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For other uses, see Damask (disambiguation).
Italian silk polychrome damasks, 14th century.

Damask (Arabic: دمسق‎) is a reversible figured fabric of silk, wool, linen, cotton, or synthetic fibres, with a pattern formed by weaving. Damasks are woven with one warp yarn and one weft yarn, usually with the pattern in warp-faced satin weave and the ground in weft-faced or sateen weave. Twill damasks include a twill-woven ground or pattern.[1][2]


The production of damask used one of the five basic weaving techniques of the Byzantine and Islamic weaving centres of the early Middle Ages.[3] Damasks derive their name from the city of Damascus - in that period a large city active both in trading (as part of the silk road)[4] and in manufacture. Damasks became scarce after the ninth century outside of Islamic Spain, but were revived[by whom?] in some places in the thirteenth century.[5]

The word "damask" first appeared in records in a Western European language in the mid-14th century in French.[6] By the fourteenth century damasks were being woven on draw looms in Italy. From the fourteenth to the sixteenth century, most damasks were woven in a single colour, with a glossy warp-faced satin pattern against a duller ground. Two-colour damasks had contrasting colour warps and wefts, and polychrome damasks added gold and other metallic threads or additional colours as supplemental brocading wefts. Medieval damasks were usually woven in silk, but weavers also produced wool and linen damasks.[2][7]

Modern uses[edit]

The Comtesse de Tillières by Jean-Marc Nattier (1750)
London, Wallace Collection
A damask covers the chair.

Modern damasks are woven on computerized Jacquard looms.[1] Damask weaves are commonly produced in monochromatic (single-colour) weaves in silk, linen or synthetic fibres such as rayon and feature patterns of flowers, fruit, and other designs. The long floats of satin-woven warp and weft threads cause soft highlights on the fabric which reflect light differently according to the position of the observer. Damask weaves appear most commonly in table linens and furnishing fabrics, but also in clothing. The Damask weave is used extensively throughout the fashion industry due to its versatility and high quality finish. Damask is usually used for mid to high quality garments, meaning the label tends to be to have a higher definition and a more “expensive” look.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Kadolph 2007, p. 251
  2. ^ a b Monnas 2008, p. 295
  3. ^ The five weaves were damask, tabby, twill, lampas and tapestry. See Jenkins 2003, p. 343.
  4. ^ What is Damask Fabric, Period Home and Garden
  5. ^ Jenkins 2003, p. 343.
  6. ^ Damas etymology (in French).
  7. ^ Monnas 2008, p. 299.


  • Jenkins, David, ed.: The Cambridge History of Western Textiles, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003, ISBN 0-521-34107-8
  • Kadolph, Sara J., ed.: Textiles, 10th edition, Pearson/Prentice-Hall, 2007, ISBN 0-13-118769-4
  • Monnas, Lisa. Merchants, Princes and Painters: Silk Fabrics in Italian and Northern Paintings 1300-1550. London and New Haven, Yale University Press, 2008

External links[edit]