As manufacturers, finishers and distributors of many textiles, we are often asked “what is Twill?” Twill is a textile weave, simply enough. Or is it that simple? The weave’s filling threads in this textile pass over each other – over one and under two (or even more) warp threads (the vertical threads) to give an appearance of diagonal lines. Twill is how the fabric threads are woven together, so it is the weaving that really defines this widely popular textile fabric.
The horizontal weft thread will go under, over, under, over a vertical warp thread. Twill fabric is made by changing the pattern so the weft thread will go over more than one warp thread before going back under. It’s the step between the weft threads that creates this known diagonal pattern in the fabric. As the twill is woven in a series of diagonal but parallel steps (or ribs), it’s the thickness of the yarn that is what really determines how noticeably obvious the ribs are.
Twill is most notably characterized and regarded by its diagonal weave. Especially noticeable is in a tweed when several colors are used. It is far less evident when used with a single colored thread like cotton (use in cotton twill is sometimes referred to as chino).
In general, Twill tends to be a light weight fabric. Tweed, however, when woven with a coarse wool fiber, will produce a nice fabric for cool temperatures. This is why it is a favorite material utilized in coats in Scotland.
Other differing forms of twill that benefit from two colors of yarn are the herringbone, and hounds-tooth twill. Herringbone and hounds-tooth are often used in men’s and women’s suits. The two differing color threads produce these classic styles and looks of twill.
Perhaps the best known example of twill is denim. Yes, that great material that we have all worn for most of our lives…and the fabric that is most utilized in jackets and, of course, blue jeans! Blue jeans and most denim jackets are dyed with indigo, however, and would look quite different if they were stitched in their undyed and natural cotton color.
Cotton duck fabric is different from twill, in that cotton duck canvas is tightly woven using what is a called “plain weave.” Plain weave simply means that it is like a basket weave, where the weft passes over, then under, then over, etc… on the vertical warp thread. What remains in the end-product is a highly durable fabric with a nice and smooth surface. Cotton duck is very durable, and sometimes a bit stiff; but they are washable and will certainly “break in” over time. With washing and overall wear and use, they will actually become soft and comfortable.
For the most part, the best twills for use are those with the highest thread count. This is because this highly increases the durability of the fabric. Both cotton and wool twill are preferable over rayon and polyester, again as they are more durable. Also, there is a direct correlation between the higher thread count and the end-resulting thickness of the twill; the thicker the twill, the better it resists staining and soiling, in addition to damage from water. Suffice it to say, the thicker the twill, the heavier and more capable of warming you against cold weather.
In the illustration below, you can see the visible differences in the weaves from the cotton duck canvas on the left, and the cotton twill on the right. This twill Fabric is heavier than regular cotton materials with a more structured form. The differences in the weaves are quite noticeable, as the cotton twill fabric has its distinctive diagonal pattern!
Cotton Duck vs Cotton Twill
These materials have the one common uniform similarity – both of these fabrics are made from natural cotton fibers. Therefore, they both will be quite soft, very durable, used for many purposes, and always known to be breathable for comfort and drying.
The diagram below represents twill weaving styles:
Twill fabric has a luxurious drape, and is quite resistant to wrinkling. It can be used in many applications, such as apparel, upholstery, and work wear! When you are wondering about what is twill, remember – it’s all in the weave!