These are the two most popular of the cotton fabrics found in bed linen and our firm favourites but which of cotton percale or sateen is right for you?
Cotton percale tends to be more expensive due to the finer threads used in making a percale fabric. Cotton fabric is made from cotton threads woven lengthwise (the warp threads) and width (the weft threads). Percale fabric uses a basic or plain weave. This means that the warp and weft threads go over and under each other which creates a very tight weave. With a sateen fabric the warp thread will pass or float over 3 or 4 weft threads (or vice versa) meaning it only intertwines with every third or fourth thread making a looser weave. The cotton in a percale fabric is a high-quality combed cotton – this means it is brushed with combing brushes designed to extract the shortest cotton fibres and other contaminations such as cotton seeds. Combed cotton is softer and of a higher quality than other cottons. It has longer cotton fibres than uncombed cotton and therefore makes a better quality of fabric. The tighter weave of a percale fabric makes for a very crisp feel and an un-shiny matt like appearance. It is a lighter fabric than sateen with finer cotton threads. Imagine the feel of a high-quality cotton formal shirt and you will be very close. For those who love a crisp light fabric, percale is therefore perfect. Its lightness also makes it ideal if you prefer a cooler bed. Percale fabric has the added advantage of being strong and durable. We have an extensive range of percale bed linen in a range of styles or just plain whites.
With a looser weave, sateen fabrics are also generally made with thicker threads which make them heavier and warmer than percale fabrics. The fact that the warp threads ‘float’ over 3 or 4 weft threads creates a smooth silk like look (although the fabric should not to be confused with silk) and a very soft and sumptuous feel compared to the tighter weave of a percale fabric. The ‘floating’ threads do mean that it is easier to catch or snag the fabric than is the case with percale although sateen bed linen generally lasts very well with normal use. If you love a slightly heavier fabric which is smooth, sumptuous and warm then sateen is for you.
The thread count will undoubtedly affect the feel of a fabric. However, a higher thread count does not always mean a better fabric. When choosing you bed linen a well-made fabric with quality combed cotton threads will be a better choice than a higher thread count fabric made with poorer quality cotton.
The thread count normally refers to the number of threads per square inch of fabric. Inevitably, higher thread count fabrics will have finer threads to accomodate the higher number of threads. This can make them a little less durable. Generally, a well-made made high thread count fabric will have a softer smoother feel than an equivalent lower thread-count but there is a limit. Sometimes with higher thread counts at lower price points, threads are twisted together to fit the required number of threads into the fabric which does nothing to improve its quality or feel. At Linenshack, we only offer cotton percale bedding ranging from 200 – 400 thread count. Our experience is that thread counts above 400 do not produce any notable difference in feel with percale fabric but can suffer from being less durable. In sateen, we stock from 300 – 800 thread count as we believe the looser weave continues to gain in silky smoothness at the higher thread counts. More importantly to us than thread count, all our cotton fabrics are produced to the highest quality with Egyptian cotton or from other premium cottons by trusted producers.