— It's a first step. A voluntary standard adopted by ASTM International, the industry membership group comprised of suppliers, academics and laboratories, is intended to reign in what the group says are false claims of soaring thread counts seen on store shelves the last few years.
The thread count inflation, commonly hitting 800 and 1,000 count levels, has usually come from multi-plied yarns. The new rule states that warp and weft strands are counted as single units, regardless of the number of yarn plies. So a sheet package claiming 800 threads per inch using two-plied yarns should correctly be labeled as a 400-thread count, according to Bob Holcombe, chairman of the ASTM subcommittee. &P>Holcombe is lab director for Safety Components International,Greenville,S.C., the spin-off of the former J.P. Stevens Synthetic Fabrics division. Two importers earlier joined the committee to seek the more liberal rulemaking, he said."The committee on textiles took the approach that we're going to do what has always been done because this is what's correct," Holcombe explained. "And just because [the importers] have a special interest, we're not going to change the rules of the world to accommodate [them]. They're out of step with everyone else in the world. It's misleading."There is no enforcement or sanction for non-compliance, however. Holcombe said the ASTM standard, along with those used elsewhere in the world, could be invoked in civil prosecutions, including a number of class action lawsuits currently pending.