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True Damask

True Damask is fully reversible

What is a True Damask weave?  The original luxury weave for silk, Damask is “a rich silk fabric with woven floral designs made in China and introduced into Europe through Damascus, from which it derived it’s name (Fairchild, p. 170).  The introduction to Europe was by way of Crusader’s returning from the crusades by way of Damascus, Syria.  More commonly known as Jacquard due to modern damask is woven on a Jacquard loom, damask is a combination of satin and twill, or satin and plain weaves, to form a pattern.

So that is the simple explanation, But simplicity often needs more explanation.  In an earlier post I explained what is satin, plain, and twill weave.  When they are combined in to a single piece of weaving, they create damask.  Like this:

Acanthus Scroll Silk Damask
True Damask

So in the above picture, the plain weave is predominant, with the satin weave creating the design.  But the beauty of a true damask is that it is one hundred percent reversible.  So that the flip side of THIS design, looks like this:

The other side of Acanthus Scroll.

So here, the satin weave is predominant with the design being in plain weave.  Both images come from the same bolt of fabric…Acanthus Scroll Silk Damask.

Silk Damask is fairly easy to work with, will crease beautifully when ironed, gathers well, pleats well, is soft and draping and simply elegant.  And while it can be woven in one color, it can also be two-toned.  For two-tone damask, the warp threads are one color and the weft threads are a second color.  Two-tone damasks are thread died first.  This means the warp threads are dyed the first color, and the weft threads dyed the second color, prior to weaving.  The effect is less subtle than monotone damask but can be very dramatic.

Over the years, Damask has come to be synonymous with any scroll design with a vaguely eastern flavor.  Which is plainly inaccurate.  True damasks create this tone on tone design in the weaving for subtle elegance or dramatic effect.

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Joseph Marie Jacquard

Joseph Marie Jacquard

Ah the Internet.  What’s not to love about all the world’s knowledge being readily available at your fingertips?  And all this availability started just 200 years ago, with the silk weavers in Lyons.  Don’t believe me?  Allow me to elaborate.

Joseph Marie Jacquard was born on July 7, 1752 in Lyon, France.  Jacquard’s mother died when he was 10 and his father died just 10 years later, leaving Jacquard with property, a house, vineyard, looms and workshops.

While his work history is largely unknown, Jacquard, having decided that weaving was not for him, was trained as a book binder and eventually with a printer.  Jacquard married when he was 26 Jacquard married, and promptly entered in to debt, requiring him to sell his property and to utilize his wife’s dowry to pay off bills.  Luckily, Jacquard’s wife retained property from her former husband, who had left her a wealthy widow prior to her marriage to Jacquard.  This allowed Jacquard to keep a roof over his head.

As he was not nobility, and relatively poor at the time, Jacquard weathered the French Revolution, and by 1800 began inventing things.  Having shown no apparent facility for weaving and no desire to carry on in his father’s footsteps, Jacquard didn’t make it through childhood in a master weaver’s house without learning anything.  Which led to his most famous invention: The Jacquard Loom.

Utilizing punch cards as a system of tracking the warp and weft threads, the Jacquard loom began the automation process for the silk weaving industry, netting Jacquard a comfortable pension of 3,000 francs for life and patent rights, amounting to 50 francs per loom that was bought and used from 1805 to 1811.  Since estimates have this estimate at 11,000 looms in use by 1812, that left Jacquard a VERY wealthy man at the time of his death on August 7, 1834.

Now, what does all this have to do with the Information Age?  When IBM began creating computers and computer programs, the first programs were created using a punch card system.  Which was based off of Charles Babbage’s calculator. Which can be and has been directly credited to Joseph Marie Jacquard’s punch card looms.

Most people in fashion and sewing refer to all weaves made on a Jacquard loom as Jacquards.  Which is sort of accurate, but not the whole story.  The Jacquard loom allowed for the fast and mass production of Damask, Brocade, and Matelasse weaves.  While all are woven on Jacquard looms, each is a distinct weave.  And advances in textile manufacture which led to the global trade and manufacture, computers, Internet, online shopping…all were made possible by one Joseph Marie Jacquard.