This most exquisite of textiles is named after one of the world’s most beautiful cities, Damascus. The technique originated in Eastern Asia, and found its way to Europe through the Silk Route, where production was established by the 15thC. It is traditionally associated with medieval Damascus, an important Byzantine and Ottoman textile-weaving centre, which very name evokes the classical Orientalism that inspired many of the diverse and complex weave designs. The Italians and the French set up workshops in Venice and Lyons, and these two cities remain damask weaving centres of world class renown.
* Damask is woven on Jacquard looms, a self-coloured pattern created by reversing the satin weave from the face to the back, so that the slightly raised, satin, areas on the face show the typical sheen. Damask cloths can be made up reversed if a more matte finish is required.
* Damask was originally made from silk and from wool but is now made from most other fibres, the most usual of which is cotton, or in combination. The pattern depends on reflection, light and shade to showcase its subtle beauty as the raised pattern catches the light.
* Different fibres, weights and scale of design make damask that is suitable for different uses. Cotton and silk damasks are always soft and drape beautifully, wool tends to be heavier and destined for upholstery and castles; a good choice for curtaining a doorway where lining is unnecessary and the curtain will be visible from both sides.
* Damask makes sensuous and luxurious curtaining and draperies, the changes from matte to shiny create a sense of lightness, movement and richness, requiring no further ornament. However, it is good to see the full pattern as well for flat furnishings such as fabric walling, screens and upholstery.
*Any of the damask fibres, designs and colourings come into their own in period settings with classical and traditional furnishings, and perhaps especially against wood panelling.
* Copies of early designs and materials are made by a handful of specialist weavers, particularly for restoration work, and aficionados.
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