Vocab

Know Your Terms: Twill

Because dropping the lingo is half the fun of dressing well.

Diagonal ribs (the wale) on the face of twill fabric

Since we’ve already taken a look at plain weave, it’s time to move on to Part II in our three-part series: Twill. And if plain weave is Weaving 101, then you’ve now graduated to Weaving 201. Congratulations, but it’s still probably best you stay away from a real loom. You do like having hands, right?

Where plain weave is a simple criss-cross pattern, twill complicates things by passing the weft thread over one or more warp threads, then under at least two warp threads, and so on, with an offset between rows, thereby creating a distinctive diagonal rib (the “wale”) throughout the fabric. That second step there, passing the weft under at least two warps, is the defining characteristic of the weave—it’s no coincidence that both “twill” and “two” start the same way.

Unlike plain weave, where both sides of the fabric are exactly the same, twill has a front and a back. The front, called the “face,” is the side with the more pronounced ribs. It’s generally more durable and better looking than the back. Just turn up the cuffs of your favorite jeans—yes, denim is twill—and the difference between the sides becomes pretty readily apparent. And because the weaving pattern that creates these distinct sides requires fewer intersections between warp and weft than plain weave, it allows the threads to move and drape more freely. That drape, plus its wrinkle resistance, is the reason twill is used so often for clothing. Besides denim, you can count chino, gabardine, drill cloth, herringbone, houndstooth, and a host of others in the twill camp. Another bonus of the two-fer weave? The ribbing on the fabric’s face makes it quite adept at concealing dirt and stains. And you can just keep telling yourself that when you’re putting off washing your jeans for yet another week.

Swing on by next Tuesday for a look at satin weave, the final technique in this series.

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