Italian silk polychrome damasks, 14th century.

Damask (/ˈdæməsk/; Arabic: دمشق‎) is a reversible figured fabric of silk, wool, linen, cotton, or synthetic fibers, 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]


Damask with floral sprigs, Italy, Baroque, 1600-1650, silk two-tone damask

The production of damask was one of the five basic weaving techniques—the others being tabby, twill, lampas, and tapestry—of the Byzantine and Middle Eastern weaving centres of the early Middle Ages.[3] In China, drawlooms with a large number of heddles were developed to weave damasks with very complicated patterns.[4] The Chinese may have produced damasks as early as the Tang Dynasty.[5] 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) and in manufacture.[6] Damasks became scarce after the 9th century outside Islamic Spain, but were revived in some places in the 13th century.[3]

The word "damask" first appeared in records in a Western European language in the mid-14th century in French.[7] By the 14th century, damasks were being woven on draw looms in Italy. From the 14th to 16th century, most damasks were woven in one 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]

In the 19th century, the invention of the Jacquard loom, which was automated with a system of punched cards, made weaving damask faster and cheaper.[4]

Modern usage

Damask as a tablecloth. Water droplet is lying on the surface due to low absorption of damask.

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 they are also used for clothing.[4] 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 have a higher definition and a more “expensive” look.

See also

  • Diapering (damask patterns in heraldry)


  1. ^ a b Kadolph, Sara J., ed.: Textiles, 10th edition, Pearson/Prentice-Hall, 2007,ISBN 0-13-118769-4, p. 251
  2. ^ a b Monnas, Lisa. Merchants, Princes and Painters: Silk Fabrics in Italian and Northern Paintings 1300-1550. New Haven, Yale University Press, 2008, pp. 295–299
  3. ^ a b Jenkins, David T., ed.: The Cambridge History of Western Textiles, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003,ISBN 0-521-34107-8, p. 343.
  4. ^ a b c Gillow, John (1999). World Textiles: A Visual Guide to Traditional Techniques. Thames & Hudson. p. 82. ISBN 0-500-28247-1.
  5. ^ "A World of Looms: Weaving Technology and Textile Arts in China and Beyond". China National Silk Museum. Retrieved 11 September 2020.
  6. ^ "What is Damask Fabric", 9 February 2012 Period Home and Garden, accessed 2 March 2021
  7. ^ "Damas" etymology (in French). www.cnrtl.fr accessed 2 March 2021

Media files used on this page

Jute nahtlos.png
Author/Creator: SoylentGreen, Licence: CC-BY-SA-3.0
Hessian Fabric made seamless. It will serve to create a normal map in Blender.
Batik Indonesia.jpg
Author/Creator: MartijnL, Licence: CC BY-SA 3.0 nl
Batik cloth purchased in Yogyakarta, Indonesia
MacLachlan hunting tartan (D. W. Stewart).svg
Author/Creator: , Licence: CC BY-SA 2.5
A representation of the Maclachlan hunting tartan. This tartan is the oldest tartan to bear the name MacLachlan. This tartan is referred to as the Old MacLachlan, MacLachlan, and Hunting MacLachlan. This sett was first published in Old & Rare Scottish Tartans by D. W. Stewart in 1893.
Thread count: Y6, W4, Bk32, G32, Y6, W4, R48.
Sources: MacLachlan Clan Tartan WR1710 MacLachlan Hunting Tartan
Islamic Tiling (186943375).jpeg
Author/Creator: , Licence: CC0
500px provided description: Islamic Tiling [#titling ,#Islamic Art]
Water droplet lying on a damask.jpg
Author/Creator: Petar Milošević, Licence: CC BY-SA 4.0
Water droplet lying on a damask textile due to surface tension and low absorption of textile. Focus stacking: 24 shots, step 5; Raynox 250. Length of droplet around 6-7 mm.
Damask with floral sprigs, Italy, Baroque, 1600-1650, silk two-tone damask - Royal Ontario Museum - DSC04376.JPG
Author/Creator: Daderot, Licence: CC0
Exhibit in the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. This work is old enough so that it is in the public domain. Photography was permitted in the museum without restriction.
Italian silk damask, 1300s.