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Damask vs. Sateen

Artist Jo Vickers uses over 60,000 flowers to create a damask pattern on the floor in Manchester's Albert Square.
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images News/Getty Images

During the 13th century, Marco Polo brought a rigid-like textile with a high sheen finish to the Western world. Though the textile was made in China during that time, the fabric trade between the East and the West primarily came from Damascus. Because of this, the fabric was then referred to as damask. Although this Jacquard-type textile -- primarily used for draperies, upholstery and curtains -- is similar to brocade, the cloth has a flatter surface and is reversible. Just like the rich quality of damask, sateen -- a cotton fabric made by using a satin weave -- is a durable cloth with a lustrous and smooth finish. Similar to damask, sateen is also used for upholstery as well as home goods, such as fine quality bedding sheets.

Damask: Jacquard Weave

Joseph Marie Jacquard invented the method of weaving referred to as "jacquard" between the years of 1801 to 1804. At the top of the loom device, a head maneuvers a set of punched cards that hold a specific motif design. The perforated cards -- in conjunction with the cords and rods of the device -- control the raising of the stationary warp thread apparatus. This weaving method is used to produce a variety of textiles including damask. The two types of damask construction are single and double. Single -- also referred to as simple -- has a four-float construction. Double -- also referred to as compound -- has an eight-float construction.

Damask: What to Look For

Given damask cloth is made into a variety of uses, consumers shopping for this textile can look at the evenness of the yarns and the closeness of the weave on both sides of the cloth to determine the quality. For instance, if the cloth has thick and thin spots in the surface or the design, the textile was unevenly spun. Look for an even surface as well as a close, firm weave for durable quality damask. Since certain damask cloths use satin weave construction, the length of the fibers dictates the surface finish. For example, if you feel a fuzz-like surface, this indicates the use of short fibers, which have a tendency to pull out during construction. Long fibers remain in place producing a smooth surface and higher quality damask such as linen. This is especially important if you are shopping for a damask table cloth.


Mercerized combed cotton woven into textile using a satin weave is referred to as sateen. The satin weave uses a weaving technique that floats the yarns by interlacing the warp -- lengthwise yarns -- and the filling -- crosswise yarns -- between four to twelve yarns. This distance structure prevents the interlacing to form a wale -- visible vertical ridges formed in textiles such as corduroy. Though this lustrous surface exposes the varying lengths of warp yarn on the surface of the fabric, the textile does not expose the visible interlacing pattern. When floats are woven perpendicularly to the selvage -- the edges of the textile -- the fabric is referred to as sateen.

Sateen Fabric Uses

Though sateen textiles are associated with home decor items such as bed sheets, this versatile fabric is also used for apparel. Given the fabric is available in blends with stretch fibers, such as spandex as well as polyester, this smooth surface textile is also used to manufacture clothing, such as printed sateen dresses and solid color slacks. Home furnishing decorators also use the fabric for upholstery, giving fabric covered pieces a sheen and elegant finish.

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