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What is Twill Fabric: Properties, How its Made and Where

by Boris Hodakel  • November 12, 2019 • 9 min read

Fabric name Twill
Fabric composition Organic or synthetic fabric fibers
Fabric possible thread count variations 100-500
Fabric breathability Medium
Moisture-wicking abilities Depends on the type of fabric fiber used
Heat retention abilities Medium
Stretch ability (give) Low
Prone to pilling/bubbling Depends on the type of fabric fiber used
Country where fabric was first produced Various countries; the term "twill" originates from Old English
Biggest exporting/producing country today China
Recommended washing temperatures Depends on the type of fabric fiber used
Commonly used in Jeans, slacks, shirts, bedding

Twill fabricTwill fabric

What Is Twill Fabric?

Along with satin and plain weave, twill is one of the three original types of weaves used for textiles. Rather than denoting a certain type of fabric fiber, "twill" refers to a specific type of weaving that results in a diagonal pattern. For contrast, both satin and plain weave have straight patterns.

Fabrics have been woven in twill patterns for thousands of years, which makes it hard to determine where exactly this type of fabric originated. However, the word "twill" is a modern variant of the Old English word "twili," which is a half adoption of the Latin word "bilix." Therefore, twill is commonly associated with British culture even though this type of fabric has been woven in other cultures for much longer.

There are quite a few different ways to weave twill fabric that are all still considered to be twill. Essentially, as long as diagonal lines can be seen in the final fabric, that fabric is considered to be twill even though it may be structurally dissimilar from other types of fabrics that go by the same name.

Realtree Xtra Cotton Twill Camo FabricRealtree Xtra Cotton Twill Camo Fabric

One of the most iconic contexts in which twill fabric is used is in the manufacture of denim jeans. These types of pants have clearly visible diagonal lines, and these lines are a result of this unique weaving pattern. However, this weaving pattern is also used in a variety of other types of apparel and home textiles.

Twill garments and home textiles were originally made from cotton, but it's now also common to see this type of fabric made with synthetic substances like polyester. While cotton twill looks highly similar to cotton duck at first glance, the latter fabric has a plain weave pattern that does not result in a diagonal appearance. Twill fabric can be made in many different colors, thread counts, and styles, and this fabric is renowned for its excellent draping ability, which is derived from its unique weaving pattern.

How Is Twill Fabric Made?

how is twill fabric made

While the characteristic diamond pattern of twill is the same no matter which type of fiber is made to use this fabric, different production processes are used to make the various fabrics that are woven to make this textile. Cotton, for instance, is a natural fiber, and it is derived from the fluffy fibers that surround the seed of the cotton plant when it is mature.

Once these fibers are harvested, they are packed into bales and sent to cotton yarn production plants. These bales are unpacked, their contents are mixed, and then the fibers are carded into long, thin strands. After these strands are combed and washed, they are spun into yarn. This cotton yarn may be dyed at this point, or it may simply be loaded onto large reels and sent to a textile factory to be made into a finished product.

Printed Cotton Viscose Twill FabricPrinted Cotton Viscose Twill Fabric

Polyester is also commonly used to make twill, but a very different process is used to make this textile than that which is used to make cotton yarn. This fabric is made from a compound called ethylene, which is found in crude petroleum oil. This compound is then reacted with another chemical called dimethyl terephthalate, and the resulting monomer alcohol is bonded with terephthalic acid to make the polyester polymer.

This substance is molten after it is created, and it is then formed into long ribbons and cooled. These ribbons are then broken up, and they are melted once more. Finally, this refined polyester is extruded through a spinneret to make fabric fibers, and these fibers are then subjected to a number of treatments before they are loaded onto spools.

Once a textile fiber has been required, a number of different methods can be used to make it into twill. Technically, any type of fabric weave can be called "twill fabric," and there are a great many weaving patterns that are used to make this textile. In general, a twill fabric is woven by passing the weft thread over one or more warp threads and then passing it under two or more warp threads. This technique results in what is called a "step" pattern that appears diagonal once the finished fabric is made.

How Is Twill Fabric Used?

how is twill fabric used

Twill fabric and its derivatives may be used to make a wide variety of different types of apparel and home textiles. This fabric is most well-known for its use in denim jeans; all types of jeans feature this iconic diagonal pattern. For comparison, duck pants are also made from denim, but they feature plain weave fabric instead of twill.

While this fabric was commonly used to make jackets in the past, this practice is less common these days. Instead, it's more common to see this type of weave used to make polo shirts and similar types of attire. Twill fabric isn't frequently used to make undershirts, underwear, or any other type of light fabric that makes direct contact with the skin. Instead, most of these textile products are made with plain weave fabrics.

Pinky Beige Cotton Twill Classic Underbust Waist Trainer With Hip goresPinky Beige Cotton Twill Classic Underbust Waist Trainer With Hip gores

In the arena of home textiles, it's common to find twill used in bed sheets. Since this type of fabric can be made in very high thread counts, it is in high demand for sheets, and it is also used to make light blankets and the covers for duvets and mattresses. In addition, this type of fabric may also be used to make other types of homewares like tablecloths, curtains, and towels. Certain types of twill, such as diamond twill, are commonly used to make various types of carpets and rugs. This fabric may even be used to make wall hangings.

Where Is Twill Fabric Produced?

twill fabric in the world

While twill fabric is produced all over the globe, it's clear that China is the biggest exporter of this textile product. China is the biggest producer of polyester, and it is also the biggest producer of cotton.

Since these two fibers are most commonly used to make twill fabric, China is the market leader in producing this iconic fabric. India, the United States, and Pakistan are also significant producers of twill fabric, and thanks to recent economic developments, China may ultimately be deposed as the world's biggest textile producer. For the time being, however, this country remains the largest producer of almost every type of textile.

How Much Does Twill Fabric Cost?

'Hauteur' draping petrol blue wool twill fabric'Hauteur' draping petrol blue wool twill fabric

The price of twill fabric depends on the fiber from which it is made and the process that is used to make it. Some plants may produce this textile more efficiently than others, and the resulting fabric costs less to wholesalers. In addition, even though cotton and polyester are roughly equivalent in price, certain specialty types of cotton, such as Pima and Supima cotton, cost much more than either normal cotton or polyester.

What Different Types of Twill Fabric Are There?

different types of twill fabric

A few different natural and synthetic fibers are used to make twill, and this fabric can also be made in various patterns. Here are some examples of the different types of twill that are offered:

• Natural twill: Some types of twill fabric are made from natural fibers like cotton.

• Synthetic twill: Other types of twill fabric are made from synthetic textiles such as polyester.

• Zigzag twill: This type of twill is the most common form of this weave, and it features the diagonal pattern that makes this type of weave recognizable.

• Herringbone twill: Some textile experts consider herringbone to be its own fabric, but it's actually a derivative of twill. This type of fabric displays an iconic zigzag pattern that is accomplished with weft and warp threads that are different colors.

• Diamond twill: When viewed in a complete fabric, diamond twill takes on the appearance of diamonds that are composed of multiple concentric lines. These diamonds are arranged parallel to each other throughout the fabric. While this type of twill is sometimes used to make apparel, it is also common to see it as a pattern in rugs.

• Diaper twill: This type of twill was originally used to make diapers, and it displays a complex diamond-shaped pattern.

• Broken twill: No, this type of twill isn't torn or otherwise damaged; it simply displays an alternating pattern.

• Elongated twill: This type of twill is woven by crossing more weft threads with a single weave thread, which results in an elongated appearance.

How Does Twill Fabric Impact the Environment?

Brushed Cotton Twill FabricBrushed Cotton Twill Fabrica

The environmental impact caused by the production of twill fabric varies depending on the types of fibers that are used in its manufacture. Fibers that are derived from natural sources, for instance, generally have a limited impact on the environment, but synthetic fabrics are harmful to the global ecosystem in a number of different ways.

In addition, the methods that are used to make fabrics impact their effects on the environment. While the production of cotton is inherently sustainable, it's easy to use practices that make the manufacture of this substance harmful to the environment, and while the production of synthetic materials, such as polyester, is inherently harmful to the environment, it's possible to use manufacturing processes that limit this environmental impact.

Cotton is a renewable resource, but when unethical farming practices are used to grow this crop, soil degradation can occur. In addition, if harmful fertilizers or pesticides are used to grow cotton, these toxic chemicals can enter the water supply.

Processing cotton into fabric can be done without the use of harmful substances, but some manufacturer may use caustic chemicals in this process to save time and money. No matter which negative factors are used to produce cotton, however, this substance is biodegradable, which means that it is rapidly broken down and reclaimed by the environment. In addition, many cotton producers only use organic and sustainable practices to make their textile fibers; you can find these companies by looking for USDA, GOTS, and ASA certification labels.

The manufacture of polyester, which is used to make twill nearly as frequently as cotton, is inherently bad for the environment. This fabric is made from petroleum, which is a non-renewable resource, and a number of toxic chemicals are used to extract usable polymers from this "fossil fuel" substance.

There is no way to avoid the pollution that is caused during the production of polyester, but it can be mitigated with advanced production processes. Once polyester is made, however, it will inevitably pollute the environment since it is not biodegradable. Hundreds of years after cotton garments have long since decomposed, polyester fabric will still be present in the planet's forests, oceans, and waterways.

Twill Fabric Certifications Available

twill fabric certifications

A variety of different types of certifications may be available depending on the type of fabric from which twill weave is made. For instance, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) organic certification may be available if it can be established that cotton twill fabric has been grown with sustainable and environmentally-friendly means.

In addition, certification from non-governmental organic certification organizations, such as the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) may also be offered for this type of fabric. If the cotton used to make twill fabric is Pima cotton that was grown in the United States, it's also possible for this fabric to be certified by the American Supima Association (ASA), which is an independent regulatory body that oversees the production of Pima cotton in the USA.

For types of twill fabric that aren't made from natural fibers, there are a few different certifications that might be available. The Global Recycle Standard (GRS) awards certifications to companies that make synthetic textiles with entirely recycled materials, but it's hard to achieve this type of certification.

There are, however, a number of manufacturing standards that all synthetic products should meet if they are to be considered suitable for consumer use. All synthetic fabrics, for instance, should meet ISO 9001 standards, and if they are made in the United States, they should also be compliant with the manufacturing standards laid out by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

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About the author:

Boris Hodakel is the founder and CEO of Sewport - an online marketplace connecting brands and manufacturers, former founder of various clothing manufacturing services. He is passionate about e-commerce, marketing and production digitisation. Connect with Boris on LinkedIn.