Damask vs. Brocade

Difference Between Damask And Brocade Damask Damask, a patterned reversible fabric that became popular in Damascus in the…

Difference Between Damask And Brocade


Damask, a patterned reversible fabric that became popular in Damascus in the Middle Ages. Originally, damask was made of silk, with elaborate woven designs. It was used in Europe for dresses for the well-to-do and nobility and for decorative hangings in their homes. Damask is now made of a variety of fibers, including linen, cotton, rayon, acetate, nylon, and wool, as well as silk. It is commonly used for tablecloths, upholstery, and dresses.


Damask is a flat fabric that is generally woven on a Jacquard loom. Sometimes the design appears to be raised, but its flatness can easily be ascertained by rubbing the fingers over the fabric. The patterns are produced by varying the satin weave in which the smooth shiny surface results from closely spaced warp threads that “float” over several filling threads before passing under one. For example, in a 5-harness satin weave, each warp thread alternately floats over four filling threads and under one.

The satin weave is varied so that the design areas on one side of the fabric are woven with floating warp threads and the ground is woven with floating filling threads. On the reverse side of the fabric the design is woven with floating filling threads and the ground is woven with floating warp threads. Damasks are also made by varying twill and tabby weaves.


When the same kind of thread is used for both the warp and filling, the design is brought out in a subtle and pleasing way solely by the difference in light reflection of the contrasting weaves. To make the pattern more prominent, the warp threads may be dyed one color, and the filling threads a second color. Sometimes two filling colors are used. If the colors are changed properly with the design, the fabric suggests a brocade, which has extra threads.


Brocade, a fabric with a woven pattern that is purely decorative and independent of the structure of the cloth. The term brocade is also used for the technique of weaving such fabrics. As the ground weave is being formed, supplementary nonstructural weft threads, which do not extend from selvage to selvage, are introduced as needed to form the pattern. The effect resembles embroidery, and indeed brocading, a term whose derivation from the Latin brocāre (“to prick”) suggests needlework, is often defined as “embroidery weaving” or “loom embroidery.” Although a fabric of any fiber, such as wool or cotton, or of any weave, such as twill or velvet, can be brocaded, the term brocade is frequently restricted to richly figured fabrics that combine silk and gold or silver threads.

The technique of brocading is likely to be found wherever loom weaving has developed beyond rudimentary stages, but the origin of brocading with silk and metallic threads tends to be attributed either to ancient China, where silk was discovered, or to India, where there is a long tradition of gold-enriched fabrics. However, the earliest extant examples of Chinese brocade are probably from the Song dynasty (960–1279), and few Indian examples can be dated before the 16th century. In Persia there is no evidence of silk and metal brocading before the 11th or 12th century. By then such brocades also were made in Syria, North Africa, Sicily, Spain, and other parts of the Mediterranean world.

During the 13th and 14th centuries, brocade weaving in Italy was influenced by the importation of brocades from China. Turkish brocades of the 15th century show both Italian and Persian influence. A French style of all-silk brocading developed in the 16th century, and in the 17th century an influx of Huguenot weavers into England greatly affected brocade weaving there.

The technique of brocading is widely used in hand-loom weaving, but in the textile industry the term brocade covers a variety of fabrics made on the Jacquard loom and distinguished by slightly raised, fairly elaborate patterning.




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