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Thread Count in Quilting Fabric

Thread Count in Quilting Fabric

Old 07-29-2009, 02:23 AM
  #11  
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Butterflywing, thank you for the great explanation of cottons and thread count. How did you come to learn all that? I always wondered why Egyptian cotton was considered better. I just assumed it sounded exotic, a marketing thing.

I've bought Egyptian cotton sheets and always been disappointed. Frankly, for me, weave makes more of a difference than thread count. I miss the old percale weaves. 200 - 260 thread count was just fine with them, and American cotton. I bought printed sheets from the early '70s, back when I was a kid, actually (always liked pretty linens). Haven't been able to get printed sheets for the last 10 years, and I haven't found the newer ones to be anywhere near as nice, comfortable or durable. Any idea why my experience seems to go counter to the "improvement" in material?

Interesting that Indian cotton is considered the coarsest. I've always liked Indian cotton blouses and shirts. Weave, again. I didn't know it had to do with fiber length.

As for quilting, I'm working with solid colors right now. Got some standard cotton at Joann's and when one of the colors turned out to be a synthetic blend, I went in search of that color in 100% cotton. Finally got some in the fabled Kona cotton, but I don't like the Kona at all. It's much coarser and denser than the Joann's cotton. Granted, the Joann's stuff is only decent, not top quality, but the Kona stuff is more like sailcloth, IMO.

Maybe I'm just contrary or backward or something.
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Old 07-29-2009, 10:10 AM
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after a whole explanation, i lost the whole thing in a storm. will get back on this.
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Old 07-29-2009, 11:28 AM
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okay, i will start again. i think the storm is over.

egyption cotton, since it has longer staples, has fewer pokey ends. that accounts for the smoothness. it might be woven in the one under, one over weave or the two/two or the twill weave that you see on work clothes. it always feels silky. it comes in between 300 up to anywhere depending on how thin a strand they started with. remember the spaghetti? the old percale sheets were 120 tc. that's what most of us grew up with. i don't know how old you are, but 200 - 250 has been widely available for not more than 15 years.

about 15 or so years ago the thread count started going up. that was a marketing thing, convincing people that they needed smoother sheets. they do feel better, but let's face it, we don't need them. just like you don't need filet mignon when sirloin is very nice too. that was started by designers. okay then.

the old printed sheets were printed with dyes and such that are not necessarily considered healthy today,or they create pollution. the machinery is also heavier and more difficult to build and maintain, and you need more staff to run the work. getting the picture? today's dyes are cheaper, although not as nice, easier to use and less than or non-polluting. the machinery is computerized and automated. less working staff. altogether cheaper to produce.

much of what you see today is not really printed at all. it's stamped on. if you feel a white-on-white sheet, you can feel a rubbery substance that creates the pattern. it makes it feel very stiff and it will not get softer.
it's non-absorbent and non-cooling. in other words, not very comfortable, but very popular. they are usually 200-250 tc.

weaves: if weaves are important to you, then you should understand that sheets do come in several weaves. the most common is the one over/one under, just like most cotton. there is also two/two, and the twill weave, just like work clothes. if the staples are long and therefore smoother, you might prefer one weave over another. but it always, always depends first on the length of the staple. if the cotton has short strands and a lot of 'pokeys' the weave won't feel as smooth.

i also like indian cotton but only for garments. it has short staples because of the growing conditions, and makes a loose, pokey weave. it's great for summer clothes because you can take advantage of it's poorer quality to create clothes that are cooler, and more absorbent. when you perspire, the sweat (pardon me) can evaporate. it's also used for ethnic clothes. but, for those that can afford it, bedding is bought from america. in europe, american bedding is very desirable. don't ask me why. maybe egyptian cotton cottons are too expensive. i know that visitors from england, ireland and the scandinavian countries all send it home. as well as the sultan of bruneii (sp?).

american sheets are considered worldwide to be of good quality. long staple, strong. easily dyed. not as high quality as egyption cotton, but really nice.

the higher the tc, the harder it is for the needle to slip between the fibres without breaking them. if you use a ballpoint needle, it's very blunt and pops between the threads, and if you use a sharp the point can tear the threads and weaken them. if you look at some sheets, especially stiff ones, (they have been overdyed to achieve a saturated color), you can see, at the sewn edges, teeeny holes where the needle went in. they are usually white holes. it really shows on darks. also, because of the overdying, the sheets are not soft.

moda batiks have a high tc and a strong dye, so that it runs as little as possible. the combination makes it hard to sew. the dye is very imortant here.

1500 tc sheet may last longer than you. the thread staple is probably longer than anything i have ever seen.

dunster, one reason that sheets don't stay on the bed is that the sheet manufacturers can't keep up with the mattress companies. the mattresses are getting so high it's become ridiculous. i'm short and i have to climb up onto my bed. i won't get suckered into that again. another reason is that they use cheap elastic - another issue for another day.

you don't need a special tool. you need a STRONG magnifying glass. but if the package tells you the tc and the country of origin, and you don't see any stamped patterns, you should be okay.

joann has a cotton muslin with a rather loose weave that is very popular, because it sews easily. it comes in 108" and gets very soft. but always remember that all cotton will shrink..the looser the weave (lower tc) the more shrinkage. because there is more space for the threads to come together and tighten. in a tighter weave, there would be less space between the threads for the threads to shrink into. i don't know if i said that right.

tc = fibre length. fibre length = smoothness. it all has to work together. whatever is then done to it usually detracts from the good feeling of cotton.
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Old 07-29-2009, 08:31 PM
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butterflywing, thanks for your great response!

I'm wondering how you learned all this and where I can learn more.

I have to disagree about 200-250 thread counts not being widely available until 15 years ago. That would make it 1994. I've been buying 200 thread counts since my college days back in the late '70s and early '80s. Somewhere along the way, 260 counts came in.

I never bought 120 thread count sheets. I did have some 180 counts, and they were good quality back in the day. I always got them from better department stores, then from Linens 'n' Things when that opened. Then about 10 years ago, I tried a Kmart sheet set by Martha Stewart. It was 180 and it was awful - coarse texture, what you'd expect from Kmart but not what I'd expect from Martha Stewart. Prints had almost disappeared by then, and percale weaves were hard to find.

I just don't like 300+ thread count sheets at all.

Sorry for the digression, but I'd really like to find more info on cottons, printing out your own fabrics (maybe that is from another thread?) and now that you mentioned it, more about the old dyes. I hadn't known they had anything harmful in them.
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Old 07-30-2009, 09:18 AM
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the 200's and 250's were available, but not widely. if you lived in a college town or a large town you probably could get them. otherwise, good luck. 20 years ago 120's were very common and 180's were one step up. when fitted sheets (yes - i am that old) were introduced, the thread counts went up to 180. that became the new norm. martha stewart has a bottom line for places like k-mart and a better line for places like, , say, macy's cellar. do you know the country of origin? when you say prints, you mean the old dye jobs, yes, they were gone. they were not replaced until those awful prints/patterns became available.

many people don't like the 300 thread count sheets. they feel flimsier, and they are lighter weight. thin strands don't weigh as much. they also have a body-feel that people are not used to.

someone asked where i learned this: my dh is an architect and he worked for rutgers university managing their in-house architectural department. we moved to this town because it was closer to his work, and bought a victorian fixer-upper. shortly after moving here and sinking a lot of money in the house, rutgers dropped their own department and farmed out that work. my husband was unemployed and my tailoring business had not yet taken off. i took a job at an upscale home furnishings store where manufactures made us take classes in sheets, pillows, draperies and such, so that we could knowledgeably sell. it was a fantastic education. we learned thread counts, different drapery styles, fancy drape rods, you name it. they spent a bundle teaching us what they felt we had to know to seel high-priced goods.

i've never looked, but can you google? i'm sure the library books has on the manufacture of household textiles.
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Old 07-30-2009, 11:19 AM
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set your self up a blind test clip small squares from lots of fabric...yes wallmart too...and quiltstore...don't cheat...feel them without looking make a pile of the one syou like best...then take a look...this is for you no need to report, its interesting...just for you.
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Old 07-30-2009, 12:19 PM
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Originally Posted by Loretta
I have used OLD sheets for quilt backings and they work well. The thread count was fairly high, but the sheets had been washed a lot over a 10 year period. They get a lot softer after repeated washings. Now I look for them in thrift stores.
old sheets are good because the threads have worn thinner. even though
they started thicker, they are thinner now, leaving places for the needle to travel through. make sure they aren't TOO worn or they will wear out altogether.
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Old 07-30-2009, 12:26 PM
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Originally Posted by Boston1954
I am pretty sure that a high thread count in quilting fabric is not a good thing. It makes it more difficult to quilt though for hand quilters. I made hubby some pillowcases for Christmas and they seem to be standing up very well to him using them. I would just buy what I think is pretty, and not worry to much about it.
right. needles have too much trouble going in and out of high tc fabric.. the higher with a standard width staple, the harder. if the staple was thin, thin it would be fine, like eqyptian cotton. but that's too expensive.
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Old 07-30-2009, 12:31 PM
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Originally Posted by dunster
I've read that quilting fabric thread count should be around 78. (Batiks are around 100.) It's a lot lower than quality sheets. Thread count is seldom, if ever, found on the bolt end.

I've been tempted to buy this new tool to check thread count, called the Roxanne Optimal Strand Estimator (R.O.S.E.). I've only seen it on-line and would love to find out if anyone has tried it.

http://www.quiltersbuzz.com/2006/02/..._fabric_q.html
i really don't know the thread count of quilt fabric, but i bet it differs. i've never seen it on the bolt end, but i have seen country of origin.

save your money. buy a very strong magnifier instead. what you're really paying for is the stand to make it easier. i had one years ago, because a friend in the industry gave it to me, and it had a crossmark in the center. when i lost it, my dad scratched a new cross in a good strong magnifier. it worked fine. lost that, too. don't give me anything valuable. hehe
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Old 07-30-2009, 12:33 PM
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Originally Posted by BellaBoo
I have 1500 thread count sheets. They are decades old ( 1973) and still in excellent shape. I haven't bought new sheets for my bed since. I worked part time in a four star hotel in CA and bought three sets of the new California King size, with my first pay check from the hotel. DH thought I was nuts paying that much for sheets. If silk could be cotton, that is how they feel.
fine hotels are the biggest buyers of highest quality sheet sets. clientele pay for it.
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