What is Twill?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Twill is a fabric characterized by its diagonal weave. This weave may be evident in tweed variants of twill, where several colors are used. It is less evident when used with a single colored thread like cotton, for use in cotton twill, sometimes also called chino.

Cotton twill, or chino.
Cotton twill, or chino.

Twill tends to be a light fabric, yet tweed, especially when woven with wool, can produce a nice fabric for cool, but not cold temperatures. One example of this type of twill is the Harris Tweed, invented and still used in Scotland. One of the most inventive uses of the Harris Tweed in recent years is the Harris Tweed tennis shoe, made for Nike. It has enjoyed great success as a variant on the traditional tennis shoe.

Woolen twill in the herringbone tweed pattern.
Woolen twill in the herringbone tweed pattern.

Other forms of twill that usually benefit from two colors of yarn are the herringbone, and houndstooth twill, often used in men’s and women’s suits. Though there is only a slight differentiation in color, it is still enough to produce a different look than cloth of a single thread, and many enjoy the patterns.

Twill chinos.
Twill chinos.

Cotton twill is a frequent fabric choice for men’s casual pants in particular. Brands like Dockers have long made use of twill to produce popular men’s chinos, which tend to be both light and comfortable, offering a dressier, but still comfortable change from denim. Because of the weave method, twill tends to give more than other weaves, so twill pants can be a nice choice for a day of picnicking, walking, or camping.

Twill pants are also preferable because the weave tends to resist staining. Stains show up less, because they have a more difficult time adhering to the multiple thread use. Twill fabrics are often used for upholstery for this purpose, usually with mixed thread, as they are naturally more stain resistant than a flat weave.

The most basic twill weave is two threads in one direction, crossed over by a single thread in the opposite direction. This gives the weave its characteristic design, although the weave can be far more complex depending upon the degree to which the weaver wants a design in the twill to show.

In general the best twills for use are those with the highest thread count, as this will increase the durability of the fabric. Both cotton and wool twill are preferable over polyester or rayon twill, as they will be more durable. Higher thread counts also produce thicker twill, which not only resists staining but damage from water, and protection from chilly breezes when the twill is used for clothing.

Some tennis shoes are made with twill fabric.
Some tennis shoes are made with twill fabric.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments

anon255522

What is the difference between Twill and drill?

aal149

What is the difference between Chinos and Denim?

cayenne

Twill makes excellent skirt fabric. Skirts made of twill tend to drape well and flatter most body types. It also has a nice feeling for the wearer.

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