Twill(ing) Really is Thrilling


It didn’t hit me until just now that Yearning to Weave has officially turned one. This means special dessert. I’m a big fan of celebrating occasions of any sort with dessert, and I am sorry that you are not here to help me celebrate. But fear not! I will ensure that your serving of celebratory dessert is, um, not wasted.

My first proper weaving lesson was on a four-shaft Schacht table loom, a direct tie- up loom. Schacht builds two direct tie-up looms: the Wolf Pup and the table loom. They are referred to as direct tie-up because each shaft is attached directly to a lever or treadle. Raising a shaft to create a shed is as simple as pulling a lever or depressing a foot treadle. If you want to raise more than one shaft at a time, you need to pull or depress more than one lever or treadle at the same time.

Typically it is recommended that you have at least 100 heddles on each shaft, though depending on what you like to weave, you may want to increase quantities on some of the shafts. For example, on my Wolf Pup, I have more heddles on the first shaft for when I do lace weaves and more heddles on the second and third harnesses, which I find helpful when weaving point twills.

I am a very happy owner of a Wolf Pup, and I love it. It doesn’t take up much space when I’m not weaving, and I can put it in my car without assistance. This makes bringing it to workshops or classes a cinch, or even bringing it from room to room. The Wolf Pup comes standard with four shafts and an 18” weaving width, while the table looms are available in 15”, 20” or 25” weaving widths and either four or eight shafts.

twill pillow

Four shafts open up a new world of weaving possibilities, but mostly I love this type of loom as it gives me the ability to weave twills easily and efficiently. I didn’t jump onto the twill party train right away. I was originally more fascinated by combining color and texture in plain weave. But about a year ago I decided I wanted to weave myself a jacket.

After much research, I decided that a 2/2 straight twill weave would give me the drape and finish I was looking for. A 2/2 twill is created when a weft thread repeatedly passes over and under two warp threads. Here’s another way to think about this. The 2/2 designation tells you how many shafts are up/down when throwing a pick. So a 1/3 twill means that you’d only be lifting one shaft per pick, while three remain down.

Chapter two in Sharon Alderman’s Mastering Weave Structures is an excellent twill tutorial. She gives an overview of why twill weaves should generally have a closer sett than plain weaves. If you think of plain weave where each pick goes over one warp thread and under the next, the weft picks require just as much space as the warp threads to exist on that plane of weaving. They separate each warp thread from its neighbor on their slalom path across your weaving.

Since a twill weave creates floats as your weft passes over and/or under two or more warp threads, the space between warp threads located at each float doesn’t need to be increased to accommodate the width of the passing weft pick. This decreased need for extra space between warp threads means that your warp threads need to be just a bit closer in order to achieve a certain finished look. That is why you will typically see different twill and tabby setts for a given yarn.

As soon as I wove my 2/2 twill jacket project, I suddenly found myself crazy about twills. I couldn’t even begin to count how many twill variations there are out there, and I don’t suppose I’ll ever manage to weave them all, but I will give it a good shot.

I am particularly drawn to point twills at the moment. Point twills use symmetrical reversals of threading, typically starting and ending on the same harness. Deborah Chandler’s book Learning to Weave, p. 131, has a nice diagram of basic twill drafts. This is an excellent book to have in your weaving library, especially if you’re newer to weaving.

This month’s project originally started out as a bag, but quickly turned into pillow fabric when I realized that it lacked the structure I wanted in a bag fabric and was just too dang soft and lovely to submit to the abuses of bagdom.

I selected a Bird’s Eye 1/3 twill from Anne Dixon’s The Handweaver’s Pattern Directory. The nice thing about this twill is that you only have to raise one shaft at a time. You’ll remember that 1/3 means one shaft up and three down, which makes weaving on a direct tie up loom nice and simple. The threading is 1-2-3-4-3-2-repeated across, and the treadling mirrors the threading, 1-2-3-4-3-2-repeated.


Materials and equipment

4-shaft loom

Jaggerspun Zephyr 50% Wool/50% Silk, ~997 yards (3.2 ounces), colorway Mushroom


Coordinating ribbon, ~7 yards depending on size, I used silvery gray seam binding

Pillow insert, 12” x 16” travel size

Sewing machine or needle and thread

Jaggerspun Zephyr has a recommended twill sett of 22 – 28 ends per inch and a recommended tabby sett of 18 – 20 ends per inch.

Sett: 24 epi

Warp length: 63”

Width on loom: 15”

Total ends: 360

Picks per inch: 26 (5 per inch with ribbon)

Total warp needed: 630 yards

Total weft needed: 367 yards

Measure a 63” warp. If you are using a warping board, make a measuring string to find a route around the pegs that approximates this length.

You may need to shift some of your heddles to shafts two and three as you’ll need 120 heddles on each of these shafts and only 60 on shafts one and four.

Weave 27” in pattern using your Jaggerspun. Weave approximately 3” in pattern using your coordinating ribbon. Finish weaving 6” in pattern using your Jaggerspun.

Cut from the loom and zigzag stitch your cut edges using a walking foot if you have one. Hand wash in warm water and lay flat to dry. Press your fabric being careful around the ribbon woven section that your temperature isn’t too hot depending on your material.

Fold your fabric in half with the outsides facing in. Sew up each long side and over about 2” leaving an opening at the end large enough to accommodate your pillow insert. Turn your pillow cover right side to and insert the pillow insert. Pin the opening closed and hand stitch to finish. The section of ribbon should form a vertical stripe down the center of one side of your pillow.

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Melissa Ludden Hankens

You can find Melissa designing weaving projects for the Schacht blog and E-news. Melissa is also online at and on Instagram as mlhankens ( ).