Yarn size. Yarn size is how thick each yarn is and is as true measure of quality, with the thicker, the better. It’s like your day to day diet, i.e. the most essential part of healthy living.
In technical terms, yarn size is measured in how many yards of yarn can be stuffed into one pound. For example, a 60s yarn size has 50,400 yards of yarn (!) in one pound (840 yards in 1 lb). Yarn is divided into four major sizes – 20s, 40s, 60s, and 80s – with the higher the size, the thicker the yarn resulting in a higher quality. All Alex&Ivy’s sheets are 60s, which is generally what fine men’s shirts is made of. Aim for yarn that is 60s and higher for the highest quality sheets.
In laymen’s terms, yarn size is a direct indicator of cotton quality! Now, many companies can make their sheets double or even triple ply, and this will become obvious in a smaller yarn size. Take note here, that plying  implies a twisting together of threads, different from the paper style plying of laying one piece on top of the other. When “plying” yarn, individual yarn is twisted together once, twice, etc to make a single thread. For example, a double-ply sheet with yarn size 60s is reported as 30s because it retains the softness of the original 60s yarn, but only has the thickness of a 30s yarn. Double ply yarns can oftentimes be masking lower quality yarn. However, it can also be the case that a quality 120s or higher yarn can be double plied, in which case, you have yourself a truly magnificent sheet. A high quality yarn made from Egyptian or Pima cotton can stand alone as single ply. So look for single-ply sheets! But if you can find a double ply for 120s or more, go for it!
The second thing to look for is the weave style you want – percale or sateen. The weave style is like your work out style of choice – running or biking? There’s no wrong choice here and the same applies to weave styles!
Percale weave sheets are crisp and smooth. Perfect for those warmer summer in the countryside. Want something a little more glamorous? The sateen weave is incredibly soft and silky, and will give you luxury Parisian hotel feels. Which way you go here is simply a reflection of what effect you want when you get into bed every night.
Thirdly, and finally, we come to thread count. Like the amount of gains at the gym each week, thread count should be the last on your things to consider when looking at sheet details. And here’s the trick – it all goes back to yarn size. By definition, thread count is the number of threads packed in to 1 square inch of fabric. As thread count goes up, the yarn itself is oftentimes thinner and more frail in order to cram more fabric into 1 square inch of fabric. This can lead to sheets that pill after even a few uses!
The higher quality and yarn size, the lower the thread count needs to be because the yarn can truly shine by itself! The higher the thread count, the lower the yarn quality (as depicted below).
This sliding scale maxes out the best thread count to be around 400. Anything higher and you start to get these 1800 count Godzilla sheets that will end up feeling just as scaly as the monster itself. Although it’s true you can get an 800 thread count sheet of extremely high quality yarn, it will most likely be very expensive (several hundreds of dollars).
To sum it all up, yarn size is the meat and potatoes of the sheet world. Without it there’s no point in evaluating how high your thread count is, just like the pounds gained at the gym have no substance if it’s not backed by a healthy diet. Secondly, choose your weave style according to your aesthetic! When it comes to living a healthy lifestyle, it’s important to build a solid foundation, and when it comes to sheets, that foundation is not built in the thread count gym. Thread count be damned.

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