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.
Diaper. In this term we have an example of a fabric possessed of a proud ancestry, in its time second to none in the family of splendid fabrics, degenerated to the most insignificant and ignoble purpose that is possible for a fabric to be used - a body-clout for the mewling infant. Diaper was originally a silken fabric, held everywhere in high estimation for wellnigh a thousand years. We know this from documents beginning with the 10th century. The origin of the name, however, is uncertain. Possibly, in order to indicate a one-colored yet patterned silk which diaper then was, the Greeks of the early middle ages invented the term diaspron, "I separate" to signify "what distinguishes or separates itself from things about it," as every pattern does in a one-colored silk. With this textile the Latins took the name for it from the Greeks, and called it "diasper," which in English has been softened into "diaper." By degrees the word "diaper" became greatly widened in its meaning. When "samit," having long been the epithet betokening all that was rich and good in silk, was forgotton, diaper from being the very word significant of pattern, became a term descriptive of merely a part of an elaborate design. Not only all sorts of textiles, whether of silk, or linen, or of worsted, but the walls of a room were said to be diapered when the self-same ornament was repeated and sprinkled well over it. At present in the manufacture of cotton and linen white goods the term is applied to those which have small patterns of geometrical regularity, such as diamonds, arrowheads, birds'-eyes, etc., woven in their texture.