Bed Linen Explained: Thread Count, Fibres & Weave

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There’s nothing quite as delicious as sliding between freshly laundered sheets at the end of one of those days. The bedroom is the ultimate sanctuary. It’s the place where you wind down, the place where you can be most yourself.

Whether your décor is serene and cosy or sporty and brash, this space cradles you at your most vulnerable. It fosters your dreams.

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From left – Crosses Quilt Cover and Maison Quilt Cover by Aura by Tracie Ellis available online at Zanui

Sleep is undeniably divine. And that moment when you peel back the quilt in the morning to greet the day never comes easily,* especially the colder it gets. Sleep makes us more alert, energetic and happier as a whole. I’m a much nicer person when I’m rested. 😉

*Unless you’re one of those sprightly morning peeps or some wise sage who puts in the hours before midnight.

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From left – Skyla Quilt Cover Set from Bambury and Blyton Quilt Cover Set from Designer’s Choice available online at Zanui

If you’re a good little bean and get your full eight hours each night, you’ll spend a third of your life wrapped in bed sheets. Food for thought when you’re trying to define which sheet set is right for you.

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From left – Candystripe Red Printed Fitted Sheet, Pizza Printed Fitted Sheet and Croc Printed Fitted Sheet – all from Kip & Co available online at Zanui

You want that lovely luxe feel that’s going to last. But with all the talk of combed cotton, Egyptian, pima, percale, and sateen it’s something of a task. Here we’ve unraveled the linen terms for you here so you can relax and indulge in some good quality zzz’s.

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From left – Penderlea Quilt Cover Set and Balmoral King Quilt Cover and Pillowcase Set from Linen House available online at Zanui

Thread count

Thread count is the number of threads woven together in a square inch. It is the addition of the number of lengthwise (warp) and widthwise (weft) threads. So 100 warp by 100 weft makes a thread count of 200.

A thread count of 150 (75 threads one way, 75 the other) produces muslin, still a little coarse but fine and breathable for swaddling new additions to the family. 180 thread count is considered good quality, and anything over 200 is high quality.

However it’s not just a case of the finer threads you weave, the softer and finer the fabric. The quality of the fibres (or staples) needs to be taken into account.

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From left – Amala Quilt Cover Set from Designer’s Choice and Maison Quilt Cover from Aura by Tracie Ellis


Most sheets are made of cotton. But not all cotton is created equal. Some cotton has longer fibres or staples, creating a stronger thread. This translates into a more durable fabric.

The type of fibres also affects a sheet’s softness. Standard cottons (like American Upland) are not as soft as say pima cotton which has fine, long staples, and pima cotton, in turn, is not as soft as Egyptian cotton again, thought to be the finest and longest-staple cotton with its soft, supple weave.

Linen and silk are more luxurious and carry a higher price point. Linen is highly durable and known for being cooler than cotton while silk sheets will keep you toasty in winter.

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From left – Rhombus Quilt Cover Set and Aurora Quilt Cover Set from Bambury available online at Zanui

Fabric weave

The weave of your bed linen also affects its feel.

Oxford is a weave that was first produced in nineteenth-century Scotland. It has twice as many warp threads (running lengthwise) as weft threads (running widthwise). It’s soft and heavy.

Percale is a plain-weave fabric dating back to Persian handicrafts. Its warp and weft threads are tightly woven, crossing each other one at a time. It has a medium weight with a fine finish and texture.

Sateen is a satin weave made with cotton or rayon instead of silk. Its warp threads are floated over several weft threads to deliver a smooth surface with an attractive sheen.


What’s your personal preference? Do you think Egyptian cotton is worth the expense or is pure Australian percale cotton just as good?

Kay is a feature, blog and copywriter. She collects empty jam jars, academic degrees and tawdry dreams in the hopes of turning them into something useful someday. Her work has been published in ACP magazines, ABC fiction, Overland, Brittle Star, Seizure, trade publications and online forums. Her creative writing has won several awards.