Percale vs. Sateen Sheets: The Difference

August 8, 2018

In recent years, American retailers have been selling cheaply-made “high thread count” bed sheets made with an inferior sateen weave. They are clearly more interested in low prices and enhancing their profits than offering high-quality products.


What is a sateen weave?

A sateen weave is created by weaving 4 threads over 1. The sateen weaving method produces fabric 4 times faster, thus 4 times cheaper than a traditional percale, or balanced weave, wherein the same number of threads are woven in both the length (warp) direction and the width (weft) direction.


Thread count in sheets

Thread count is the actual number of threads or strands of yarn in one square inch of fabric. A sateen bed sheet that claims a thread count of 400 will have 80 threads in the length direction and 320 threads in the width direction. A 400 thread count percale, or balanced woven, bed sheet will have 200 threads woven together in each direction. The quality difference is profound.


Percale sheets are superior


While initially very soft and smooth feeling, a sateen fabric will usually pill and become limp or raggy feeling after a few launderings. This is because the imbalanced sateen weave leaves the 4 filling yarns floating on the fabric surface, which quickly become abraded and break apart during normal use. Percale bed sheets woven with superior 100% Pima cotton yarn, like Thomas Lee’s 500 thread count PerfectCale® bed sheets, are ultra smooth and soft to the touch.

The imbalanced sateen weave results in a weak bed sheet that easily tears resulting in a short product life. A tightly woven percale sheet is much stronger and will last many times longer than a cheaply-made sateen bed sheet.

At Thomas Lee, we believe in offering our customers the best quality bed sheets possible. We strongly advise that sateen bed sheets be avoided. Our 500 thread count PerfectCale® sheets and pillowcases are woven with ultra strong 100% Pima cotton yarns, 250 threads in the length direction and 250 threads in the width direction. Thomas Lee sheets will provide years of extraordinary luxury and comfort.


View our finest luxury percale bed sheets and pillowcases