Undone by Twills

Twill is a fairly simple weave structure and yet it is the favorite of so many weavers. We wear it, decorate our homes with it, and (of course) weave it. In her post, Robyn Spady host of the Totally Twill workshop series, tells a story of a time when she was nearly undone by a simple twill napkin.—Christina


  A Twill Towel by Robyn Spady
  Generational Twill Towels by Robyn Spady
from the Nov/Dec 2013 Handwoven

I’m rarely left speechless. Anyone who knows me would probably agree. However, several years ago I was left practically mute (albeit, temporarily) and it all had to do with a twill napkin.

A good friend of mine was the programs chair for our guild. Unfortunately, shortly before our guild year commenced, her son was in the hospital for an extended stay with some serious health problems that required risky surgery. With her attention diverted elsewhere, she asked me if I would take care of the program speaker scheduled for our next guild meeting.

It was a simple request and I was happy to make sure our program speaker was take care of. This meant arranging housing for her, introducing her before her morning and afternoon programs, and providing lunch for her. When I set the table for her, I had dishes, silverware, and a beautiful twill napkin I had received in a napkin exchange I had participated in several years earlier. In fact, it is my favorite napkin. 

When our program speaker sat down for lunch, she picked up the napkin and asked me “Do I get to keep this?” Wow! I was caught completely off guard. I didn’t expect her to ask for the napkin . . . my favorite napkin too! Immediately, my Jewish and Catholic heritage kicked in because I knew I was going to be plagued with guilt when I told her no. It would have been easier for me to say yes; however, it was my favorite napkin. I awkwardly stammered out my response, which was followed by a wave of guilt—but I knew I did the right thing.

A couple of years later I ran into the program speaker at a weaving conference. We said hello to one another and she immediately started apologizing for asking for the napkin. Frankly, I was surprised she remembered the incident. She went on to explain as soon as she saw the napkin she wanted it, but was as surprised as me when she heard herself ask for it and had been afflicted with guilt ever since. This became the impetus for sharing a really good big laugh. I’m still struck how two grown women could be so undone by something as humble as a twill napkin.

Of all the weaves in the world, I am the most captivated by twills. From simple twills to a stunning snowflake pattern created with an advancing twill to an integrated network-drafted twill woven with an abundance of color to create a mind boggling echo weave effect. Twills are so versatile. One threading can produce countless options when it comes to tie-ups, treadling variations, and wefts. Plus, they can elicit a range of emotions . . . from joy and fascination to leaving even the most mature person feeling flustered and unsettled. 

—Robyn Spady

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