As with plain weave, there are many ways to alter the structure and appearance of a twill weave. Houndstooth is a classic twill fabric with a small, distinctive pattern that looks like a four-pointed star. This is created by alternating two different colors of warp and filling threads, often black and white to emphasize the pattern. Herringbone twills have diagonal lines that periodically change direction, creating zigzag patterns that look like subtle stripes from a distance. This pattern is made by changing either how the harnesses are threaded or the order in which they are lifted. Herringbone twills are generally made from smooth, medium-weight wool yarns and are used for professional clothing.

Other decorative twills that do not have specific names are called broken twills, pointed twills, or undulating twills. These patterns are created by using more harnesses and more complex systems of threading and of lifting the harnesses. Textile designers have an almost unlimited number of ways to change a twill pattern. These fancy twills are not very common and are generally used for either expensive home furnishings or couture apparel.

See also Cotton; Denim; Gabardine; Indigo; Jean; Levi Strauss; Neckties and Neckwear; Polyester; Rayon; Silk; Weave, Plain; Weave, Satin; Wool.


American Fabrics and Fashion editors. Encyclopedia of Textiles, 3rd ed. Englewood Cliffs, N.J: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1980. Emerson, William K. Encyclopedia of United States Army Insignia and Uniforms. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1996.

Finlayson, Iain. Denim: An American Legend. New York: Simon and Schuster, Inc., 1990. Kadolph, Sara J., and Anna L. Langford. Textiles. 9th ed. Upper Saddle River, N.J: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 2001. Oelsner, G. Hermann, and Samuel S. Dale, eds. A Handbook of Weaves. Mineola, N.Y: Dover Publications, 1990. Original edition published in 1875.

Heather Marie Akou

WEAVE TYPES Names given to fabrics differ depending on who is naming them. One only has to walk through a museum collection and read the labels, to find out that even within the same institution, there is often no agreement on how to categorize a cloth. At different times, lampas, diasper, and tissue have all been used to describe the same type of cloth. Depending on when or who entered the piece into a collection, the label will reflect the terminology of that period. This can be confusing when one is standing next to two fabrics that appear to be similar, but have different labels (i.e., lampas for one and diasper for the other).

In a different textile circle, contemporary hand weavers might be heard talking about weaving using the Theo Moorman technique. The listener won't know, as the weavers themselves might not know, that this structure is identical with lampas, diasper, and tissue. Theo Moorman had the awareness to state that she suspected her technique had been used elsewhere, but since she didn't know where or when, it was not unreasonable for her to call it her own technique. Sometimes the magazines for handweavers have quite imaginative names for types of weaves that are invented by the authors, based only on their own sense of labeling.

The confusion increases when one looks at magazines and articles for the fashion or interior design market, where names are often created for marketing strategies rather than for clarification of terms. Marketers often want to obscure the facts, making something very mundane appear exotic. It is much more exciting to label a cloth as microfiber than it is to remind the public of the negative connotations of polyester, even though they are, in fact, the same.

So it is important to realize that different constituencies in the world of textiles will use different labels for cloth. Even when the same word is being used, it may have a different meaning, depending on the viewpoint and education of the speaker. An interior designer might speak to another designer using the word "tapestry" to describe a wall hanging, and they understand they are discussing a pictorial textile, not necessarily referencing how the work was made. A weaver, however, who thinks in terms of weave structure for classification, overhearing their conversation, might take exception to this usage, unless the work being discussed was specifically a weft-faced plain weave using discontinuous wefts to create the pictorial elements. Thus, it is important to recognize that the classification of weave types reflects the needs and concerns of the group using the terms.

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