This post is the second in a series introducing you to common weaving structures—last time we looked at the not-so-simple magic of plain weave, and this time we’ll be talking about twill! You’ll find many patterns in Gist’s pattern collection that feature twill structures, and, like plain weave, it’s another foundation weave that has a lifetime of new and exciting combinations to explore.
While most of us learn to weave plain weave first, twill weave is usually the next step in our weaving education. In a twill weave, the weft travels over 1-3 warp ends and then passes under 1-3 ends. Each progressive row shifts by one warp end, creating a diagonal line across your cloth.
Twill is generally woven on 4 shafts (though you see 3 shaft variations) and creates a strong and smooth fabric. Even if you’ve never woven twill, you’re likely already deeply familiar with it since most of us only have to look down to see an example—our blue jeans are woven in twill!
Before we jump into more information about twill, if you’re not familiar with reading weaving drafts (or need a refresher), you’ll want to take a look at our How To Read A Weaving Draft article since there are a few drafts in this article.
The two most basic twills are 1/3 or 3/1, and 2/2. These abbreviations suggest how many ends your weft is skipping over or under. In the image below, you can see an example of a straight twill threading. On the left is the 1/3 twill, and on the right, you can see a 2/2 twill. While both are threaded and treadled the same way, the difference between the two fabrics is created in the tie-up.
1/3 and 3/1 twills are very common in clothing fabrics. The weft travels further on one side, getting stitched down on every fourth warp thread. This results in two surfaces—one with smooth weft floats, and the other with a denser, warp-dominant appearance.
2/2 twills create a balanced cloth, traveling over two and then under two. This tie-up is one of the most common and versatile too, lifting, in sequence, shafts 1+2, 2+3, 3+4, and 1+4.
While you have all the same possibilities to make stripes, checks, and add texture with twill as you do with plain weave, twill weave has the added bonus of an almost infinite variation in both threading and treadling combinations.
A straight twill (where your threading and treadling go from 1-4 or 4-1 in numerical order) is the most basic, but you can quickly start altering your pattern by introducing new treadling sequences, like 1-2-3-4-3-2-1, which creates a zig zag line. Twills can be manipulated like this in both the threading and the treadling, and you can create increasingly complex patterns.
Straight twill sample
If you’d like to try a beginner straight twill project the Mixed Twill Scarf would be an excellent place to start. The treadling is straight in this project (so you don’t need any fancy footwork), but the draft combines three different types of twill: point twill, balanced twill, and broken twill.
Point twill is a threading that climbs up and down your draft—it usually reads something like 1-2-3-4-3-2-1. There are some lovely names for variations of point twills, such as bird’s or goose eye, and rosepath.
Broken twills refer to drafts where there’s a break in the sequence, like 4-3-2-1-4-3-1-2-3-4-1-2 (see below!). Herringbone is an excellent example of textile that’s woven using a broken twill.
A few guidelines make weaving twill easier.
Twill sample woven without a floating selvedge
There are many great twill weaving drafts out there, and plenty of different ways that you can use them to weave new and exciting surfaces. Twill weaves are a great stepping stone for weavers interested in learning more about drafting and how threads can interact on the loom to create a pattern. Twill is also the parent structure behind a lot of other great 4 shaft weaves—some of which we’ll talk about in our next article.
Inspired by traditional twill samplers, this scarf combines point twill, balanced twill, and broken twill for a bold visual effect. The slub texture of Mallo softens the linear pattern, as if it were drawn by hand.Download Free Pattern
Cheerful cotton and linen towels woven with a subtle chevron pattern.Download Free Pattern
A set of classic linen tea towels woven using a Fibonacci stripe sequence and a point twill structure.Download Free Pattern
Amanda Rataj is an artist and weaver living and working in Hamilton, Ontario. She studied at the Ontario College of Art and Design University and has developed her contemporary craft practice through research-based projects, artist residencies, professional exhibitions, and lectures. Subscribe to her studio newsletter or follow her on Instagram to learn about new weaving patterns, exhibitions, projects, and more.
If you are looking to try out a new art form, or if you are a multi-shaft or rigid heddle weaver interested in exploring another facet of the weaving world, this blog post introduces the equipment and yarn you'll need to get started with tapestry weaving.