Shopping for Bedding? There's More to It Than Thread Count


Shopping for Bedding? There's More to It Than Thread Count

When choosing bedding, the thread count within 1 sq. inch is usually considered the princpal indicator of the quality of the fabric. However, there is more to textiles than just thread count and there are a number of things you may want to consider when shopping for your next bedding set.

  Thread size
Threads are usually made of fibres twisted together and spun. There are other types of threads, such as polyester fibres are created synthetically. Larger-sized threads tend to make the fabric thicker and more durable, while thinner threads are smoother and softer to the touch.

There is a diversity of fibre materials available on the market which could be woven and manufactured into fabric. Whether it be from natural fibres (e.g. cotton, wool, silk, linen) or synthetic fibres (e.g. polyester, microfibre, rayon), each type of fabric has its own desirable touch-feel characteristics. It is therefore important that you know the properties of some of the most widely used fibres for bedding.

  • Cotton - Not much can go wrong with 100% cotton fabrics. Cotton fibres are very durable and breathable. The fabric itself is cool to the touch, smooth, and becomes softer through frequent wash. Due to its convenience and affordable price, cotton has been commonly used in the bedding industry for a long time.
  • Microfibre - Light and smooth fabric material; soft to the touch and resistant to wrinkles. However, proper maintenance is required, especially during cleaning. Microfibre should not be washed or dried at high temperatures.
  • Rayon - Rayon fibres are synthesized from natural cellulose fibres extracted from plants such as bamboo, eucalyptus, remnants of cotton or other plant materials. Because of its soft, delicate texture, rayon beddings has risen rapidly in both popularity and demand. However, because of the long, complicated production process, the price of this fibre is consequently higher compared to others.

Different types of fibres can be paired and woven together to enhance the quality of the fabrics. For instance, combining polyester microfibre threads with cotton threads result in the fabric being silky-smooth and crease-free due to the properties of microfibre, and cool and durable due to the properties of cotton fibre. 

Weaving techniques and the resulting structure of the fabric are interrelated. The weaving techniques employed differ depending on the purpose of the fabric’s application. For example, fabrics used to make clothing versus fabrics used to make furniture not only differ in the material used but also in the weaving. Consumers of bedding products can choose to purchase the types of weaves that aligns most with their preferences.
  • Percale Weave – The most structurally stable fabric and can withstand forces from pulling or yanking
  • Twill Weave – A thicker type of fabric, but smooth and glossy
  • Satin Weave – Slightly more elastic than other fabrics, creating a softer, smoother texture
  • Jacquard Weave – A satin weaving technique which embeds patterns in to the fabrics itself, giving more dimension to the patterns as opposed to regular printing or dyeing

  Dyeing and Printing
One of the major concerns in the process of dyeing and printing on textile materials is colour fastness and the quality of colour pigments. Colour fastness is the ability to withstand multiple washings, heat, perspiration and sunlight without running or fading. As the chemical nature of each textile materials differs, its affinity to different types of dye differs as well. Multiple dyeing techniques are therefore necessary to accommodate the chemical condition for each type of dye and fabric. For example, reactive dyes are favourable to cotton fabrics and imparts a vibrant, long-lasting colour while still retaining the softness of the fabric, whereas it is advisable to use disperse dyes for synthetic fibres such as polyester.

For textile printing, however, colour limitation is another cause for concern in addition to colour fastness. Formerly, a printing technique called “flat screen printing” was used the norm, whereby colours were pasted onto fabrics using customised blocks of painted screens made in the number of colours used. The more colours needed for printing, the more screens have to be made. This process is very time consuming, and the fabric becomes rough to the touch when many colours are laid atop each other. Later on, “rotary screen printing” was developed by combining flat screen printing with a novel colour technology using cylindrical printing press. The maximum number of colours that can be used for rotary printing are usually no more than 12 colours. Presently, “digital ink-jet printing” has been developed to eliminate the aforementioned problems. Using this technology, intricate textile designs can be recreated digitally using printer heads that propel minuscule colour droplets directly on to fabrics with no colour limitations nor detriment to the fabric’s texture.

On the other hand, synthetic fibres use the “paper transfer printing” method by first printing the designs on to a special paper, then using heat to transfer the designs on to the fabric itself.

  Finishing Process
The finishing process is the final stage in textile production after weaving, bleaching, dyeing, and printing in order to achieve the desired characteristics and/or properties before fabrics are distributed and processed into bedding or other designated products. There are many types of finishing processes and steps that fabrics go through depending on its purpose of application, such as softening, coating, flame retardant, colour fixation, sanding, chemical dust mite control finishes, and many more.

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