Irish damask linen proof napkin

Contributed by Irish Linen Centre Lisburn

Early 20th century Irish damask linen proof napkin woven for the Irrawaddy Flotilla Company, Burma by J S Brown, Belfast

Damask table linen made in Ireland graced tables all over the world in a bygone era of elegance and leisureThis napkin illustrates the world wide trading connections of the great Irish Linen Industry in the hey-day of the British Empire. The napkin was power-woven on a jacquard loom at John Shaw Brown's linen weaving factory, Edenderry, Lisburn which, before its closure in 1981,was one of the biggest damask weaving companies in Ireland. The Irrawaddy Flotilla Company had a fleet of paddle steamers carrying cargoes of Burmese teak on the Irrawaddy River. For the European passengers, dining with damask table linen provided an expected level of comfort in a bygone era of elegance, even whilst travelling on a river boat in the midst of the jungle. In damask cloth manufacture, a new pattern was woven in two colours of yarn so that the pattern was clearly visible and any faults in the design, card cutting or weaving process would be apparent. The warp thread was unbleached yarn and the weft threads were in a contrasting colour. The proof cloth could also be shown to the customer for approval before full production of the white (bleached) napkins began.

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  • 1. At 21:49 on 12 September 2011, archie610 wrote:

    I have in my possession a Proof napkin made at the Edenderry Mill, by John Shaw Brown's Company, for the Canadian National Railways. It is in its original condition, unwashed, unironed, uncut and has confirmation signatures of specific workers and managers, on a company label sewn onto the cloth. If desired I can E-Mail a photo if desired. Please send your address.

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  • 2. At 22:45 on 28 June 2012, Alexis Totten wrote:

    My Mother, Grandmother and Great Grandmother all worked for John Shaw Brown, as damask weavers, dates ranging from 1880:1969. During this period, my Grandmother (Martha Jane Dillon)wove all the 'special samples' for John Shaw Brown. It would be brilliant if you (Archie610 - re previous comment)could send me a copy (via email) of the signatures of specific workers.
    John Shaw Browns trademark for their 'high quality' range was a tiny shamrock woven into the corners of their tablecloths and napkins, so if anyone happens to have such a thing - they are very fortunate (I wish I did).

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