Jacquard, brocade and damask – what is the difference?
Oft times, the terms brocade, damask, and jacquard, get used interchangeably, which, to be fair is understandable – they’re all relatively similar. However, it can help to understand the difference between them and how they relate to one another.
Let’s start with jacquard. Jacquard is not only a type of fabric, but is also a clever Frenchman by the name of Joseph Marie Jacquard who in 1801 revolutionized textile production with his invention, the Jacquard loom.
Though more often than not the Jacquard looms of today are computerized, the loom Jacquard originally developed was controlled by a chain of punched cards (think player piano) laced together into a continuous sequence, with the rows of holes on each card corresponding to one row of the design.
This new technique of weaving helped simplify the process of manufacturing fabric, especially when it came to complex patterns such as brocades and damasks.
Brocade is often defined as a lavish, highly decorative fabric that, due to the intricacy with which they are woven, can be on the higher end of the textile price range.
The word brocade comes from the Italian word broccato, which directly translates, to “embossed cloth”, a quality that is achieved due to the fact that brocades are woven by adding a supplementary weft to the weave, creating the illusion that sections have been embossed into the fabric, or embroidered on top of it.
Brocades can be set apart from damasks in that the back of a brocade will typically have groups of threads that have been trimmed away or left out of the weave and look more messy.
Damasks, on the other hand, are different from brocade in that their woven pattern is reversible, with the opposite side presenting itself like a film negative – it has the same pattern, but the colors are opposite as to what they are on the front.
The word damask comes from from Damascus (the current capital of Syria), where it was one of five basic weaving techniques used by Byzantine and Islamic cultures in the Middle Ages. The shorter weft patterns in damask allow for more subtle effects in the fabric to be created as it plays off of shadow and light. Damask weaves also contain a higher thread count than that of brocade, as they are woven with one warp yarn and one weft yarn.
So essentially, brocades and damasks, each with their own distinguishing qualities, both fall under the category of jacquard.