Twills on 8 shafts: Tie-up basics

Today I am picking up the theme of 8-shaft twills which we had started just before Christmas and the 12 Twills series. In my first post on 8-shaft twills I looked at blocks, which are a great way to build up complex twills out of 4-shaft components. However, we don’t need to work exclusively in units of 4. We can stretch the basic idea of a twill – its distinctive progression – to as many shafts as we have available.

Straight Draw

Let’s start by threading a straight draw across all 8 shafts.

And then let’s tie-up the first treadle (or plan the first lift if treadles aren’t your thing!) so that we create a balanced 2/2 twill.

In fact we have a 2/2/2/2 twill! Two shafts are raised, two lowered, two raised and two lowered. The twill progression then takes us to

and by the time we have completed the tie-up we have

What we have done here, of course, we could have done on four shafts, but knowing how it works enables us to start tinkering.

A Different Balance

If we want to see equal amounts of warp and weft on the face of our cloth, we no longer need to stick to a 2/2 tie-up to achieve it. We just need to arrange our 8 shafts so that on any given lift 4 shafts are up and 4 shafts are down.

The obvious option to go for is a 4/4 twill:

As this has only two interlacements per eight ends, however, it is quite an open weave and may not suit every yarn. You might want to choose a somewhat tighter sett than you would use for the same yarn in a 2/2 twill – or you might like the opportunity to explore a looser texture in your cloth. That’s your design decision!

A more integrated weave can be created by a 3/1/1/3 twill:

This gives us areas of 3-end floats in both warp and weft as well as a narrow line of plain weave – over one, under one – which helps to hold the structure together. The contrast of more open and more tightly interlaced areas is, for me, one of the really appealing aspects of multi-shaft twills. In terms of colour it allows us to see warp, weft and a blend of the two.

Further Variations

So far all our tie-ups have been balanced, but they don’t need to be. One of the pleasures of twills is that we can make the two sides of the cloth look quite different by having more of the warp show on one face and more of the weft show on the other.

Again, we can ‘go big’ with our tie-up and create a 5/3, 6/2 or even a 7/1 twill. Here is a 6/2 twill from the face…

…and the back of the cloth:

This approach gives maximum contrast but carries the same difficulty as the 4/4 twill, with the bonus element that we also have – potentially – some very long floats to deal with. With a very fine yarn, or a yarn that fulls well, this is not necessarily a problem; it is just something to bear in mind.

We can construct a more interlaced alternative by restricting ourselves to lifting (or lowering) no more than 3 adjacent shafts at a time. For example, a 3/2/2/1 twill gives us a total of 5 shafts raised and 3 lowered, so we still have a contrast between the face of the cloth…

…and the back…

…but without the long floats.

Just the beginning

In this post I have shared several different drafts which, when woven, will produce cloth with very diverse characteristics. And the only difference is the tie-up! Of course all of these tie-ups can be used with different threadings and treadlings to create an even greater variety of twills. That’s a topic I’ll return to next time… until then, happy weaving!


First posted on © Cally Booker


4 Responses

  • Cally, you are absolutely the best! Our SAMPLERS GROUP has chosen to study twills this year with our project of two blended twills due in April. You explain everything so well, much better than any book that I have read!
    Thank you

  • Hi, Cally, thanks for your blog. I`m going to use your posts while teaching the new weavers in our group. Although I will have to translate it into German, its easier to understand than most books. thank you . Shirley

    • It sounds as though I should be writing a book! I do plan to get to that… In the mean time, I hope your new weavers have fun and enjoy this amazing craft.

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