Varying the twill

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For the Inexperienced Weaver – Varying the Twill

If you are taking your first steps with 4 shaft weaving you may have started with a straight warp threading (i.e. each shaft threaded in turn) and experimented with different lifts. Using a 2/2 twill on a warp which has been threaded with some changes in direction is an interesting second step.

Plain weave, 2/2 twill and basket weave on a straight threading

I have included drafts but have also given the order for threading the warp and lifting the shafts so it is not necessary to read the draft.

I normally have one of my teaching looms threaded up with a straight threading in the middle and some changes in direction at the sides. When someone who has never woven before has a go, there is a large enough area of straight twill for them to look at and follow, whilst the changes of direction give added interest.

I have used threadings with some changes of direction to make a bag using rug wool set at 3 epc (approx 8 epi). I have also woven a cushion cover with wool of count 2/8.4 nm (2 ply Shetland from Jamieson and Smith) set at 4.5 epc (approx 12 epi). 4/8 wc (2/6.6 nm) wool (double knitting thickness) set at 4 epc /10 epi should give a balanced weave but for scarves I set it at 4.5epc/12 epi to give a warp bias. Although many weavers do not recommend using double knitting wool, I have found it very easy to weave and the scarves are soft and wear well.

Bag woven at 3 epc in rug wool

Cushion cover woven at 4.7 epc. I changed the direction several times at the sides of the weaving to give a pattern in the corners

The following draft shows a suitable pattern if you want a weave a width of just under 8 inches woven at 8 epi (3 epc) or just over 6 inches woven at 10 epi (4 epc). Choose a good contrast between the warp and weft. Janet Phillips advises that a light warp and darker weft work better than a light weft on a dark warp.

In this article I have shown the drafts as lift plans. The main section shows the appearance of the weaving. The blue weft is visible where it goes over the white warp. The top horizontal section shows the order of threading the shafts and the right hand column shows the shafts that are lifted. However, I have also included the threading order and the order of lifting the shafts below so you can try these weaves without following the threading and lifting diagram.

If you want to use the drafts you can refer to Sue Dwyer’s article in Journal 221 which explains lift plans. It needs to be read together with her article on Pattern Drafting in Journal 220.

If you do not want to follow the top of the draft, thread from the left as follows.

    1. Leave one thread for a floating selvage
    2. Shafts 4,3,2,1 four times
    3. Shafts 2,3 4
    4. Shafts 1,2,3,4 three times
    5. Shafts 3,2,1
    6. Shafts 4,3,2 and 1 three times
    7. Shafts 2,3 4
    8. Shafts 1,2,3,4 three times
    9. Leave one thread for a floating selvage

(Total threads 63)

For a bigger width or a larger epc you could repeat steps e, f, g and h, or you could include more straight threading on each side or between the changes of direction.

When you are weaving twill the end thread sometimes stays in the same position for two lifts. An easy way round this is to have a floating selvedge. The end threads are not threaded through a heddle but are threaded through the reed. When you are weaving, the shuttle should enter the shed over this thread and go out under the thread at the other end.

To weave the pattern shown in Figure D1, lift the shafts in the following sequence:

1 and 2, 2 and 3, 3 and 4, 4 and 1. Do this 3 times (Forward Twill)

3 and 4, 2 and 3, 1 and 2, 4 and 1. Do this 3 times (Reverse Twill)

The shape at the centre of the diamonds depends on where you change the direction of the twill. The draft below shows the appearance of the weaving if you change from forward to reverse twill after lifting shafts 3 and 4 and from reverse to forward twill after lifting shafts 1 and 2,

The diamond formed if you change from forward to reverse twill after lift 2 and 3

The diamond formed if you change from forward to reverse twill after lift 1 and 2

Rather than following a list of lifts, watch the diagonal lines forming as you are weaving and experiment with changing direction after different number of lifts. I like the effect of going forward one more lift each time as shown in the photo below.


Photo 3 experimenting with changes in direction

The left hand side shows zig-zags formed on a straight section of the threading. The centre of the diamonds on the right hand side are the same shape because I changed from reverse to forward twill at the same point in the sequence each time. The diamonds toward the centre change shape because I changed from forward to reverse twill after different lifts.

I always pass the shuttle from right to left on lifts 12 and 34 and from left to right on lifts 23 and 41. If I find I am weaving in the opposite direction I realise I have skipped a lift. However, do not worry about making mistakes as they can result in the unexpected. When I am letting people have a go on the loom I often move the shafts for them. I can do forward twill without much thought, but have to concentrate more on reverse twill so I often change by mistake.

Of course there is no reason why you cannot use other lifts on this threading. Experiment and enjoy.

A note on reeds and sett

For most of my weaving, I have used reeds marked 30 and 40. This is the number of dents per 10 cm. However, I have always thought of them as being 8 dpi and 10 dpi (dents per inch). As you can see from the table below this is a closer approximation for the 40 reed than the 30 reed.

Reed sizes

8 dpi

30 d/10cm

10 dpi

40 d/10cm

A thread in every other dent


4.0 epi

3.8 epi

5.0 epi

5.1 epi

1.6 epc

1.5 epc

2.0 epc

2.0 epc

A thread in each dent


8.0 epi

7.6 epi

10.0 epi


3.1 epc

3.0 epc

3.9 epc

4.0 epc

2 threads in one dent, 1 in the next 4

9.6 epi


12.0 epi

12.2 epi

3.8 epc

3.5 epc

4.7 epc

4.8 epc

2 threads in one dent, 1 in the next 3

10.0 epi

9.5 epi


12.7 epi

3.9 epc

3.8 epc


5.0 epc

2 threads in one dent, 1 in the next

12.0 epi

11.4 epi

15.0 epi

15.2 epi

4.7 epc

4.5 epc

5.9 epc

6.0 epc

2 threads in each dent


16.0 epi

15.2 epi

20.0 epi

20.3 epi

6.3 epc

6.0 epc

7.9 epc

8 epc

You can get all the setts I have mentioned above (or close to them) with either reed. The sett may look a bit uneven on the loom but it will even out during washing. However you may find it more convenient to have both a 8 dpi (30) reed and a 10 dpi (40) reed as you will not need to use the more complicated threadings which are shown in the third and fourth rows.

My failed New Year resolution for several years has been to use metric lengths when weaving. I always use metric weights when dyeing and weaving. The main hindrance to my ’conversion’ is a very well designed raddle which is 4 spaces per inch! I hope that writing this article will help me go fully metric.