Glossary: Silk Twill

Silk twill is a fabric made from silk, a natural fiber produced by silkworms. For more information, see the entry Glossary: Silk Fiber. “Silk twill” is a term commonly used in modern fabric terminology, generally referring to a light- or light-mid-weight material in an even twill weave. The hand of these materials varies, and can range from quite soft and drapey to very crisp. Historically, twilled fabrics woven from silk were referred to by a wide variety of names, including foulard, sarcenet, serge, and armure silk.

Definitions of twilled silk fabrics, and of the twill weave, from a variety of print resources, each of which contains further information:

There are no twilled silks in the book.

Under the heading “Weaves” on page 16, it is stated that “There are many variations of twills, but the distinctive feature of the weave is that it creates parallel diagonal ridges through the cloth. This effect is created by passing the weft yarn, for example, over two warps, under one, over two, under one and so on. The next weft yarn is offset by one warp yarn and then continues as before: over two, under one, over two, under one. The ‘float’ (the yarn that passes over the multiples of the yarn in the opposite direction) can be the weft or the warp, and passes over two or three yarns. The float can reverse directions to create a zigzag pattern, called a ‘herringbone’ twill, or it can form diamonds, for example ‘goose-eye’ or ‘bird’s-eye’ twills. Depending on the fiber, yarn size, and compactness of the beat, twills can be soft and drapey or very tough and stiff.”

  • Butterick Publishing Company, The. Vogue Sewing. Revised edition. New York: The Butterick Publishing Company, 2000.

On page 41, it states that the “Twill weave is often used to produce strong, durable fabrics such as denim and gabardine. A handsome weave characterized by a diagonal ridge usually running from lower left to upper right, its appearance depends to a large extent on the yarn weight and specific twill construction.”

On page 177, “foulard” is defined as “soft, lightweight fabric of silk, or silk and cotton, having a twilled weave, sometimes with a satin finish, often used for handkerchiefs.” On page 179, “sarcenet, sarcenett” and “sarsnet, sarsenet, sarsinet” as well as “sasnet” are all defined as “fine, thin silk fabric, plain or twilled.” Also on page 179, “serge” is defined as “twilled fabric of wool or silk, or both, or of cotton” and “silk serge” is defined as “twilled silk fabric often used for lining.” On page 180, “armure silk” is defined as “a twilled fabric of silk.” Also on page 180, “surah silk” is defined as “soft, strong, twilled India silk fabric.”

On page 242, under the heading “foulard (Fr. foulas),” it is stated that “Three silk handkerchiefs in the Holker manuscript, circa 1750, identify this material as printed…or checked twill, Holker says that such materials were bought in Paris as Indian merchandise, although of English manufacture, for women’s dresses and were called foulas.”

On page 339, “sarsenet (sarsnet; Fr. armoisin)” is defined as “A thin, transparent silk of plain weave.”

On page 369, “twill (tweel)” is defined as “A kind of weave producing a diagonal effect in the finished cloth.” A sample of varieties of twill weaves are listed on page 369: “diamond, herringbone, and bird’s eye.”

Online Resources:

For more information about an individual fiber, fabric, or other material, select it on the right side menu for “Fibers, Fabrics, and Materials.” This will bring up all entries which have that tag, including (in most cases) a Glossary post like this one, which will offer a definition of that fiber, fabric, or material, and sometimes also offer useful links to outside sources on working with it. For more general information, visit the core entry for the Glossary: Fibers, Fabrics, and Materials. For a directory of all textile glossary posts, go to the Glossary Table of Contents.

Updated January 10, 2012

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