The HCA Red List of Endangered Crafts

 

Damask weaving

 

The hand weaving of patterned damask fabric on jacquard looms.

 

Status Critically endangered
Craft category
Historic area of significance North East Ulster and Scotland
Area currently practised Lisburn, Northern Ireland;
Lecale, County Down, Northern Ireland;
Montrose, Scotland
Origin in the UK
Current no. of professionals (main income) 3
Current no. of professionals (sideline to main income)
2
Current no. of trainees 0
Current total no. serious amateur makers
Current total no. of leisure makers
Minimum no. of craftspeople required

 

History

The art of linen damask weaving in Britain dates to the seventeenth century. It was sought after by royalty and aristocracy for the breadth of elaborate patterns it afforded – armorial bearings, royal cyphers, historic commemorative events and heraldic designs.

In 1737 George II turned to Irish linen domestic weavers to provide napery for his household, foregoing European providers who to that point had dominated the market, from this time on the British crown only ordered from British manufactories

In France in 1801 Joseph-Marie Jacquard perfected a semi-automatic mechanism for silk damask weaving, replacing the highly labour intensive draw loom. It was soon adapted for linen damask weaving, reaching Britain by the 1820s.

In the 1850s with the introduction of power loom weaving, linen damask weaving became fully automated, theoretically ending Jacquard linen damask weaving at a stroke. However, the power loom struggled to match its fineness and quality.

Hand woven linen damask continued to be prized, and survived well into the twentieth century. In Ireland it continued as a commercial craft until the end of the 1960s, from which point it has been kept alive within museum settings. In Scotland, Ian Dale continues the craft on a commercial basis.

 

Techniques

 

 

Local forms

  • 5 leaf: single damask
  • 8 leaf: double damask

 

Sub-crafts

  • Jacquard card cutting (3 practitioners known – one at 84 years old)

Allied crafts:

  • Silk damask
  • Poplin damask (silk warp with wool weft)

 

Issues affecting the viability of the craft

  • The looms and apparatus are now so rare, they are usually museum artefacts.
  • No apprenticeship programmes current or pending.
  • Rarity of card cutting machines and operatives.

 

Support organisations

  • Irish Linen Centre / Lisburn Museum, Northern Ireland

 

Craftspeople currently known

  • Deborah White and Alyson McNamee, Irish Linen Centre
  • House of Dun, Montrose, Scotland

 

Other information

Irish Linen Centre / Lisburn Museum employ two master weavers. However, there are no training schemes. Deborah White worked alongside one of the last traditional damask handloom weavers in Ireland and says it takes 5-7 years apprenticeship to master the trade.

 

References

  • Gill, C, (1921) The Rise of the Irish Linen Industry (Oxford)
  • Collins, B, and Ollerenshaw, P, (eds.) Industry, Trade and People in Irleand, 1650-1950
  • Crawford, W H, The Impact of the Domestic Linen Industry in Ulster