What is brocade ? This lustrous fabric with beautiful patterns.

what is brocadeWhen I first saw Brocade in a shop I knew I was going to buy a lot of that fabric – those floating designs on the surface and rich opulent looks had me floored. The only thing that fazed me was the dry clean label but despite that, I did buy a lot of it.

What is Brocade?

Brocade is a rich jacquard fabric with intricate designs on its surface which looks as if they are embossed or embroidered but  are made by weaving supplementary weft yarns(silk or silver/golden zari; single colour or multi coloured)  into the warp on a special  jacquard loom. The patterns can be simple shapes like scrolls, flowers or animals or as intricate as they come.

The brocade usually has a twill or satin background and is typically thick and heavy.


On brocade, the patterns are visible only on the face of the fabric.  This makes the brocade non-reversible unlike some other jacquard loom fabrics. In fact this distinguishes it from other jacquard loom fabric like Damask, which looks almost the same as brocade on the face.

This is the result of the way a brocade fabric pattern is made – by inserting the pattern thread between the warp thread of the ground fabric. The  special thread is inserted in between, by skipping the passage of the regular weft over a certain number of warp threads 

In the making of a brocade fabric the shuttles that move the thread are used only on the places where the patterns are supposed to be. Hence the weft thread is discontinous on the fabric. For small designs If you look at the back of a brocade fabric you may see only the base fabric, but on the surface, you will find the pattern. This saves a lot of thread too

The back of the brocade cloth seen earlier.


Origin of the word Brocade may be from the Spanish word Brocado, or Italian word brocatto, meaning ’embossed cloth’; It may have its origin from the Kurdish word Brocar as learnt from this blog with some wonderful pictures of Syrian brocade fabrics 

Different types of Brocade

Silk brocade
This is a beautiful brocade fabric which is soft smooth and very lustrous. Initially, this used to be the way brocade was made.
Cotton brocade
This brocade has subtler patterns and is lightweight than the silk brocade

Jamdani, Balucar, Paithani, Himru are these kinds of brocades made in India. Jamdani is a very fine brocade. Cotton fabric is brocaded with cotton and sometimes zari threads. Himru is a cotton silk brocade

Zari brocade
This brocade fabric has gold and silver thread weaved to form the patterns. Brocade saris of India are made of this –  gold or silver zari is used along with coloured silks to create various intricate motifs in this brocade fabric  Originally zari was made of real silver of 98 per cent purity but as this is not feasible synthetic zari is used. Gold threads are actually only silver threads with gold polish, which are obtained by closely winding extremely fine silver wire around a silk thread

The motifs usually used are that of floral bouquets, flowers, stars and the moon, betal leaf etc

What can you sew with Brocade ?

Brocade has this expensive aura ( it is expensive) and is usually used for making clothes as well as for home decor; in the western world brocade is used for costume plays, upholstery and religious vestments and elsewhere for dressmaking for weddings and such ostentatious occasions.

Medium weight brocade fabric can be used for dressmaking especially for making structured skirts or dresses, ornate jackets, pants and evening wear

The patterns on the brocade give an opulent look to anything you make with this fabric. It is a fabric used for covering high-end furniture. It is also used for making bags, purses, curtains/drapery, upholstery, headboards etc. It is also an oft-used fabric for making Wedding gowns and waistcoats.

what is brocade

The brocades patterned with silver and golden thread look very rich and opulent. The dramatic look of brocade may put off the casual dresser but there are subtle looking brocades which can be made into dresses or even beautiful skirts or incorporated to dresses in subtle ways like a binding or piping in brocade or a yoke for the blouse.

The brocades are almost always elaborately patterned, but if you donot like that you can choose a brocade in a self colored pattern/ muted colours.

Sewing with brocade

Brocade is not a difficult fabric to sew. Some heavyweight brocade with zari work may look embossing but when you start working with it, it cuts and sews like any other, because it depends on the ground fabric.

Use our regular sewing thread of polyester or cotton. The fabric edges fray a lot and will stick out to irritate the skin so you will definitely have to finish the ends. You can serge the edges for a very professional finish or bind.

Lining is a necessity with this fabric as you will find the pattern’s threads sticking out  in the back of the fabric, clearly separated from the ground. This can itch/ cause irritation etc or the thread will snag and the fabric will be damaged. So for a long lasting garment, you should use a lining or underlining.

If you want to use interfacing you will have to use a sew in interfacing instead of fusible. Ironing is a problem with brocade. you will have to be very very careful

Brocades are usually embellished with sequins and beads, though they donot need any embellishment. 

Caring for Brocade clothes/fabric

Brocade fabric is usually marked dry clean ; if you are washing at home gently wash with mild shampoo and dry flat, removing all the wrinkles. Once the wrinkles are set they are difficult to remove.

When Ironing brocade you cannot use high temperature, though the fabric is heavy. Extreme care should be taken when ironing to prevent the soft thread from burning out.


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