Double damask?

Last year, when Laura and I were in Macclesfield, England, we saw a small piece of cloth described as "double-sided damask", also said to be "the same technique as used for cloth of gold". I had never heard of "double-sided damask" - to my mind, the nature of damask is to be double-sided. Jean gave me a tip: Murphy's "A Treatise on the Art of Weaving" (1824), but it is too complicated for me to understand. (Yes, I *have* tried several times :-) So I just dropped the problem, after all we have all seen strange labels in museums, yes?

However, yesterday someone posted a link to an article in NYT (or something), I went on from there and landed on the site of Thomas Ferguson Irish Linen - and they have a definition of "double damask" (link goes to the definition of "ordinary" damask, but both come up on the same screen).

I'm copying some of the text, and want discussion:
Linen damask is a figured fabric made from one warp and one weft in which, generally, warp-satin and weft-sateen weaves interchange. Twill or binding weaves are sometimes introduced.

I have no problems with this - sounds like "ordinary" damask, which incidentally is double-sided, or maybe I mean reversible.

What is the difference between Linen Damask and Linen Double Damask?

Double damask is different from ordinary damask in that it has a lower warp thread count than weft thread count; this allows a dense high thread count fabric to be produced, as the weft yarns are beat up tight in the fabric. However, it is a much more expensive way of weaving because it takes longer to weave a given length of fabric. Also, to allow this dense packing of yarn a looser twill weave is used than in ordinary damask.

(there is some more text, but this will have to do for now. You can always use the link above)

So: ordinary damask is a warp-faced structure contrasted with the same structure, only weft-face, regardless of "thread count" or "balance" (same # of ends and picks) - but double damask is UN-balanced? And therefore better, because it has more picks than ends? And it is (always?) woven in twill? Because twill is a "looser weave" than satin? Huh?

Further down, they mention that they use finer yarns for the double damask, which gives better pattern definition. I am OK with that, of course finer yarn give better definition, but...

Another quote:
As stated earlier, to allow the dense packing of yarn, a looser twill weave is used when weaving double damask than in ordinary damask. This requires a high thread count to stabilise the fabric. With a low thread count this was not the case.
These poorly made fabrics were sub standard, and normal damask was in many instances a better buy. This forced the hand of the Irish Linen Guild and they brought in a minimum thread count for double damask.

(Unfortunately, the Irish Linen Guild does not tell what kind of counts they used for their definitions - at least I can't find them.)

Conclusion: still confused, perhaps more than before (when I could still blame the museum label).

Or: can it be another of these different culture, different language things again?
I sometimes discuss fabrics with my neighbour, the cloth merchant: he is a textile engineer, trained in industry. We can usually (but not always) agree on plain weave, but in industry there are (apparently) so many more parameters in industry a "trade name". (Edit to make sense!)
Sometimes they (he) use a structure name when they mean to include a lot more information: fibre content, weight...
And sometimes they use a structure name for something quite different: "cord" comes to mind. At least here I Sweden a "cord" in a fabric shop is what we weavers usually call "corduroy".
In the UK, a "corded silk" (at least in conjunction with academic dress) is typically a warp rep, very seldom woven of silk. (Yes, I have analysed a piece, and burnt it.)


Elisabet said...

Interesting but very strange.

Laura Fry said...

Curiouser and curiouser. And yes 'trade' names usually have little to do with weave structure, I've found...

Nancy said...

are you a member of the Complex Weavers? This sounds like a great question for the Double Harness group (drawloom). I can post this, if you like :)

jean said...

here's another perspective.
From a booklet that was published by the Irish Linen Guild in 1955 ......

The Story of Irish Linen

The Difference Between Single and Double Damasks

One thing should be clear in your mind when you set out to invest in fine Irish linen damasks - single and double damask are weaving terms, not standards of quality.

Double Damask is woven by passing filling threads over seven warp threads and under one. In single damask the threads are bound down every fifth thread.

The terms single or double damask should not therefore be regarded as intended to influence the purchase. Double damask does not mean double weight, strength or value. A good single damask cloth is superior to cheaper "double damask". Whichever type you choose, you may be sure it will serve you well and faithfully over the years.

Unknown said...

I am not a weaver so found it hard to understand a lot of the descriptions here. (I was looking this up for writing rather than weaving purposes!)

My mother's family were able bring linens with them when they left Austria in 1938 and my mother always said that the tablecloths were special because they were "double damask". So it looks as though it's not only a term used in Ireland.

But now reading this interesting article, I don't know what the difference really might be between damask and double damask. And sadly, my mother has dementia, so I can't ask her what her understanding of the difference is.

Ah well! Thank you for a piece that helps me realise I shouldn't use the term uncritically!