When it comes to quality, less is often more. If you are looking for luxury then usually keep your eyes peeled for a woven fabric, followed closely by thread count. These aspects are misleading, however, because the quality of your bed linen depends on the type of cotton plant or cotton blend you have chosen and the interaction of this type of cotton with the particular weave.
Thread count is measured by the number of threads woven within one square inch. It is assumed that the more fine threads that can be woven together, the more supple the fabric becomes. However, this is not always the case, and here we explain why.
Frankly, don't be fooled by 800 thread count or even 1000 thread count linens. The higher price rarely guarantees more comfort, and the use of inferior quality cotton in this case results in stiff, unyielding fabrics. If you're not convinced yet, realize that a high thread count also means the fabric has less room to breathe. It's more difficult to wash and dry, and it puts a lot more stress on the fibers, making them more prone to tearing or fraying. Realistically, only a certain number of threads can be wound on a loom, so an overly tightly woven fabric only has the additional number of weft threads for promotional purposes.
To acquire nice, soft fabrics, buy the highest quality fabric you can afford and use the appropriate thread count for that fabric. Egyptian cotton and Supima cotton--which are the same plant grown in different regions--have long fibers that are very tolerable and flexible, capable of thread counts of 400 to 600 on regular looms. If you prefer sheets that are firm and easy to handle, but still want to stick with cotton, also consider the manufacturing process. The percale weave creates a flat, dense fabric by alternating yarns (1:1 over and under). The fabric feels cool against the skin and is suitable for frequent washing. An alternative is the pure cotton sateen fabric, the weave of which exposes more threads (1:3 over and under) and results in a softer, billowy fabric.
What can you do if you don't have the budget for the highest quality fabrics? Even lower-quality cotton fabrics can give you a good night's sleep, but you may have to sacrifice the feel or longevity of the product. Commercially available Pima cotton at 200 thread count feels soft and supple, but isn't as strong. Alternatively, you can opt for a polyester/cotton blend, which washes often but isn't as comfortable against your skin. To make this choice, simply rely on the feel of the fabric and read the label carefully before purchasing the bedding. Incorrect labeling is very common in the textile industry as there are hardly any controls and few risks. So you might be able to purchase a bed linen set made from "Egyptian" cotton, which is made only to a small extent from these fibers and mostly mixed with inferior Pima cotton. So for this privilege of “Egyptian” cotton, you pay a little more thinking you've gotten a bargain, but you won't get the same quality and luxury.