The satin weave utilized to make sateen sheets — that can be usually made from cotton — offers a lustrous and silky smooth feel. Typically made from combed cotton, the satin weave puts more threads on the surface of their sheets, which is exactly what makes them feel so soft. The type of cotton at the sheets determines that the caliber of the sheets, maybe not the thread count, since manufacturers do not count threads in a standardized way.
Thread count refers to the number of threads per square inch at a bit of fabric. Sateen sheets are sold in several thread counts, ranging from 120 to 1,000, just as with other sheets. But since the government doesn’t regulate thread counts, the maker can twist several thinner threads together to make the thread count bigger, that can be misleading when it you are trying to buy quality sheets. Of the sheets examined by Consumer Reports in 2013, a 280-thread-count percale sheet — with a plain scoop — done the best against sheets with greater thread counts.
To make fabric, manufacturers start with the threads, and the manner in which the threads entwine and interlace determine the fabric’s weave. For example, a plain weave has one thread over and one thread under. The horizontal pattern in the weave refers to the weft threads — also known as woof — although the vertical threads in the weave refer to the warp. In a satin weave, the kind used to earn sateen sheets, one warp thread passes over at least four weft threads, bringing more of the thread face to the surface, creating a soft luster finish.
Not all of cottons grow evenly; the kind of cotton employed in the sheet determines the caliber of the sheet. A few cotton bolls produce fibers or staples only 1/2 inch extended, while the highest quality sheets only utilize cotton in extra-long staples of around 1 1/2 inches or more. Of the five types of cotton — Egyptian-grown ELS cotton, American upland, Sea-Island, Asiatic and American Pima — appear to sheets produced from American Pima or Egyptian cotton for the highest quality, long-staple cotton.
Even though sateen sheets offer a luxurious and silky texture to the sheet because of the satin weave, they tend to pill, snag, catch or tear easily because of the exposure of their warp thread. Sateen sheets also utilize combed cotton — a process that eliminates the shorter strands — rather than just extra-long staple cotton, that has longer threads, even though it is a higher quality cotton. To prevent pilling, wash your sateen sheets.