What is Brocade? Fabric Guide and Explanation

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In the course of this lesson, questions like “what is brocade? what is it used for? what is it made of? and what is a brocade pattern?” are all going to be answered. This is an all-encompassing look at the brocade material. You will also learn more about the different types of brocade, the difference between jacquard and a brocade, if it is a natural or synthetic fabric, and lastly, how to care for brocade fabric and the clothes made from them. Read on for more about what is brocade.

What is Brocade?PinWhat is Brocade


What is Brocade?What is Brocade Fabric Made of?What is Brocade – Production MethodsTypes of Brocade FabricContinuous BrocadeDiscontinuous BrocadeSilk BrocadeSynthetic BrocadeCotton Brocade Himru Brocade Zari Brocade What is Brocade Fabric Used For?What is Brocade Sewn with?What is Brocade vs. Jacquard? Is Brocade Natural or Synthetic?How to Care for Brocade Fabric Clothes and Accessories What is Brocade? – in ConclusionMore Fabric Articles

What is Brocade?

Brocade is a decorated woven fabric with a raised design that is usually made with gold or silver threads. It can bear a close resemblance to an embroidered material but in reality, they are quite different. This is because the patterns in brocade are created with additional weft threads during the weaving process. Embroideries, on the other hand, are stitched on after the fabric has been completed.

Usually, brocade is woven with silk on a draw loom. Extra weft threads are used to produce the ornamental decorative design. The idea is to give the impression that the decorative weaves are embroidered.

In the past, this material was the exclusive preserve of the rich. Brocade was considered a luxury fabric and worn only by the nobility. This was probably due to the fact that silk was extremely rare and expensive. Its production was seemingly non-existent, with wool and linen being the common fabrics of the day. The little available silk was used to weave brocades for the nobility in Byzantium, India, Japan, Persia, Korea, China, and Greece by the Byzantines.

What is Brocade Fabric Made of?

In the middle ages, brocade fabric was made of woven silk material. Consequently, as silk was a rather rare fabric, the fabric was regarded as a luxury item. Nowadays, silk production is rampant, so brocade fabrics and materials are readily available and much more affordable. This is largely because brocade production has come a long way from the days of weaving with only a draw loom.

Today, some other fabrics such as rayon, polyester, cotton, and a variety of other fabrics can be used in recreating the brocade style. Brocade purists however still insist that it should be produced solely with silk. Regardless of the fabric used, it is dyed before the weaving process. This is because if the fabric is dyed after the weaving process, the dye can conceal the beautiful patterns.

What is Brocade?What is Brocade?PinWhat is Brocade?

What is Brocade – Production Methods

Brocade is created by weaving an additional weft yarn which is added to the compulsory warp and weft yarn. These are then used to create the complicated patterns that give it its embossed look.

Thanks to advancements in the manufacturing industry, the fabric is now made with a jacquard loom. A jacquard loom is the common name used to describe a loom and jacquard machine ensemble. A jacquard machine is an apparatus that simplifies the manufacturing process of intricate patterns like brocades, matelasse, and damasks. 

The jacquard machine was invented in 1804 and named after its inventor, Joseph Marie Jacquard. It noticeably simplified the process of production. These days, jacquard looms are controlled by computers.

 An added win for the jacquard machine is that the figuring shed can be drawn on every shot, thereby producing fabrics with a better defined outline. This is unlike the previous machines in which the figuring shed is drawn once after every four shots.

Types of Brocade Fabric

Technological advancements in the textile manufacturing industry have invariably affected this fabric. It has also made it possible for the fabric to be reproduced with other kinds of fibers. The different types of brocade fabric available are as follows:

What is Brocade?What is Brocade?PinWhat is Brocade?

Continuous Brocade

In this kind of fabric, the leftover thread from the additional weft used in creating the designs is left hanging on the back of the fabric or cut off.

Discontinuous Brocade

In this type, the extra weft is woven only in the patterned area. Leftover threads are woven into the fabric and used in creating additional patterns.

Silk Brocade

This is the most popular form of the brocade fabric. It was the first type of fabric that was ever produced and still remains relevant to date. This is probably due to its smoothness, durability, and luxurious feel.

Synthetic Brocade

It is produced with synthetic fibers and is usually less expensive than silk and cotton brocades. It`s also cheaper to produce than brocade fabric woven with silk or cotton. However, they are not as comfortable to wear or soft as those made with natural fibers.

Cotton Brocade 

Cotton brocade is simpler to produce than silk brocade and also less luxurious. Cotton brocades usually have less complex patterns than silk and are commonly used in making casual garments.

Himru Brocade 

Himru is generally manufactured and used in India. It is made with a mixture of silk and cotton. Due to this, it is soft to the touch, breathable, and slightly stretchy like cotton while also being durable and having the attractive radiance of silk.

Zari Brocade 

In the past, zari was infused with threads of precious metals like silver, gold, or copper. These days, however, synthetic materials like metallic yarns are used in place of these high-value metals. Zari is commonly used in India to make traditional sarees.

Despite the different types of the fabric available, you can easily tell if a fabric is a brocade by its ornamental and embossed designs.

What is Brocade Fabric Used For?

As earlier stated, it was once the fabric of choice of the noble and extremely wealthy. This is because even when the production of silk became widespread, Byzantium was still the major manufacturer of brocades and the Byzantine Emperor charged ridiculously steep prices for the fabric. Therefore, it made perfect sense that those who could afford it reveled in them. These noblemen and women mostly used it for fashion. These days, although brocade is still used for displays of fashion, it is also used for so much more.

Some of the ways brocade fabric is used are:

Upholstery and Draperies: Brocade fabrics are sturdy and decorative and so are mostly used to make draperies and upholstery today. In upholstery, brocade serves the dual purpose of serving as padding while also beautifying the furniture.Costumes: Costumes generally mimic the style of clothes of a particular historical period or country. Brocades are used in the production of costumes for those historical periods like the Middle Ages, and Renaissance period. According to historians, it was the fabric of choice for the fashionable in those periods.Vestments: Brocade fabrics have long been used in religion. In the early middle ages, it was a common sight to see brocade fabrics with depictions of Christian subjects woven into the fabric. In a like manner, this fabric is currently used to make liturgical garments in modern times.Clothing: Modern brocades are soft so can be used for making casual or formal dresses. Evening jackets, suits, dresses, trousers, and coats are a few of the items a brocade material can be used in sewing. Accessories: This fabric can be very attractive and appealing when used as or on accessories. You can easily make a fashion statement when your adorn your clutch, purse, shoes, or handbag with this luxuriously patterned fabric. You can go the extra mile by wearing scarves and shawls made with brocade material. Men are not left out too – brocade ties, pocket squares, and bow ties are also always a hit.What is Brocade Used For?What is Brocade Used For?PinWhat is Brocade Used For?

What is Brocade Sewn with?

Sewing brocade is not as difficult as it might appear, considering the look of the fabric. It is actually quite easy to sew with this fabric as it cuts and sews like other fabrics.

Some extra tips for sewing brocade are:

SEAM ALLOWANCES – Use wider seam allowances to allow for some extra fraying. FOOT – A walking foot will help with the bulk of the fabric and ensure the top and bottom layers move at the same speed. FINISHING – Finish the edges as they do fray a lot and might irritate the skin. You can easily serge the edges if you want a more professional finish or look. A bias-bound seam will also protect from fraying in unlined garments such as jackets. THREAD – Sew with a thread of polyester or cotton in a matching weight. LINING -Line the inside of garments in order to protect your skin from the additional weft yarn that will stick out from the back. Lining the brocade material will also prevent the exposed threads from snagging and damaging the fabric. 

What is Brocade vs. Jacquard? 

Brocade is a richly woven fabric decorated with raised patterns. Jacquard, however, is a loom that is specifically used for weaving figured fabrics. It can also be used to describe a type of fabric with a complicated weaving pattern. Usually, when a brocade is confused with a jacquard, it is often mixed up with the latter. 

The major difference is that although a brocade fabric is one out of many types of jacquard, a jacquard is not a brocade. Simply, a brocade is a jacquard, but all jacquards are not brocades. A jacquard is used to make different woven materials, one of which is a brocade. 

Other fabrics woven on a jacquard machine include damask, brocatelle, and tapestry.

Is Brocade Natural or Synthetic?

Brocade can be either natural or synthetic depending on the materials used in production. When woven with either silk or cotton, then the fabric is natural as these fabrics are naturally occurring and not one fabricated by humans.

Rayon and polyester, on the other hand, are man-made materials and so when used in brocade production, the finished product would be a synthetic fabric.

How to Care for Brocade Fabric Clothes and Accessories 

Although heavy, brocade usually requires gentle handling. It`s usually best to dry clean this fabric so the dye does not run and the intricate design is not damaged.

But, if for some reason you have cause to wash this fabric at home, wash gently with a mild detergent and then dry flat without squeezing. This will significantly reduce the chance of your fabric wrinkling. Wrinkles are difficult to remove once they are set in this fabric.

When ironing, do not use high temperatures. If you do, you might end up burning the soft thread used in weaving the fabric.

Note that the use of water to wash or clean this fabric is fiercely discouraged. It is best to always dry clean this fabric. 

What is Brocade? – in Conclusion

In conclusion to what is brocade we learned it is a richly woven fabric with a decorative raised design. It can be used for an assortment of purposes like making draperies and upholstery, formal and evening wear, costumes, and vestments. It can be adorned with beads and sequins or woven with precious metals. Basically, you can use the fabric to make any number of garments. All you need to do is select a type of brocade fabric with a texture that would respond well to your purpose.

More Fabric Articles

Thanks for reading all about what is brocade. Here are are some more fabrics to learn about:

What is Batik?What is Broadcloth?What is Brocade?What is Burlap? What is Calico?What is Cheesecloth?What is Chiffon?What is Corduroy?What is Denim?What is Linen?What is Organic Cotton?What is Sateen?What is Spandex?What is Tencel?What is Tulle?What is Twill Fabric?What is VelvetWhat is Vinyl Fabric?

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