LEARN ABOUT LINENS AND THREAD COUNTS
Percale fabric begins its life as two sets of undyed, interwoven threads, known as a "greycloth" that will later have its color and pattern "sprayed" on. Since the threads are woven at a 1:1 ratio, the same number of threads will be found along one inch of the length, and one inch of the width. The number of threads along one inch (in each direction) makes up the fabric's "thread count."
The thread count of the fabric determines its density, and that generally gives you a good gauge of its softness, although there are other factors that impact the softness of the fabric even more than its thread count. One such factor is "content."
The content of percale can vary widely. Though many people assume that "percale" means a polyester-cotton blend, this is untrue. A percale can be made of 100% cotton, 100% polyester, or any combination in between. Even a high thread count 60/40 percale blend won't be as soft or luxuriant as a lower thread count 100% cotton. Also, a dark colored cotton percale will feel stiffer than a lighter colored percale with the same thread count.
Even within cotton itself, there are many differences in grade. Just as grapes grown in certain regions are favored by wine connoisseurs over grapes grown in others, the quality of cotton can be estimated by its origin. Our own domestic cotton is an excellent breed called "pima" cotton. This is a long-staple cotton, and is relatively inexpensive, considering its high quality. The fertile Nile valley which also produces the same breed of Pima Cotton as the United States, calls their more luxuriant textile "Egyptian Cotton." With its longer, silkier, and thicker fibers, this cotton is woven into the absolute best percales. Unfortunately, since it must be imported from Egypt, it carries with it a heavy price tag.
At the other end of the spectrum, some imported percales are very inexpensive, and for good reasons. A combination of low thread count and high ratios of polyester to cotton causes these percales to rip easily and feel rough to the touch.
All of our percales are domestically produced, have thread counts of at least two hundred, and contain no more than 50% Polyester. 50/50 Polyester/Cotton percales of this quality can stand up to a great deal of abuse. They resist wrinkling and can be washed frequently, in whatever conditions desired (hot or cold water, line or machine dry).
100% Cotton Percales and Sateens, on the other hand, are more difficult to maintain. They should be washed in cold water, and line or tumble dried. They do tend to wrinkle, and can be expected to shrink 1-2% the first time they are washed. This shrinkage is taken into account when the sheets are manufactured. For this reason, they may fit loosely before laundering, and provide a snug fit afterwards.
Percale fabrics are generally available in widths great enough to provide a sleeping surface without any add-ons or seams. Extremely large or thick mattresses may make add-ons necessary.