What is Brocade Fabric?
Brocade is a fabric woven with an elaborate raised design, often using gold or silver threads. While originally made of only of silk fibers, brocade fabrics can be found today woven from a variety of natural and synthetic fibers.
The fabric is almost always thick and features a weave with floating threads to create a lustrous surface and sheen. Many brocade fabrics have different background weaves and often showcase an elaborate embroidered surface weave. Brocades are not reversible like a damask weave on a tablecloth fabric. The back of the fabric can be smooth or show cut threads almost like a fringe.
You may find fabrics labeled as Imperial Brocade. These feature the gold or silver threads woven throughout or used to embellish a design. Heavy brocade fabrics used for upholstery are called Brocatelle. Brocade velvet features a raised pattern and a woven background.
How to Clean Brocade Fabrics
First, it is essential to read the garment or accessory label for fiber content and care instructions. Depending on the type of fibers used in weaving, some brocades can be hand washed, while others must be professionally dry cleaned. Because of the weaving method used to create the intricate patterns, brocade fabric often shrinks when wet. Dry cleaning is always the preferred cleaning method especially for expensive items.
If hand washing is suggested, always use cool water and a mild detergent. Never scrub vigorously or wring the garment. Extra care should be taken when laundering the fabric to protect the longer floating threads that form the design and give brocade its lovely finish from breakage.
For upholstered furniture covered with brocade fabrics, use a professional cleaner. If you choose to use a home cleaning system or a stain remover, always test it on a hidden area first to be sure there is no fading or excessive damage.
How to Dry Brocade Fabrics
If you have hand washed brocade, to prevent snags or pulls that could happen if the brocade is placed in a tumble dryer, avoid it completely. Instead, roll the wet brocade fabric in a thick, cotton towel to remove most of the moisture. Then air dry the brocade garments on a flat surface away from direct heat or sunlight.
For brocade garments or accessories that are not stained but are dusty, place the items in a mesh laundry bag. Add the protected fabric to a tumble dryer set on air only and run for 10 or 15 minutes. This will pull out the dust without damaging the fabric.
How to Iron Brocade Fabrics
The temperature setting of the iron should be selected based on the fiber content of the particular brocade fabric. To prevent crushing or flattening the design, always iron on the wrong side of the fabric. Always use a press cloth or white woven cotton towel between the iron and the fabric to prevent snags and pulls.
History of Brocade Fabric Weaving
Brocade fabrics from the Middle Ages have been discovered in China and Japan, Greece and Italy. These were all made of silk and hand-woven on looms by master weavers. Due to the intricate design and the hours needed to create the fabric, only the ruling emperors and the very wealthy could afford the fabric. The fabric was often encrusted with jewels and hand embroidery for clothing and tapestries.
With the invention of the a loom in 1801 by Joseph Marie Jacquard which used punched cards to represent lines in a pattern, brocade could be created in mass quantities making it more readily available to wider audience. However, it still remained a fabric only used by the rich due to the expense of production and the care needed for cleaning.
Today, brocade fabrics are used for home accessories like upholstery, draperies and pillows. However, brocade is still used for formal evening wear and for clerical vestments.