Interesting Facts About Brocade Fabric
Brocade fabric is a shuttle-woven fabric with an intricate pattern or design. It is often made with colored silk and sometimes with gold and/or silver threads. The name “brocade” comes from the Italian word, “broccato,” which means “embossed cloth.” It has the same word origin as “broccoli,” which is from the Latin word, “broccus,” meaning “pointed.”
The term “brocade” is sometimes used interchangeably with “damask.” However, damask and brocade fabrics are two different things although they share a similarity. Like brocade fabric, the design on damask fabric is also woven into the cloth. However, damask fabrics have reversible designs while brocade fabrics do not. Also, the damask fabric is usually more expensive because it has a higher thread count than brocade fabric.
The design on brocade fabric appears to be embroidered on, but it is not. The patterns are woven into the cloth using a supplementary weft technique on a draw loom. Weft threads are the threads running across the loom. The warp threads are threads that run vertical. Aside from the standard weft threads that hold the warp threads together, supplemental weft threads are woven in to create the design.
Modern brocade fabrics are usually woven using the Jacquard technique. The original Jacquard loom uses punch cards to make it easier for the weaver to control the loom. Interestingly, the Jacquard loom is the first machine to make use of punch cards in controlling a sequence of operations and its invention is historically significant in the development of computer programming. Today, Jacquard looms are controlled by modern computers instead of punched cards.
Brocade fabrics were made in Byzantium, Greece, China, Japan and Korea. They were a luxury that was only available to nobility because they were very expensive. In those times, brocade fabrics were made with real gold and silver threads. They were sometimes adorned with precious stones, small medallions and appliques. They were either made into clothing or wall hangings.
In the western world, brocade fabrics were originally made of linen and wool. However, with the introduction of sericulture, silk became the preferred material for making brocade fabrics. In Italy, brocade fabrics were important during the Renaissance. The motifs were Indian, Chinese and Persian in origin, reflecting commerce between Italy and the Far East.
Today, brocade fabrics are used for draperies and upholstery. They are also used for formal and ceremonial clothing, including religious vestments and state robes. In India, they are used for saris, tops and skirts. Sequins and beads have replaced the precious stones that used to adorn the brocade fabrics in the olden times. Though still typically made from silk, modern brocade fabrics may also be made from cotton and rayon. Metallic threads are used in place of real silver and gold.
Once exclusive to nobility in the Middle Ages, brocade fabrics can now be found in many stores at affordable prices. The price of brocade fabrics depend on the materials used to create the fabric and how intricate the designs are.