I’ll come right out and say it: I absolutely love a shaded twill. It is a very simple way to add depth and interest to the simplest threading, and you can build upon the basics to weave all sorts of creative designs.
The four-shaft twills
When you weave a twill on four shafts, you have three basic options as shown in the liftplans below.
Raising one shaft at a time gives you a weft-faced twill, two shafts at a time gives you a balanced twill and three shafts at a time gives you a warp-faced twill.
A shaded twill is achieved by weaving these three twills in a cycle so that you move from weft-faced through balanced to warp-faced and back again. The weft and warp are gradually interchanged, as shown in the drawdown.
With solid colors in warp and weft, the effect on four shafts is of bands of color appearing and disappearing. You can play around with this effect by introducing stripes of shaded color in the warp.
In this example, the weft is the same color as the outermost stripes of the warp. The lighter colors in the center of the warp are highlighted by the additional emphasis in the warp-faced areas. By varying the number of repeats of each twill in the sequence, you can make the bands longer or shorter.
Another feature of this piece is that the threading is not a straight draw but a herringbone. You can use any twill threading with this approach. There is no need to stick to a straight liftplan either, as long as you maintain the cycle: warp-faced > balanced > weft-faced > balanced > warp-faced.
On eight shafts
Fun as they are on four, shaded twills really come into their own on eight shafts when you can weave two distinct blocks.
If you are twill weaving on a table loom, then you are free to mix and match, so that you can weave, for example, 1/3 in one block with any of 1/3, 2/2 or 3/1 in the other.
You will be more limited on a floor loom with treadles, as you need to decide on the combinations you want before you start. With 12 treadles, you can weave the drafts below, which have the two blocks shading in opposite directions.
This structure can look “blocky” in solid colors, but if you make your warp of mixed yarns and vary the width and length of your blocks — as in the example below and at the top of this article — then the edges of the blocks are softened and the overall effect is very dynamic.