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Q&A With Our Head of Design: On Pioneering the Highest Quality Bedding

Our mastery of fabric comes from an obsession with details—and a passion for challenging industry conventions. As our Founder and Head of Design Missy Tannen says, “When it comes to thread count, most people forget that the quality of threads is far more important than the quantity." 

Here, Missy shares her journey to create fabrics that are superior in every way, starting with dismissing the industry myth that thread count represents fabric quality (it doesn’t, and you can read more about that here).

Missy QA (1)

The search for great sheets usually starts with the question of thread count. Did yours?

The story of creating our fabrics actually started with everything I didn’t know. I came to product design with an outsider’s perspective.

When shopping for new bedding for my own home, I went to your typical department stores and places you'd look for bedding. Since many packages promised "higher thread count," I asked for more clarification from every sales associate I could, only to find out that everyone could recite the number of thread count. And no two explanations were the same about why this number mattered. After a year of research, I came to understand that thread count doesn’t matter.

When I started our own product development, I truly didn’t care about what has conventionally represented quality. I had an idea about what I wanted the end experience to feel like. And so, I worked backwards.

This is how we’ve designed each of our fabrics—from scratch, always thinking about the customer experience and how we can create the best fabrics. 

Choosing to start at the seed and grow the finest long-staple, 100% organic cotton on earth from scratch already provides so many benefits. Every step in our process offers 100% traceability, so I know the purity of the materials we start with are preserved all the way through to the finish. My objective was to ensure we found the most superior processes for turning our organic cotton into threads, and that those threads are brought together in the most luxurious ways possible.  

Missy QA (2)

If thread count wasn’t important to you, what was?

Thread count is just a measurement of threads in one square inch of fabric. When we created our Signature fabric, I didn’t worry about how many threads I could get into a small space. I worried about how our incredible 100% organic cotton would feel after being washed 20 times. For each of the different weave trials we made, we’d have two sets of prototype fabrics and I’d do a blind hand-feel of the before and the after washing. This is how I came to understand how the most critical elements of a fabric have to work together. And these elements are: yarn size, weave and finishing treatment. 

Missy QA (3)

So thread quality is determined by more than its raw state? 

Exactly! There are many steps in the making of our fabrics that contribute to the end experience. For brevity, I’ll share three processes that distinguish our fabrics from everyone else’s: 

Yarn Size: Yarns can be spun into different sizes. They can be doubled or twisted. We painstakingly trialed our own unique yarn combinations as we developed each of our fabrics. A lot of this work takes great care and finesse.

Weave: The ways the yarns come together on the warp and weft of a loom determine the look, the feel, the weight, even the breathability of a fabric. Each of our weaves are enhanced by the performance of the long-staple 100% organic cotton we use, as well as our ginning process (removing impurities from our yarn) and the spinning process (the art of balancing strength and softness in our threads). 

Finishing: These are the treatments applied to a fabric after it is woven and before it is cut and sewn. We never allow harmful chemicals or toxins to touch our fabrics, and we forgo common treatments, like anti-wrinkle coatings made of formaldehyde. We use GOTS-approved chemistry, like enzyme washes and calendering, to create a beautiful finish.

All of these processes contribute to what we consider thread quality: the most superior form of our materials. 

Missy QA (4)

Can you share an example of how thread quality creates distinct experiences?

A good example of how thread quality represents the sum of many different processes and steps, is the difference between our Signature and Percale fabrics. We use the same cotton for both, and both fabrics are incredibly different:

For our uniquely soft Signature fabric: I wanted to make the softest, drapiest sheets I possibly could. The four-over-one-under weave allows the ends of our long-staple 100% organic cotton fibers to lift ever so slightly with each wash, ensuring an exceptionally soft hand feel that gets softer and softer over time. This weave gives Signature its gorgeous drape and breathability, too.

For our cooling, ultra-refined Percale fabric: I wanted our Percale to be cool, first and foremost, as well as tighter and crisper than our Signature. This fabric takes a lot of finesse to get just perfect. I considered the weave—a one-over-one-under construction—and then yarn size—trying thicker yarns, and then finer yarns. We use incredibly fine yarns but then twist the threads to get the perfect height and volume. We found the ideal balance for a smooth and tailored-looking finish in a naturally cooling fabric.

Missy QA (5)

When someone is searching for new, luxurious sheets, what do you want them to understand about the Boll & Branch difference?

One number doesn’t give me enough information to make an investment in something that I plan to spend every night wrapped up in. For all of the time spent snuggled in sheets and under duvets and blankets, I want to know every stitch is made of the best materials, with the most luxurious processes and in the hands of experts who are paid and treated fairly. Look beyond thread count. Everything else you learn about a brand and its products should help you sleep better at night.