Is thread count that important?
Yes and no. Thread count is often used as the barometer of a sheet's smoothness and durability.However, this measurement which should refer to the number of threads woven into a square inch of fabric isn't always reliable. High thread count is a factor, but the type of cotton can be more significant.
What's the best quality cotton?
Top-of-the-line is 100% Egyptian cotton. Second best is 100% pima cotton, also known by the trademarked name Supima. If a label says simply, "100% cotton:' assume that it's American upland cotton, a rougher, less expensive variety. Egyptian cotton's long fibers produce sheets that are thin and sumptuous yet extremely strong and long-Iasti ng. (The shorter fibers of upland cotton, by contrast, can poke out of the weave, leading to a coarser, weaker fabric.)
Pima cotton is also soft and less likely to pill than upland cotton.You can find a good queen set made of pima for less than $200. If you want the best, you'll invest about $500 in an Egyptian-cotton set in percale or sateen-both clean, classic weaves.
What's better, percale or sateen?
Neither. It's a matter of taste. Percale is a plain, matte weave that has a crisp, cool feel, so it may be sensible for people who tend to get overheated when they sleep. Sateen is slightly heavier and very soft, with a lustrous, smooth finish that's almost satiny hence the name. If you're not sure which you prefer, look for fabric swatches on display
for a touch test.
Is there a cheaper option for kids or for a spare set? A cotton-polyester blend, often marketed as "easy care," is a smart choice, since it withstands frequent washings well. A little poly is all you need-a 90/1 0 blend is durable, looks crisp right out of the dryer, and is still soft and cozy. But don't go above 30 percent synthetic: The sheets won't feel great and could make the sleeper sweat.