Sateen vs Percale – for Miranda

May 15, 2011

Not all sheets are created equal. So, before you take out a second mortgage for 400 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets at $500 a pop, check out this quick glossary of terms and my two cents on whats what…

THREAD COUNT: Simply put, this is the number of threads per square inch. Hold the sheet up to the light, if you can see through the fabric and make out the actual weave, you’ve got a low thread count on your hands. The higher the thread count, the softer and more lustrous the fabric, and the more durable and less prone to shrinkage.

COMBED COTTON: A cleaning process that eliminates impurities and short, less desirable fibers.

MUSLIN: Considered to be low-end of the cotton spectrum, you may want to steer clear of these, as they tend to be one rough and tough sheet. They are generally used in children’s character theme bedding. Thread counts here range from 128 to 140.

PERCALE: A smooth, flat, closely woven and combed fabric that comes in 100 percent cotton or 50/50 cotton/poly blends. Finer than muslin, expect thread counts here to range from 180 to 200.

PIMA or SUPIMA: A high-quality cotton whose long fiber staple is somewhat similar to that of Egyptian cotton. The differences are geographical only. Pima is grown in the southwestern part of the U.S. and Egyptian is grown along the Nile River. Supima is made from extra-long staple Pima. The soft feel of Pima and Supima make them very desirable in bedding. Expect to find thread counts here from 200 to 300.

SATEEN is usually a cotton fabric that has a satin-like feel. It’s often found in bed sheets and other textiles throughout the world. Sateen is usually 100% woven cotton, although it is occasionally formed from rayon. Like percale, sateen does not refer to the material of the sheet. It refers to the method in which the sheet was woven. The weave is what gives the sateen sheet its soft, satin-like feel. The material is lustrious and smooth to the touch. Only carded or combed yarns are used.

A “sateen weave” means that there is one vertical thread woven for every four or more horizontal threads. Since more of the threads are exposed to the surface, the resulting fabric is much smoother than if it was woven with a standard type weave.

The best quality sateen is mercerized to give it a higher sheen. Mercerized cotton has been treated with sodium hydroxide to shrink it and increase its luster and affinity for dye. It is also makes it more mildew resistant and stronger.

Some sateen sheets are only calendared to produce the sheen. This is when the fabric is pressed between two rolling pins to give it a glossier appearance. This is lower-grade sateen. The sheen will eventually fade away with a few washings. This is not considered genuine sateen.  Genuine sateen can be bleached, dyed, or printed.


PERCALE:
The word, “Percale” refers to a specially woven fabric that is very often woven for sheet sets and other bed linens, and occasionally shirts too. This is the fabric used to manufacture most bed linens. Other different types of woven fabrics are flannel and sateen. The origin of the word percale comes from the Persian word “pargalah.”

Percale can be either 100% cotton or also a blend of cotton and polyester. The word “percale” refers to the way the fabric is woven together and has nothing to do with the materials used. The weight of the fabric is medium and washes very well. It can be white, dyed, or printed upon. Percale sheeting is one of the finest available, made of combed yarns and has a thread count of around 200TC. Carded percale sheeting has a thread count of around 180 and has a soft, silk-like feel. Percale was first made in New Bedford’s Wamsutta Mills in 1876. Wamsutta is still a very popular brand in today’s world of bedding.

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8 Responses to “Sateen vs Percale – for Miranda”

  1. Miranda Says:

    So much good info. Thank you Bill. I’m off to buy sheets with confidence.

  2. Joann A. Says:

    Article is incomplete, inaccurate in places, and jumps back and forth between topics.

  3. Kate Says:

    “Only carded or combed yarns are used.” Really? Well, I mean, it’s *true*, since carding and combing are the two available forms of fiber processing, it’s just a bit tautological. Also, satin weave (only called sateen if it’s cotton, btw–the weave structure is identical, just using different fibers) does not have four weft threads per warp thread or whatever it was you said. What it does have is a weave structure where each weft thread goes over three threads and under one, staggered so the “under one” progresses diagonally across the surface with each successive weft thread, giving an upper surface where only the weft can be seen and a lower surface where mostly the warp can be seen.

    • bill barr Says:

      Wow Kate thanks for the education, you clearly know a considerable amount about sheeting. I’m sure my readers were happy to have you clear up any misinformation I may have published in my post.

      Have a great day!

  4. Meg Says:

    My issue is, I just LOVE percale sheets! They are not soft, silky and lucious right off the bat. It takes quite a few washings to get them perfect. But when you do, they are amazing! So deliciously cool in the summer, but keep you warm in the winter. There is something about the sateen weave that just doesn’t cut it. Can you explain that? They just don’t have the incredible hand that percale has. The difference is not as apparent by just feeling the sheet with your hand, the huge difference is felt only when you are in your bed – then it is remarkably different!


  5. I must say, I’ve gotten quite an education this morning! Thank you so much. I have tried in vane to buy the perfect sheets for my needs. I am 67, have cutaneous Lupus and several other medical issues, so comfort in bedding is uber important. I have purchased high thread count, Egyptian cotton, etc. and still cannot find the absolute softest sheet on the market. It has always been confusing till now.

    I find that just touching them in the store isn’t always the key. I really don’t want to “break” them in. Now I’m leading toward buying sateen or percale, understanding that they usually don’t come in a high thread count, which I’ve been looking for in the past! Sheets are too expensive to end up with a closet full of sets you don’t like. I’m giving it one more try, based on the info you provided.

    BTW, I am shocked at all the reviews I’ve read about sheets being wrinkled. If I were wearing them to work, I’d be upset, but who cares when the lights are out and you’re asleep! When I make the bed, I put 2 sham pillows on top of those I’m sleeping on, so even the cases don’t show (wrinkled or not!)

    Thanks again for all your help…

    • bill barr Says:

      I hope the information proves to be just what you needed to find the perfect type of sheeting for your needs.

      I have to agree, regarding wrinkles… I might press the edge that is folded over a blanket or coverlet, but don’t really care about wrinkles. Now color is a whole other issue and I am particular, VERY.

      : ) hope you are already having the best nights sleep possible on a new set of sheets.


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