When shopping for sheets and other fabrics, you will inevitably come across the term 'thread count'. The term will usually be accompanied by a number, which will mean absolutely nothing to you unless you know exactly what thread count is and what it means to the quality of the fabric.

What is Thread Count? Thread count defines the number of horizontal and vertical threads within one square inch of fabric. The higher the thread count, the softer the fabric will be. Though the thread count in sheets can range anywhere from 80 to 700, most retailers carry sheets that have a thread count falling somewhere between 100 and 340.

Determining Quality Though most experts recommend using thread count to determine what kind of sheets to buy, others say that it is important to also look at the quality of the fabric. A higher thread count does not mean that the sheets will last any longer. In fact, just the opposite may be true.

To have an extremely high thread count, fabric must be made of finer threads. Though the end result is a fabric that feels much softer and smoother, it will also be much more fragile. This is why some linen manufacturers choose to strengthen their products with two-ply fabric or strands that have been woven together.

Choosing a Fabric Cotton is the most used fiber for sheets, but not every manufacturer uses the same grade of cotton. Some use low to medium grade cotton and blend it with other materials and some use higher grades of cotton, such as combed cotton and Egyptian cotton.

Combed cotton is extra soft because the cotton has been combed and the shortest fibers removed. The end result is a high quality fabric that is both soft and durable. Egyptian cotton is similarly desirable because it boasts the longest and strongest fibers. Many believe that Egyptian cotton is the finest cotton in the world.

With all of the different cotton choices available, choosing bedding and fabric can be difficult. A good rule of thumb is this: the higher the cotton grade is, the more luxurious the feel will be.