This section is from the "A Complete Dictionary of Dry Goods" book, by George S. Cole. Also available from Amazon: A complete dictionary of dry goods and history of silk, cotton, linen, wool and other fibrous substances,: Including a full explanation of the modern processes ... together with various useful tables.
Damask. A textile fabric woven in elaborate patterns, of various designs, as flowers, leaves, foliage, etc., woven in the loom. So called not because of having been originally woven at Damascus (as is so often stated) but on account of the perfection at one time attained by the Damascene weavers. China, no doubt, was the first country to ornament its silken webs with a pattern. India, Persia and Syria followed, but at long intervals between, in China's footsteps. Fabrics richly figured brought with them to Europe the name of "diaspron" or diaper, bestowed upon them at Constantinople. But about the 12th century the city of Damascus, even then long celebrated for its looms, so far ourstripped all other places for beauty of design that her silken textiles were in demand everywhere, and Damascus cloth became synonymous with excellence and splendor of weaving; and thus as often happens, traders fastened the name of Damascene or Damask upon every silken fabric richly wrought and curiously designed, no matter whether it came or not from Damascus. At present the term signifies either of two entirely different materials: (1) Curtain Damask, which is made of silk and wool or silk and cotton, in large vari-colored patterns woven up in the loom, used chiefly for curtains, portieres and furniture covering; and (2) Table Damask, which is a fine twilled linen fabric, used solely for table linen (which see). It is, with a few exceptions, ornamented with a pattern that is shown by the opposite reflections of light from its surface, without contrast of color. This effect is produced by the satin principle of twill weaving. [See Satin]. While damask is not a perfect type of the satin principle of weaving, yet it comes as near to it as is possible consistent with the fact that both sides of damask must be equally perfect, and not one side only. An examination of a damask cloth either in linen or worsted will convince even the merest tyro of this, and more especially when compared with satins, which are not figured after the style of damasks. Instead of there being a fine, unbroken surface, presenting only one set of threads to the eye, either in the ground or the figure, and all the points of interweaving of the wrap with the weft being hid, the weft will be seen coming through to the warp surface (which can not be discerned in satin). The thicker the threads employed the more apparent will this be and the finer the threads the less will this be visible. The reason is not hard to find. Where threads are thick the point of interweaving is more difficult to cover, by reason of their bulk; hence, fine-threaded damask always presents a more perfect appearance than thick-threaded ones, although the diameters of the threads in both bear exactly the same ratio to the number in a given space. In respect to fineness of fabric and beauty of designs the French linen Damask long bore pre-eminence, but latterly has been surpassed by that of Silesia and Saxony, and still later by that of Ireland. The fine double damask of Irish manufacture has of late reached a higher excellence in point of weaving and bleaching than it ever before attained, and the finest qualities now pro-duced at Belfast are not equaled by the choicest products of Saxony. Considerable quantities of damask are made in Scotland, particularly at Dunfermline, Lisburn, and at Ardoyne, near Belfast. Dutch and Italian damask are also imported by this country. The designs for damasks are first drawn by artists, and any pattern can be executed such as initials, crests, names, etc., with the admirable machinery now in use. Double damask is an 8-leaf twill, and single damask is a 4-leaf twill; that is, in which the pattern is formed by the warp passing over 8 and 4 wefts respectively and then under one weft and over 8 or 4 more respectively and under one again, and so on. In double damask the pattern always appears with more distinctness than in single. Turkey red damask is a cotton fabric, used for table covers. The "Renfrew" brand is one among the few fast colors of this material.