Basic Weave Structures: Twill

by Amanda Rataj

Twill Weaving Samples

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.

What is Twill Weave?

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.

1/3 Twill and 2/2 Twill

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 Twill and 2/1 Twill Draft

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.

Designing Twill Fabrics

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.

Straight Twill

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.

Twill weaving samples

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

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 Twill

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.

Tips for Weaving Twill

A few guidelines make weaving twill easier.

  • Twill weaves can be packed tighter than plain weave, which means you need to sett your fabric more closely together. For example, while the Mixed Twill Scarf uses Mallo at 14 EPI, the plain weave Tone on Tone Scarf setts the same yarn at 12 EPI.
  • When I learned to weave twill, I was told to keep my twill progressing at a 45 degree diagonal—you could just as easily count your wefts to ensure they’re within the PPI specified by your pattern, but I find that this is a good enough visual trick for ensuring you’re keeping an even beat.
  • Another thing you’ll encounter with twill weaves is a floating selvedge. Because your weft is always going over or under 1-3 ends, you’ll inevitably have a weft that doesn’t catch all of the selvedge ends, which can create long floats or a bumpy selvedge. There are lots of strategies for correcting this, but the easiest (next to ignoring it and continuing to weave—which sometimes works too!) is by adding a floating selvedge, a single strand at the outermost edge of your weaving. Read our How To Weave With A Floating Selvedge article to learn how and when to use a floating selvedge.

Twill sample woven without a floating selvedge

Twill sample woven with a floating selvedge. Made easily visible here as the Pear color of Duet.

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.

Recommended Twill Weaving Patterns

Mixed Twill Scarf

Mixed Twill Scarf

Designed by Elizabeth Springett

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

Chevron Hand Towels

Chevron Hand Towels

by Emma Rhodes

Cheerful cotton and linen towels woven with a subtle chevron pattern.

Download Free Pattern

Coastal Linen Towels

Coastal Linen Towels

by Christine Jablonski

A set of classic linen tea towels woven using a Fibonacci stripe sequence and a point twill structure.

Download Free Pattern

About Amanda Rataj

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.

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