When you buy clothes or anything made out of fabric, you have to consider not just the type of material, but also the weave used to make the cloth. Different woven structures can create unique materials from the same thread! For example, when you wonder, what is twill fabric the answer could be denim, khaki, or even tweed!
Twill is one of the three most popular weaving patterns used to make most kinds of cloth. This pattern features unique diagonal lines, in contrast to the straight lines of satin weave and plain weave. Popular types of material like denim, tweed and khaki all use a twill weave.
In this article, you will learn what a twill weave pattern looks like. You will discover the common characteristics of cloth made with a twill weave. Finally, you will find tips on the popular uses of this essential fabric structure.
What is Twill Fabric?
Twill fabric is any fabric woven in a twill pattern, including denim, tweed, and several kinds of cotton and linen material. When you look closely at this kind of cloth, you will notice diagonal lines in the individual threads or yarns of the material. This unique diagonal weaving pattern distinguishes twill weave from the other popular types of fabric weaves.
The diagonal thread structure in twill fabric makes it a great choice for many wool suiting materials, like tweed, houndstooth, and herringbone. It also looks elegant in fine bedding and drapes well for clothing such as some blouses.
Besides its unique appearance, this kind of fabric often has a durable structure that makes it ideal for upholstery and bags and many kinds of clothing. Its durable, strong structure makes it a popular choice for bath towels, as well!
Most of the time, you will not see a type of material referred to as “twill fabric,” though. Instead, you will see the kind of material used, such as cotton or wool, and then the description may include that the cotton material has a twill weave, or that the wool has a herringbone weave, and so on.
What is a Twill Weave?
A twill weave is a special pattern made when the horizontal weft thread weaves over several vertical warp threads and then under the warp threads, forming a diagonal pattern in the material. These rows stagger and form an offset pattern of tiny checks or diagonal lines.
The other two major weaving patterns, plain weave and satin weave, use a straight weave pattern of crisscrossing horizontal and vertical threads. This makes twill weave very unique.
When you dig into the specifics of a twill weave, you will also find that cloth manufacturers designate a special fraction to identity how many warp threads lie under each weft thread in the pattern. For instance, 4/1 indicates that the horizontal thread will cross four vertical threads at a time.
This kind of weaving structure forms a particularly dense fabric with a very high thread count. This also makes the twill-weave fabric thicker and more durable than a fabric woven in another pattern.
You will often see that the front side of a twill fabric looks darker than the back side. The front side of this fabric with its ribbed diagonal lines is called the wale. Its darker appearance happens because of the weft thread crossing multiple warp threads at one time.
Most of the time, twill fabric uses its distinctive weave as its only decoration. However, you will not often see this material printed with any dyed designs.
You can also find many variations on the twill weave. Diamond, broken, and elongated twill weave patterns all look slightly different. You can also find variations like a herringbone or houndstooth pattern, though you see those most often in wool.
That said, manufacturers will combine different-colored warp and weft threads to highlight the diagonal ribbing. Denim, for example, uses white and blue threads that cross over and under each other to form a blue-grey color. In addition, houndstooth wool may use black and white wool yarns to form its distinctive checked pattern.
What is Twill Fabric Made Of
In practice, today you will find many kinds of twill-weave fabric made out of polyester. Polyester is a versatile, sturdy, synthetic material that costs much less than all-natural materials like cotton and wool. For this reason, many manufacturers make “knock-off” versions of almost every kind of material out of polyester these days. You can find versions of polyester silk, polyester satin, and polyester twill-weave fabrics like khaki and bedsheets!
That said, cotton twill fabric remains super popular as well. For example, almost all denim for jeans and jackets still contains those distinctive cotton threads in a blue-and-white twill weave. You can also find cotton twill weave bed sheets if you don’t mind paying a lot more than you would for polyester!
Twill Fabric Properties
Most kinds of twill fabric share some common properties, though these characteristics depend on the kind of material used within the weave. For example, twill-weave cotton may feel softer than twill-weave polyester. In general, though, you can expect most twill-weave fabrics to have a high level of durability, avoid wrinkling, allow easy care, and drape well.
The softness of any twill fabric depends almost entirely on the type of material used. For example, denim will get softer over time, while a polyester twill may not. Likewise, bath towels made of cotton fleece will feel remarkably soft, but khaki made out of a twill weave will feel coarser to the touch.
However, most twill fabrics have a reputation for sturdiness and durability rather than softness. The extra-high thread count used in these types of material creates a very opaque and thick material in most cases.
On its own, twill fabric will not stretch much at all. You can find stretch twill fabrics, though. These materials incorporate a small percentage of an elastic fiber like Spandex, elastane, or Lycra. This kind of cloth, usually made of cotton or polyester, will have a nice give to it.
In rare cases, you may also find clothes made of twill material cut on the bias. Cutting any fabric diagonally to its grain can create a looser, stretchier give to the garment. Because twill already has diagonal lines, you don’t see this as often as you do with a plain-weave fabric, though.
Twill fabrics have very high durability and you can often find them in workwear such as hardy jackets, overalls, and work uniforms because of this. Plus, twill weave forms one of the most popular American fabrics of all time, the classic denim you find in blue jeans!
So, what makes twill weave fabric so sturdy? The high thread count and raised ridges in the weave make it hard-wearing. It takes a lot to rub a hole in a twill fabric! Of course, the material used does play a role here as well. Polyester fabric will hold up longer than cotton, for example.
Twill fabric does not have a high level of breathability. Now, this is not to say that you will feel suffocated if you wear this cloth! Depending on the material used, you may find that the fabric fibers allow a certain amount of airflow despite this tight, dense weave.
Denim is a great example of this. It can feel clingy in hot and humid weather, but it usually breathes pretty comfortably around your skin because it contains cotton fibers and excellent breathability.
If you buy faux-khaki pants made out of polyester, though, you may feel very warm indeed! These fibers do not breathe and combined with the dense weave of a twill weaving pattern, they will create a super-nonbreathable fabric.
Twill typically drapes very well because it has extra yarns, or floats, over the warp thread to create its diagonal pattern. Twill weaves almost always drape better than plain weaves, but the type of fiber in the cloth makes a big difference, too. A more pliable material like cotton will drape better than a less pliable material like polyester.
That said, the density of a weave can negatively impact drapability. So, if you have a super dense, strong weave such as a heavy khaki fabric, it will not drape well at all! A looser weave will always have more drape than a densely packed, high-thread-count weave.
Ultimately, the drape depends on the weave, the type of fiber used in the cloth, and the density of the weave. Twill fabric often drapes beautifully, but the type of fiber and the density of the weave can make it much stiffer.
There is no good way to pin down the average cost of twill fabric. The price depends on a huge range of factors, including the type of material used to make the cloth, the complexity and density of the weave, and the brand of the clothing or fabric manufacturer.
You can count on a few reliable factors, though. Synthetic fabrics made in a twill weave will almost always cost less than natural fabrics woven in the same way. For this reason, you can get affordable polyester twill bedsheets but will have to pay more to get cotton twill weave bedsheets.
Twill weave fabric may also cost more than a plain weave or satin weave cloth because it has a high thread count. This means manufacturers have to use more thread to make this cloth, and they turn that cost right around on the consumer.
If you want the highest quality twill weave clothing or household products, remember to check the fraction that tells you how many threads cross over the warp thread in the pattern. This will give you a good indication of the density and softness of the cloth.
And of course, as with any clothing or household goods, the brand can also impact the price. For example, a pair of Carhartt work coveralls will probably cost significantly more than a generic or store-brand pair of khaki coveralls. Sometimes, you pay for the reputation of the brand and the quality it promises, not just for the type of material in the product!
Twill weave fabric tends to have super easy care. It does not wrinkle or stain easily. Whether or not you can throw it in the washing machine does depend on the kind of material used, though.
The most popular twill weave cloth contains cotton or polyester. These can typically go in the washer with no problem. However, fabric made of wool may require dry cleaning or special care.
Is Twill Warm?
Twill fabric can feel warm depending on the material used to make it. It often has a dense, thick weave that helps to provide warmth. However, some fibers like wool will provide more insulation and warmth than other fibers like cotton.
That said, twill-weave cloth usually has more heft and thickness than a plain weave material such as poplin or muslin. For this reason, it will provide more warmth than most plain weave fabrics.
If you want a warm coat in a distinctive twill weave, you should probably buy one made of wool!
Twill Fabric Types
The key thing to know about twill fabric types is that you can find many different kinds of cloth made with a twill weave. Check the most popular of these materials here!
If you look closely at denim, you will notice the characteristic diagonal lines made from this unique weave.
If you find yourself scratching your head when you see people online talk about “twill vs denim,” don’t get confused! Denim is a kind of twill fabric, but only one of many. Twill simply refers to a special weaving pattern used to make many different types of cloth.
Tweed, Herringbone, and Houndstooth Wool
Some of the fanciest twill weave patterns include tweed, herringbone, and houndstooth designs. Most of the time, you find these designs used in wool fabric to make suiting material or outerwear like winter coats.
Tweed uses a version of a twill weave that creates tiny V shapes up and down the pattern instead of just diagonal lines. Usually, you see this kind of wool made from pre-dyed yarns so that you can note the contrast in the V shapes.
Herringbone fabric uses a twill weave, but it has lines of alternating diagonals to make another type of cool contrast. You see this a lot in brown and white, black and white, or grey and white, though sometimes you will find more colorful versions, too!
Houndstooth patterns get quite complex and look like many tiny dogheads with sharp teeth contrasted by another color. Despite the complexity, this design still uses a 2/2 twill weave pattern.
Now, khaki also plays a popular role in much tougher workwear these days. For this reason, you can find some durable, thick, heavy-duty twill-weave khaki in clothing like outdoor work trousers or even in some work boots!
Cotton twill is one of those catch-all terms used to describe any type of diagonally-woven fabric made with cotton fibers. This can include denim, khaki, drill, and gabardine materials.
This kind of fabric usually has a dense weave and stiffer feel that makes it a good choice for pants or trousers. It will not drape as much as many other types of cotton cloth like poplin or broadcloth.
Polyester is a jack-of-all-trades in the fabric world and can appear in many different kinds of cloth depending on the weave used. For this reason, you can find lots of different will-weave polyester cloth variations out there.
Synthetic fabrics like polyester do not come from the natural world. Instead, they often come from plastics and chemicals melted and stretched in a factory into long, cloth-like threads. These threads have a great deal of versatility and cost much less than most natural materials.
For this reason, you will find khaki that is made out of polyester, not cotton. It still uses a twill weave, though! You may also find suiting or jacket materials made with distinctive diagonal ribbing that contains polyester or a poly blend.
What Is Cotton Twill Fabric?
You already know quite a bit about denim and khaki, but what are gabardine and drill?
Gabardine fabric has a tight, closely woven twill weave with tiny diagonal ribs on one side but in miniature. This dense material makes excellent jackets, coats, and pants. As a fun fact, the guy who founded Burberry invented gabardine fabric!
A cotton drill is an especially sturdy kind of cotton cloth that feels a little more like canvas, though it still contains that diagonal weave of a twill pattern. This material uses coarse carded yarns rather than finer cotton yarns. It has a long life and remains super durable even in tough conditions.
Twill vs Cotton: Is Twill Better?
Comparing twill vs cotton is like trying to compare fruit and oranges. Twill is a broad description applied to any fabric that uses a special diagonal pattern in the weave. Cotton is a kind of natural fiber used in many types of popular cloth like denim, chambray, and poplin.
So you can have a twill fabric made of cotton, or a cotton twill fabric, or get specific by naming the type of cloth, such as denim or khaki. But you can’t say that twill is better than cotton, as they are two very different things.
That said, you can compare cotton fabric made with a twill weave to cotton fabric made in other ways, such as with a plain weave. For example, if you want a warm, comfortable shirt or t-shirt, you may want to compare the benefits of brushed cotton vs twill-weave cotton.
Brushed cotton is typically made with a plain weave, but gets its soft texture from applying metal brushes to the fabric’s surface. This creates thousands of tiny floating bits of cotton fiber on the surface of the cloth. You can find brushed cotton t-shirts, shirts, and even bedsheets that feel ultra-soft and warm!
Twill cotton will drape more heavily and will also keep you warm. However, it has a stiffer, thicker texture than brushed cotton. It also may cost more because it uses more threads than plain-weave cotton.
Twill vs Linen
Once again, you can’t truly compare twill vs linen, as twill is the structure of the fabric and linen is the material used to create the structure.
Though it is less common than cotton or polyester, you can find twill fabric made of linen. You see this in some high-end shirts, for example, because the weave uses more linen thread and costs more than plain weave linen.
Twill linen often has a heavier drape than plain-weave linen. It will feel denser and thicker in your hand. It will have noticeably diagonal ridges across its surface instead of the loose, mesh-like basket weave of plain linen.
Interestingly, you can find historical precedent for this kind of cloth. Long ago in Scotland, a special type of linen cloth known as Jacobean linen twill emerged as a perfect background for intricate crewel embroidery. This material shows a diagonal pattern on both sides of the fabric, rather than just one.
Poplin vs Twill
When you compare poplin vs twill, you find few similarities except that both kinds of cloth can make nice dress shirts and clothing.
Poplin is a special cotton fabric that uses a plain, crisscrossed weave instead of a twill weave. It has different thicknesses in its warp and weft yarns which creates tiny horizontal ribs in the fabric’s surface. Invented way back in the 1400s in honor of the current pope, poplin fabric became a popular shirting material because of its unique texture and light, breathable weave.
Twill fabric, of course, simply describes the type of weaving pattern used to create many kinds of cloth. A twill weave cloth will have a heavier feel than poplin most of the time because poplin uses a plain weave.
What is Micro Twill Fabric?
Micro twill fabric features the same diagonal ribbing you find in any twill fabric, but in miniature and made out of finely sanded yarns to create an ultra-soft surface. Micro twill does not have a lot of press yet, but it makes excellent dresses and skirts!
You often find this fabric made out of 100% cotton or in a French twill design made out of cotton. Either way, it will feel soft and drape very well.
What is Polyester Twill Fabric?
Polyester twill fabric is any cloth made using polyester fibers in a twill weave pattern. It will often have ridged diagonal lines on at least one side of the material. In some cases, the polyester fibers will create a lustrous appearance on the ribbed surface, too.
Polyester often does not feel as soft as cotton and is less breathable. The dense twill weave can make this kind of polyester cloth very unbreathable!
On the bright side, polyester twill has much greater durability, meaning that polyester twill will have a long lifespan. Polyester can also undergo easy care and is fully washable.
What is Twill Fabric Good For?
For clothing, you generally wear twill fabric in heavier work wear, pants, or in a jacket or coat. That said, a twill weave made of breathable cotton can feel great in the heat, as the many ridges in its weave provide little dimples for air to sneak through. Twill weave made out of wool offers equally impressive insulation to keep you warm in the winter!
Common types of clothes made out of twill weave fabric include jeans, denim jackets, khaki and chino pants, work uniforms, military uniforms, winter coats, and suits.
Popular household uses of twill weave include many types of upholstery fabric, sheets, and bath towels. Manufacturers like a twill weave for these items because it creates a sturdier, more durable material that will not wear away with heavy use. For bedsheets, a twill weave can provide a warm, soft, and drapey fabric that feels great in the winter months.
Twill fabric is a broad term applied to any kind of cloth woven in a twill pattern. A twill weave has a distinctive pattern of diagonal lines made with raised ridges of thread. Twill fabric can contain many different kinds of material, including cotton, polyester, or wool.
Some of the most popular types of twill fabric are denim, khaki, and tweed. Intricate weaving patterns like herringbone and houndstooth also use a twill weave.
Have you ever noticed the twill weave pattern in your jeans or khakis? What do you like best about twill fabrics? Leave a comment below to let us know!