When buying new sheets thread count is important but it should not be the only thing you consider. Thread count means the number of fibers woven together in a square inch. The threads are counted both lengthwise (warp) and widthwise (weft). So if the thread count is 400 it means that there are 200 fibers lengthwise and 200 fibers widthwise.
Over the years more and more consumers have started equating a higher thread count to mean superior quality. This idea is true to an extent but manufactures have started altering their production method to boost their numbers. Some will twist three or four thinner fibers together to weave them as one since; you can only fit so many fibers into one space.
Most agree that a 400 thread count is the highest a sheet should have to really make a difference. Linens with a higher count may have an inflated count or may be of inferior quality due to their method of production. Others may not wear as well or feel stiffer due to the increase in fibers.
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