Thread count often shows up in films and TV shows as a marker of luxury, but does everyone need 1,000-count Egyptian cotton sheets? Sheets and other bedding are composed of fabric that is made from horizontal and vertical threads woven together. The threads may be cotton, silk, or synthetic fibers such as polyester or viscose. By looking at a one-inch-by-one-inch square of the material and counting the number of threads that are woven into that small area, one can determine the thread count: higher thread counts indicate finer threads and tighter weaves.

Why Choose High Thread Counts?

Many experts recommend choosing sheets that are at least 200 in thread count, as denser weaves tend to be softer and smoother, with more weight. Americans first developed this system to determine the quality of fabric, and it has since spread across the world, see . The overall texture and weight of the sheets, however, also depend on the quality of the cotton, so it is not enough to only look at numbers. Sheets woven from the aforementioned Egyptian cotton — said to be the highest-quality cotton grown in the world — are generally softer and more luxurious than cheaper materials, for instance. Egyptian cotton and pima cotton tend to come in longer threads as well, which result in fabric that is more durable and less likely to form pills. Some manufacturers, particularly those in Italy, are known to not only use Egyptian cotton, but also to boast more history and skill in weaving.

Which Type of Weave is Best?

In addition to weaving skill, potential buyers should also take into account the weaving type. Huffington Post reports that the percale weave is one of the most popular types, because it produces a crisp, cool cotton. Percales best sheets also have a matte finish. Those who prefer the feel of light, airy sheets or live in hotter climates may find percale weaves, even in lower thread counts, more comfortable than 800-thread-count sheets that seem heavy and less breathable. Those who enjoy warmer sheets should keep an eye out for the sateen weave, which produces softer, heavier fabric. The sateen weave, besides being a tighter weave, creates more of a natural sheen than the percale weave.

While high-thread-count sheets tend to be heavier and more expensive, these may not be the qualities everyone needs. For a good night’s sleep that doesn’t drain the bank, pay attention to how and where the sheets are woven, as well as the fibers used. Better yet, why not enjoy year-round comfort with percale sheets for summer and sateen sheets for winter?