Expand Your Design Options by Mixing Twills

Have you ever wondered how many variations of twill designs for weaving there are? It is such a diverse family of weaves that, even if you never use more than four shafts, you are unlikely ever to run out of options! One of the most useful ways to explore this world of twills is to weave a twill sample blanket or gamp. By mixing a selection of threadings and treadlings you will create your very own handwoven pattern directory.

twill sample blanket or gamp

Step 1: Choose your twills

First you need to plan your threading. For a classic gamp, this will consist of equal-sized blocks, each roughly 2 inches wide in the reed. Making each block a multiple of 4 ends is sensible; making them a multiple of 12 ends is even better! In my piece, I have chosen 48 ends, so I can easily use threading repeats of 4, 6, 8 or 12 ends.

To choose your twills you can browse through any weaving reference book or use the online resources at handweaving.net.

I selected the following 6 variants:

a selection of twill threadings

I also decided that I would use a 4-end stripe of straight twill as a border and to separate the pattern blocks. Altogether my threading consists of 316 ends: the full draft is available here.

Step 2: Wind your warp and dress the loom

I decided to keep my focus on the pattern and so my twill blocks are all the same color, a light blue-green, with a pale gray stripe for the borders. My chosen yarn is a 6/2 cotton, which works well with a twill sett of 20 epi, so each pattern block is a shade under 2.5 inches wide.

When you are setting up your loom with a mixed threading like this, it is important to stay awake! It is all too easy to forget which block you are in. I approach my threading in groups, selecting the heddles I want for a whole pattern repeat and arranging them into roughly the shape they make on the page before I start. Then, I take hold of the appropriate number of ends – 4, 6, 8 or 12 in this case – so that when I run out of heddles, I should also have run out of ends and vice versa.

Step 3: Weaving

For the first section of your gamp, take a 2/2 twill tie-up and number the lifts 1 to 4 as follows.

tie-up for 2/2 twill

Then start to weave – beginning with a border stripe if you are using one – by treadling (or lifting) the same sequence as you used in the threading. So for a straight twill, you threaded 1-2-3-4: now you are going to weave 1-2-3-4, using the tie-up as your key. I wove my piece with 4 picks for the border stripes and 48 picks for the pattern blocks, so that the threading and treadling were exactly the same.

Again, I chose to weave with a single weft color – a light yellow-green this time – and my pale gray border yarn. This means that the different appearance of each block is entirely due to the pattern of interlacement, and it is fascinating to see just how much diversity there is!

twill gamp on the loom

Once you have worked your way through the threading sequences, you can start to experiment with other lift combinations. You might choose to try 1/3  or 3/1 twills, or a combination of the two. I particularly like mixing twill and plain weave lifts, so that is what I did for a further four pattern blocks (see the full draft for more details). One of my favorites is a cord weave: on a straight draw it produces a fine warp-faced stripe, but mixed with the advancing twill threading the effect is so exaggerated that it looks more like the lacing on a corset.

cord weave block in twill gamp
The bottom row of blocks is woven with a cord weave treadling. The lift sequence is 1 & 3, 1 & 4, 2 & 4, 1 & 4.

Step 4: Finish and enjoy

My cotton twill sampler is just the right weight and size for a table display. Woven in wool, it would make a fabulous pillow cover – or perhaps a whole set of pillows, if you get carried away by the possibilities!

twill gamp displayed with ceramic bowl

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Have you ever woven a twill gamp? What are your favorite twill combinations?

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