Named after the ancient city Damascus, damask quilt fabric has a long history and we still love it today! These intricate, repeating damask prints on quilt fabrics add a touch of elegance to any project. Perfect for quilts, pillows, curtains, tablecloths, wall hangings, and much more, damask fabric would look lovely in your home.
What if Adam and Eve never ate the apple? We’d still be in the garden walking about in our birthday suits! No fashion industry–no need for fabric. No fabric–no quilts! (Unless the folks in paradise got cold while they were sleeping.) Obviously, we are being tongue-in-cheek here. But, seriously, how and why did humans create so many different types of fabrics? The history that answers that question is fascinating.
Let’s consider damask fabric. First, you may be wondering–what is damask fabric?
Originally damask was created by master weavers who threaded their looms with two different types of thread–one matte and one shiny, often in the same color–to create a pattern that contrasted in texture and sheen. Damask patterns first appeared in the work of Chinese hand weavers around 300 BCE.
Eventually damask traveled with Marco Polo along the Silk Road back to Venice. In fact, damask acquired its name from the city Damascus, Syria–a major trading post on the Silk Road. The Crusaders were a bit more enthusiastic about damask; they kidnapped skilled weavers and brought a workforce back to Italy to make it!
Damask designs were as unique as the weavers who created them–often featuring natural motifs such as flowers, leaves, vines, fruits, and birds but also scrolls, fleurs-de-lis, and paisleys. Because the production of damask fabric was the labor-intensive purview of a master weaver, it was used for furnishings or worn only by royalty and the very wealthy. This changed when Joseph-Marie Jacquard–a French weaver and merchant–patented his machine in 1804.
Jacquard invented a mechanism that fitted onto a weaving loom and controlled which warp threads would be raised before allowing the weft thread to pass under them. The brilliance of the system was a set of punch cards that controlled hooks on the warp threads. These punch cards could be easily created for any damask pattern and could be used over and over again to replicate the damask design. Because of the Jacquard Loom, damask fabric became affordable for the average person.
When we mentioned punch cards, did anyone have flashbacks to computing in the “good old days” when computers were programmed with them? Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine and Herman Holerith’s machine for tabulating census data both borrowed on the idea of Jacquard’s punch card technology. Ada Lovelace, the world’s first computer programmer also made use of the idea. Read an interesting article from the Science + Industry Museum in Manchester, England or another from Columbia University if you’d like to know more.
Today, damask fabrics are created on computerized Jacquard looms. They are relatively inexpensive to produce but retain their old-world elegance for both fashion and home decor applications. Damask print fabric has also become very popular. Now you are wondering–what is damask print? Fabric printers today can achieve crisp, stunning images that layer colors in ways that achieve texture and depth. Therefore, fabric designers have created damask print fabrics that look a lot like woven damask designs.
For those who love damask, Missouri Star has a nice selection of damask print fabric by the yard that is perfect for quilting. We even have choices of damask print that are 108” wide and perfect for backing. If you are looking for damascus print fabric in precuts, or damascus fabric that is multicolored, or traditional monochromatic damask fabric by the yard, we have options that will add elegance to your projects.
Daily Deals, Tutorials, New Arrivals, & More? Sign up for Missouri Star Quilt Co. emails!