Twills Plain and Fancy– Recipe Books: Remember: Bubbles Rise!

The “Davison” book, is a bible to many weavers. However, when I was teaching I never showed it to my students. That was because I was teaching them how to make their own drafts. And the “Davison book” taught recipes. Tonight I looked at the Table of Contents and saw there are 3 whole chapters devoted to twills. The entire book is for 4 shafts (harnesses).


Here is my own copy, the cover worn out and tucked inside. That tells you how much I, myself, have looked at that book.  There are times when I’ve wanted a recipe—and to know something was going to probably turn out. And following a recipe can be fun. There are hundreds of ideas in this book all the drafts are included!


However, all the drafts are meant to be read differently from the way most weavers these days and for a long time learned to read them. It tells you so on page XII, but who reads those pages usually? Her tie-up drafts tell what shafts are to be LOWERED. Even when I was learning in the 70’s we learned to read drafts that in the tie-ups, the little o’s told what shafts were to be LIFTED. The mantra was “bubbles rise”! But in this book, there are little x’s in the tie-up drafts and that those x’s represent shafts lowered. That’s because in the olden days almost all looms were counterbalance looms and you treadled to pull the shafts DOWN. (and that made the other shafts rise!) This photo shows you what to do when a draft has x’s and the instructions are that they are for lowered shafts. You treadle all the shafts that are not indicated. So if the book wants 1 and 2 and down, then you raise 3 and 4 to accomplish the same thing. In the photo I show bubbles wherever there are no x’s. That means you raise those shafts.


This is how I learned to read drafts in the 70’s and taught my students for many years. It’s the same as the Davison book except for the tie-up drafts as I explained above. Each section is read starting at the dark solid lines dividing the quadrants. It means that sometimes, you read right-to-left and sometimes, vice versa. Sometimes, you read from the top down and other times from the bottom up. You can follow the arrows and see that they work outward from the dividing lines. An example is that I read threading drafts and thread right-to-left.


The Strickler book seems to have come out in 1991 and my copy is the 17th printing. That was when I was busy teaching theory so never discovered the book. It relates to the Davison book but all the patterns are for 8 shafts. There are hundreds of wildly interesting patterns. And the drafts are all included. I counted that there are 7 chapters on twills!


I was embarrassed recently when I was teaching some not-beginner weavers some drafting. Someone finally showed me the book and that explained why they were so confused with what I was showing. I love how she says it on page 8: “…the left end of the threading [draft] is the left side of the repeat in the photos, and the bottom of the treadling is the bottom of the repeat. So to weave as shown, read the threading in the same direction as you thread (looking at the front of the loom) and follow the treadling from bottom to top. If you thread in the opposite direction, follow the treadling from top to bottom.” (my underlines) This makes a lot of sense in today’s world. I was ashamed that I didn’t realize this “new” way.


Warning! This is what I wrote at the beginning of my drafting chapter in “Weaving for Beginners”: “Knowing how to read weave drafts and write your own is enormously satisfying and is a tremendously important part of weaving and designing, but it is not the only part to know. What drafts don’t tell is anything about the yarns, colors, ends per inch (epi), the beat or the wefts per inch (ppi), for instance. When you read directions for a project in a book or magazine, you must read every word that is written about the project. All that information is crucial to reproducing what the directions are for…. Also, pay close attention to any photographs or graphics.”

A Fancy Twill


I can’t remember where I first saw this pattern but I do remember it was called a “fancy twill” and I’ve always called it that. I wove a bit with this thick red silk weft before the pandemic. It’s a twill.

Here is the way it works. In the photo it shows what the warps are doing: 3 up, 2 down, 1 up, and 2 down for each pick. (Just like the fraction shows.) When you design a twill like this, all the numbers need to add up to the number of shafts you are using. In this case, it’s an 8-shaft    “fancy” twill.

Here in the weaving I think you can track the warps up and down by following a weft.

Here is the back side of the cloth.

I wove some of the pattern in white on white with the idea I might see how it would dye. Of course, the pattern doesn’t show up when there’s not contrasting warps and wefts. However, you can make a pattern appear if you change the warp color, say for a border; and have the center part have the warp and weft be the same. I’ve used this idea and like it a lot. It makes me think of Nellie, one of my students. She made an elaborate twill draft for a scarf but made the warp and weft the same except for one tiny inch. All her work didn’t show up except for in that one-inch section of warp. But I took her “idea” to heart.

Look what I found in the Handwoven magazine I got this week! My “Nellie idea”!

A Weft-faced Twill: Actually, Weft Predominant Twill


Here is another piece I wove for a background for a scroll. You might recognize the warp from the “Three Faces of Karl” scroll in previous posts. I seemed to be wanting to use up things I’d been hoarding in my studio: this time, the black thin wool boucle. And I wanted to show off the boucle which I love and the rough silk as wefts.

Here is the back side which shows the warp dominating. This was the back when I was weaving and remained so.

Since there is a fat weft and the thin boucle weft, the selvedges naturally go in and out. Thick yarns don’t turn as easily as thin ones at the selvedges, but I didn’t want to lose the idea of the special silk so I let it stick out or turn at the selvedge as it wanted to.

This is a close-up of the warp face side (the back side). The thick weft is very rough being made of the waste part of silk cocoons. It’s called kibiso. It is very lumpy and sort of flat, and a little paper-like. I dyed it with black walnuts a year ago and kept looking at it until I finally decided to try it.

Today I finished the top and bottom and attached the silks I had dyed. So here is the finished scroll.

“Three Faces…” Revisited: Broken Point and Unbalanced Twills


Someone asked me about the weave structure for the background of this piece in the previous post. I realized there is a story behind it. (Just when I think I’ve run out of post ideas, something comes up to get me going again!)

This is what I intended to weave. Since I was going to use the butcher’s twine that I’d been hoarding for years, I wanted to have the weft dominate the warp to show it off. When I think of twills I usually think of balanced twills where the warp and weft show equally. That can be written as 2/2 twill. In the fraction, the top number represents the number of warps lifted and the bottom number, the warps to be lowered. Regularly the treadling would be 12, 23, 34, 41 etc. And to reverse the direction it would be 41, 34, 32, 21 etc.

For the weft to dominate over the warp I need to weave a weft faced twill. That would be a 1/3 twill with 1 shaft up and 3, down. 1,2,3,4, and 4,3,2,1. That would be easy with only one shaft lifted at a time and the weft would show a lot and the warp hardly any. (because only 1 warp would be up for each row). In the piece, I wove 16 rows one direction and 16 rows the other.

Besides that, I wanted the points where the direction of the twill changed to be crisp so special attention needed to be made. Normally one might think to change the direction at the point you would treadle 1,2,3,4,3,2,1. The point is often mush or not sharp with that treadling. What you do is at the point of reversal you jump to a specific treadle and to begin the reverse direction. How do you know what to do? Read on.

You make yourself a “twill circle”.  You make a circle and put on it as many points as there are treadles for one repeat. The photo shows the circle I used for a 4-shaft twill. Wherever you end up and are ready to change directions, you jump to the point directly across the circle. In this instance if I ended with treadle 4, the next treadle should be 2. That would be the first shot for the reversed direction. So wherever my 16th row happened to land, I would always know what treadle to start the reversal with. If I ended on 1, then I would begin with 3. The lower circle shows a circle if I were weaving with 8 shafts. If I ended up on treadle 4 I would jump to treadle 8 and if I landed on treadle 5, I would know to jump to treadle 1.

However, I decided I liked the wrong side better when it was off the loom! The wrong side is the reverse, with the warp dominating as a 3/1 twill. If you look closely at one row you might be able to see 3 warps up between each single weft. Warp face and weft faced twills can be called unbalanced twills as opposed to balanced twill which would be a 2/2 or 4/4 twill, or 5/5 twill etc.