The Three Different Denim Twills

Denim fabrics are primarily woven using twill weave patterns. This results in the characteristic diagonal lines on the fabric. You can notice them when zooming in on your jeans. While right-hand twill is the most common, there are variations in twill patterns used in denim fabrics. The most common denim twill fabrics are right-hand, left-hand, and broken twill.

If you zoom in on the three American denim brands, also known as the ‘Big 3’, you will see that Levi’s is known for right-hand fabrics, Lee for left-hand, and Wrangler for broken twill.

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What Is A Twill Fabric?

A twill denim fabric is a type of weave characterized by diagonal parallel ribs or lines on its surface. These diagonal lines are formed by the way the threads interlace at a 90-degree angle in the weaving process. Twill weave creates a pattern of diagonal lines or ridges, also known as wales or ribs.

Traditionally, denim fabrics are woven using a 3 x 1 (three by one) twill. This means three warp yarns for each weft (also known as the filler) yarn. Each weft yarn goes over one warp yarn before going under the next three warp yarns. This is constantly repeated in production which leads to a denim fabric.

The warp threads are colored with indigo, so they’re blue. While the weft is white/ecru. They’re undyed, this to save money in the production process. The reason to keep the weft undyed is also because you can only notice it when flipping your jeans inside out. The surface of a denim fabric looks mainly blue. There are denim fabrics where both the warp and weft are dyed in indigo, these types of denim fabrics are known as double indigo as both are colored blue. This means also extra production time and therefore more production costs.

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Right-hand (Levi’s), left-hand (Lee) and broken twill (Wrangler).

The Key Characteristics Of A Twill Fabric

Twill fabrics are (mostly) used in clothing and home furnishings. As the twill fabric is most known for denim fabrics, this weaving type is also used in other textile fabrics too. The key characteristics of twill (denim) fabrics are:

  • Diagonal Lines: A twill weave shows diagonal lines on the surface of the fabric. This gives it a distinctive appearance and texture.
  • Durability: Twill fabrics are known for their durability and strength due to the way the threads interlace.
  • Flexibility: Twill fabrics have some degree of flexibility and drape, making them suitable for a wide range of garments and applications.
  • Variety: Twill weave can be manipulated to create various patterns, from subtle diagonal lines to bold chevrons or herringbone designs.

The 3 Main Differences In Denim Fabric Twills

Let’s highlight the main differences between the three denim fabric twills; right-hand, left-hand, and broken twill. The ones that are synonym for Levi’s, Lee and Wrangler.

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  • Right-Hand Twill (RHT):

In right-hand twill denim, the diagonal lines in the weave pattern slant from the bottom left to the top right when viewed from the front of the fabric. So the diagonal lines are going to the right, hence the name. It is abbreviated as RHT. The right-hand is therefore also sometimes nicknamed the Z-twill. It shows a flatter and more smoother surface. This type of twill is the most common in denim production and most jeans (and denim jackets) are made with this type of denim fabric.

  • Left-Hand Twill (LHT):

Left-hand twill denim fabrics are woven the opposite as right-hand twills. It features also diagonal lines but goes from the bottom right to the top left. This denim fabric is abbreviated as LHT and is also called the S-twill. This denim fabric is softer after wearing and washing compared to right-hand twills. The main reason why it is usually softer is because Z-twisted yarns are used (the same as for right-hand fabric production), so not S-twisted yarns (If you use S-twisted yarns for a right-hand twill, you will get the same soft feeling.). It also shows slightly different fades in the end, more vertical fadings.

  • Broken Twill (BT):

The broken twill denim fabric was invented by Wrangler jeans. They introduced this type of fabric in 1964 to prevent leg twisting. In a broken twill weave, the diagonal lines do not consistently slant in one direction, but the direction of the diagonal lines alternates at regular intervals along the fabric. This creates a zig-zag pattern. You can notice the best when looking at the inside of your jeans (see picture on the right). This denim fabric is abbreviated as BT.

Recap Of The Main Differences

Knowing now the main differences between right-hand, left-hand, and broken twill, the primary is the direction of the weaving pattern. When looking at the most produced pairs of jeans these days, around 95% (or even more) are made with a right-hand denim fabric.

Some denim enthusiasts prefer right-hand over left-hand, or vice versa. Or they prefer the broken twill denim fabric. It’s all about personal preferences. What you like as texture, fading potential, and overall characteristics of a fabric. And not to speak about selvedge or non-selvedge denim fabrics.

More about the differences between the selvedge and non-selvedge can be read in the previous article here: 5 Reasons To Prefer Selvedge Denim Fabrics Over Non-Selvedge.

Tip! Learn more about jeans in these previous articles;

Written by Wouter Munnichs
I'm the founder of Long John. Next to running this daily magazine, I'm working as a freelance denim specialist for the industry. Titled as 'Denim Influencer 2020' by Rivet 50. Celebrated my 10th anniversary with Long John in 2021.