Are you looking to make a costume for a party or more formal clothing or accessories for a special event, but you don’t know which fabric to choose? You want something that looks pretty, elegant, and sophisticated but different from other fabrics. Well, the fabric you may be looking for is brocade. But what exactly is brocade fabric?
Brocade is a fabric that has a raised design woven into it. The designs are usually made with different colored and sometimes metallic threads. The fabric itself looks more elegant than most fabrics. That’s why it is usually reserved for making evening gowns and formal wear.
But how do you know if brocade fabric is right for your particular project? Before I use fabric, especially for the first time, I like to know how the fabric is made, what the characteristics are, and how to care for it. That’s why I’ve created this guide to brocade fabric, which will cover all of that information and more.
What is Brocade Fabric?I’m sure at some point in your life, you’ve seen a fabric that has a metallic design on it. There’s a chance that the fabric was brocade. Known to be a more decorative fabric, the design may look as if it is embroidered into the fabric because it can appear raised. But the design is not embroidered.
With embroidered fabrics, the designs are stitched into the fabric after the fabric is made. But with brocade, the designs are woven into the fabric while the fabric itself is being woven. This method of putting the designs into the fabric gives the impression of embroidery even though it isn’t.
So why is brocade associated with elegance? For starters, the designs are woven with threads that are a different color than the main threads. Some brocade is even made with metallic threads, typically gold or silver in color. But the main reason is that when the fabric was first created, it was considered a luxury fabric that was reserved for and worn by those who were either royalty or had enough money to buy clothing made out of more expensive materials.
That’s why brocade fabric often has a regal look to it. The designs themselves are enough to give the fabric a sophisticated flair. But when you buy already made clothing made out of brocade fabric, it may have other embellishments such as sequins on it as well to further aid in its elegance.
What is Brocade Fabric Made Of?
Unlike cotton, polyester, rayon, and nylon, brocade doesn’t refer to a specific fiber type. Rather, brocade refers to the fabric itself and the type of weave used to create it. That means that one certain fiber isn’t reserved especially for creating brocade fabrics; there are multiple fibers that can be used.
But one of the reasons that brocade was considered to be a luxury fabric is because, in the past, it was mostly made of natural silk. Natural silk was (and still is) a rare and more expensive fabric that could only be purchased by those who could afford it. Wearing clothing made out of brocade was a symbol of status, as most other fabrics were made out of wool, linen, or cotton.
Today, some brocade fabrics are still made of silk, but they can be made out of other types of fibers. Even if brocade fabric is made of silk, it isn’t as expensive because silk is much more available and can be made more easily. A lot of silk fabric produced today is synthetic, meaning that it has the appearance of silk but isn’t made of silk fibers.
Other materials that can be used to create brocade include cotton, polyester, and rayon. But when these materials are used, they simply recreate the style of brocade. The fabric and style can still be considered brocade, but truly authentic brocade will be made of silk.
How is Brocade Fabric Made?
Before we get into exactly how brocade is made, here’s an interesting fact. While most fabrics are dyed after they are woven together, the fibers used to make brocade are dyed before the fabric is woven. This is because the design is woven into the fabric instead of added after. If the fabric was dyed after the design was woven, then the dye would hide the design.
So once the fibers have been dyed, what happens next? How are both the fabric and the design woven at the same time? Well, traditionally, the fabric was woven by hand on a conventional loom. You can imagine how long that took as well as the attention to detail that was required to weave the designs (yet another reason why the fabric used to be expensive).
But something called a jacquard loom changed the way that the fabric was produced. The jacquard loom was invented in the early 1800s and made creating brocade fabric more efficient. And today, weaving brocade is even easier because most of the jacquard looms are computerized. The ease of weaving the designs into the fabric helped to lower the cost of the fabric.
Now here’s the basic gist of how brocade fabric is made. Most fabrics rely on two yarns, the warp yarn and the weft yarn, to give them their structure. What’s unique about brocade fabric is that a third yarn, called the supplementary weft yarn, is also used.
As the main warp and weft yarns are being woven, the supplementary weft yarn is being woven into the fabric as well in unique and ornamental patterns that create the design. The supplementary weft yarn is the yarn dyed metallic in color to make the design stand out from the rest of the fabric.
Types of Brocade Fabric
I’ve already mentioned that brocade fabric can be made out of different materials. But what are the differences between different brocade fabrics? There are 7 different types of brocade fabric, which we’ll examine in more detail.
1. Silk BrocadeSilk brocade was the original type of brocade fabric and it is still widely produced today. It is many people’s preference; they believe that brocade fabric isn’t true brocade unless it is made from silk.
This is due to the characteristics of silk. The luster and feel of silk brocade, and silk in general, is incredibly beautiful and hard to beat.
2. Cotton BrocadeWhile silk brocade is used mostly for formal clothing, cotton brocade is used for more casual clothing. This is because the characteristics of cotton brocade aren’t as elegant as silk, and cotton brocade is more easily produced.
The designs and patterns featured in cotton brocade also tend to be less intricate and complex than those in brocade made from silk.
3. Synthetic BrocadeSynthetic brocade usually refers to brocade fabric that is made from synthetic fibers such as polyester. Although synthetic brocade is the least expensive to produce, it is not preferred, so it is less common.
The main reason is that silk and cotton are natural fibers, making softer brocade fabrics that are more comfortable to wear. Synthetic fibers like polyester are essentially forms of plastic, so brocade and any other types of fabric made from synthetic fibers are not only less comfortable but harmful to the environment as well.
4. Himroo BrocadeThis type of brocade is most commonly used and produced in India. Himroo brocade is made from silk and cotton fibers, giving it characteristics of both fabric types.
It typically has the luster and durability of silk while having the softness and breathability of the cotton. It is more stretchy than other types of brocade fabric as well.
5. Zari BrocadeThis type of brocade is most commonly associated with having designs made of metallic threads. Traditional Zari brocade would have had threads made of actual gold, silver, or copper.
But today, Zari brocade fabric is made using synthetic metallic thread instead of precious metals.
6. Continuous Brocade
Continuous brocade fabric isn’t necessarily made of a certain type of fiber. Rather, it refers to a type of brocade weave in which leftover thread used to weave the design is left hanging from the back of the fabric. The leftover thread is then cut off after the fabric has been completed.
7. Discontinuous Brocade
Like continuous brocade, discontinuous brocade isn’t made from a specific fiber type. But unlike continuous brocade, leftover supplementary weft fibers are woven back into the fabric to create other patterns instead of being cut off.
Brocade Fabric Characteristics
Although brocade fabrics are usually very beautiful, they do have certain characteristics that lead to the fabric only being worn on certain occasions. First of all, the fabric tends to be very thick and heavy, meaning that it may not be ideal for wearing in all types of weather or climates.
Other characteristics of brocade depend on the type of fiber that was used to make the fabric. While some types of brocade may be softer or more breathable than others, ultimately, the way that they are woven is the same.
In terms of breathability, it is usually pretty low for brocade fabric, although cotton brocade may be slightly more breathable than other types. Due to the weave of the fabric, brocade also doesn’t stretch a lot. But again, cotton or Himru brocade is more likely to stretch more.
When it comes to wicking away moisture, brocade fabric isn’t the best, but it isn’t the worst either. The same is true for heat retention. But in terms of durability, silk or synthetic brocade are more durable since cotton tends to shrink.
The bottom line is that, like most fabrics, brocade has some ideal characteristics and some that are less than ideal. But there’s no doubt that brocade fabric is beautiful, and the fact that it is usually only worn for a short period of time or on special occasions helps ensure that the beauty of the fabric is maintained for a long time.
What is Brocade Fabric Used For?Remember that traditional brocade fabric was reserved for nobility and royalty as a sign of wealth, elegance, and sophistication. It was used for a lot of different clothing, accessories, and even household fabrics.
While you may not find a lot of casual clothing today that is made out of brocade, it isn’t uncommon to find formal gowns, dresses, and even suits that are brocade. It is also likely that you might find a purse or even shoes that are made of brocade. Another use for brocade fabric is in costumes, specifically designed to look like something that royalty would have worn in an older type.
If, when reading this article, you’ve realized that you have seen brocade fabric somewhere, then where you saw it was probably in someone’s household. Brocade is popular for household use. Go in any store that sells household items and home decor, and you’ll probably see curtains, drapes, throw pillows, and even furniture that is made out of or upholstered in brocade fabric. Once you know what you’re looking for, you’ll recognize that many products are made out of brocade.
How to Care for Brocade Fabric
Although brocade is heavy, it is usually treated as a delicate fabric to preserve the intricate design. But considering that there are different types of brocade that are made from different fibers, caring for the fabric may not be consistent across all types of brocade.
Before washing, drying or doing anything to brocade, it is essential that you check the care label of the garment to see what is recommended. But in general, dry cleaning is recommended for brocade for two reasons. The first reason is that brocade tends to shrink when it gets wet. The second reason is that washing brocade can cause the dye to run, which could ruin the ornate design of the fabric.
Even if the care tag says that you can wash brocade using water, it isn’t recommended to use the washing machine. If you have to wash it at home, then hand-washing is preferred. When hand-washing brocade, you should always use cool water and a gentle or mild detergent to wash it carefully. Avoid scrubbing the fabric, and don’t wring or twist it to remove excess water.
Once you have hand-washed brocade fabric, lay a dry towel out flat on a table. Place the fabric on top of the towel and make sure it is as flat and wrinkle-free as possible. Roll the towel up so that the fabric is inside the towel, then gently press down on the towel to remove excess water.
When drying brocade, it is best not to put it in the dryer, especially using a heat drying cycle. Instead, lay the item flat on a surface to air dry, avoiding a heat source or direct sunlight. Heat can damage the fibers or cause them to shrink. Since brocade fabric is heavy and doesn’t stretch, you shouldn’t hang it up to dry. The weight of the wet fabric can cause the fibers to break.
You can iron brocade, but you should do so with a lot of care:
- Be sure that the iron is set to the appropriate fabric type to avoid damaging the fibers by using the wrong temperature.
- Turn the fabric inside out or iron the side that doesn’t have the design on it.
- Cover the fabric with a pressing cloth before ironing to avoid bringing the iron into direct contact with the fibers and to prevent snagging.
What is the Difference Between Brocade and Jacquard?You may have heard the term jacquard fabric and wonder what the difference is between brocade and jacquard. After all, brocade is woven on a jacquard loom. But the term jacquard doesn’t just refer to one fabric type.
Generally, the jacquard loom is the type of loom that is used to create designed fabrics. Brocade is a type of jacquard fabric, but it is not the only type of jacquard fabric. Other designs of jacquard fabric include damask and more intricate designs like a tapestry.
Like brocade, jacquard fabrics can be made of different fibers. But another difference between brocade and other types of jacquard designs is that with brocade, the design is only woven on one side of the fabric. With damask, for example, the fabric is reversible because only two threads are used instead of three, so the design is woven on both sides of the fabric.
To best sum up the difference between brocade and jacquard, all brocade fabrics are jacquard, but not all jacquard fabrics are brocade.
In conclusion, I hope this article provided you with everything you needed to know about brocade fabric. If your sewing project involves making a formal dress, suit, or even curtains or pillow coverings, then brocade is a great choice due to its elegance. Just remember to follow the care instructions carefully and avoid unwanted damage to the fabric and ornate design. If you enjoyed this article, share it and leave a comment. Thanks for reading!