That curious Dutch black 18th C. silk fabric.

In the year 1752 during the month of May, I, master weaver Anonymous, writer of “Het Digtenboekje” spoke again with  my good friend master weaver Daems, about this curious black silk fabric.  A Dutch textile collector gave it to him without any explanation. Honestly, we  never saw in our long textile life such a woven structure.
Was it made in the Dutch Republic or in Italy, France or Spain? Or did it come from the Scandinavian countries? It seems that in those countries the more then rich people employed their own weavers, installed in very well equipped workshops, making beautiful figured silks.
The sample has a modern design now “à la mode”, with stylized flowers, leaves obtained by supple curved lines.
It looks like a kind of damask but it isn’t, neither an Italian damask. In todays world we hear, that the Italian damask got the name “Lampas à liage repris” Footnote 1  during the middle of  the 20th C

With courtesy “Frans Hals” photo: S. Colenbrander.

We examined the technical parts of the sample, and discovered 4 different woven effects giving 4 different black shades.
*The deep black surfaces: a warp satin.
*The two less or more gray surfaces have 2 different warp rib bindings
*The small  black surroundings are  lancé effects.

Fortunately our Dutch doctor, Anthony van Leeuwenhoek invented already the microscope, a more then fine instrument to see the most smallest threads. A marvellous invention.
This is what we saw through the microscope, an amazing experience. :

The fabric is Woven Upside Down. Only the satin 8 warp effect is treadled. All the other bindings ( 3) are draw and all of them  had to be compatible with the satin. If not, there will be mistakes, visible ones. Plain weave is not used for technical raisons but is compatible with a satin 8.
To have a more rapid and exact view of the 4 bindings, Daems  and I , the anonymous weaver writer of “Het Digtenboekje”,  opted for a designed weave gamut.  Many of our weaver companions still made a written weave gamut ( see text at  the top of this page *) , but a designed one is more quickly readable.


Undoubtedly this fabric is woven with 1 warp set  and 1 weft set like the damask! But, the draw harness is divided (mentally) in 2 parts. 
The warp step is: 2. One thread from harness 1, and the second one from harness 2.
Our draw looms have maximum 600 cords with the repetition, of course.
600 cords divided by 2 draw harnesses  = 300 cords per draw harness. That is  is not much, But any creative designer can make more then nice, simple,” épuré”, more minimalism patterns.
The 2 warp rib effects are big, the surroundings, the curved lines gave the forms at the leaves and flowers.
Unfortunately, the drawer had to draw a lot. If possible, weavers used a second drawer.  The work was done quicker with fewer mistakes.
Some weeks after our analyses, Daems  and I set up the draw loom and wove  the cloth in  a width of 10 talien (= 42,5 cm ) The final result was perfect! The idea to divide the draw harness in two parts is not new. The “Cadrille” called in the late 19th C. and later colour effects, has the same draw loom  set up.  There is no tie-up, neither  treadles. That is a lot of weaver’s fun also.
Try it out, we did it first on paper. You have computers! but no repeat in the drawloom…
Daems master weaver and the anonymous  master weaver with the nick name Harry. Haarlem, June 1752

Footnote 1, italien damasks/ italiaanse damasten now classified under :” lampas à liage repris”  Complexe weave structure, made with one warp doing 2 things. Working as ground warp and working as a  binding warp. Minimum 2 wefts are used. a) the ground weft and b) the pattern weft.
Footnote 2: publication “Wonderlijke technieken” Namen en valstrikken van de achttiende- eeuwse voet- en trekwerken.  in : “ Studies in textile”: de stof bij de naam noemen.  Stichting textielgeschiedenis ISBN 978-90-82128-81-9


For  Damaskweavers. May 2015.
Augusta Uhlenbeck
Lauréate, Tokyo 1988. Finaliste Kyoto 1994. Médaille d'argent Chambre de Métiers des Yvelines.