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Brocatelle - Traditional Embossed Upholstery Fabrics

Updated on September 15, 2017

If you are familiar with brocatelle fabrics, you must have noticed that it has some similarity with damask. The similarity is basically in the patterning of both fabrics and the fibres used in their construction.

Brocatelle is a heavier traditional fabric popularly used for upholstery works. It is woven with silk, strengthened with linen fibres, and has a satin or twill weave on a plain (or satin) background.

It can be easily distinguished from damask fabrics by its mainly raised embossed areas of patterns formed by a double warp.

Traditional brocatelle fabrics seldom came in more than two colours and during the 17th century, its use as a home décor fabric was mainly as decorative wall hangings.

Today, it still makes a great textile for home décor, and though it doesn’t drape well, it is a fantastic choice for upholstery and other soft furnishings.

Brocatelle Fabric Construction

A medium to heavyweight traditional home décor fabric, brocatelle materials are recognized by their smooth raised warp effects on a filling effect background. Its construction involves a twill background woven against a plain satin weave.

This is what may sometimes make people confuse the fabric with damask, but while damask fabrics feel smooth to the touch, brocatelle textiles are raised with a highly embossed effect.

Brocatelle is woven with two sets of warp and fillers and is blended with fibre threads such as:

  • Silk
  • Rayon
  • Cotton
  • Lisle
  • Silver or gold threads
  • Man-made synthetic fibres

It also comes in a woven mix of silk, cotton, or even wool, and sometimes with silver or gold or threads.

Finely woven and constructed, brocatelle is beautiful, refined and sophisticated and always appears as an embroidered and puffy' fabric with slight relief variations according to the patterns.

It's raised embossed patterning is often padded with loose yarn stuffing (pattern is warp faced and the background is filling faced), making it fit its description of a double cloth.

Brocatelle, Damask, or Brocade?

Unlike brocade or damask fabrics, brocatelle is not reversible. This is because the filler background threads that produces its reverse side is quite unattractive and appears somewhat 'untidy'.

Many may describe brocatelle as a heavy brocade material, they are not too far from the truth because it does look 'brocaded', but with much more elaborate and grandly raised patterns on its face side.

However, brocatelle fabrics can be aptly described as variants of damask textiles with raised patterned areas making it a seemingly double cloth.

Italian Renaissance pomegranate silk brocatelle
Italian Renaissance pomegranate silk brocatelle | Source

How to Use Brocatelle

For Home Décor

Brocatelle fabrics have similar uses as damask and brocade. They are such beautiful textiles that come out striking if used for interior furnishings such as:

  • Certain types of window treatments.
  • Classic and contemporary upholstery
  • Accent/Occasional chairs
  • Dining chairs
  • Other similar decorating purposes

Black Silk Brocatelle Outfit
Black Silk Brocatelle Outfit | Source

For Fashion Apparel

Brocatelle fabrics also make great couture wear and "after 5 o'clock" wear.

Because it is woven so finely, it can be used for formal wear, chic refined apparel, haute couture outfits such as sophisticated tailored clothing.

How Not to Use This Fabric

As long as you consider the scale of its pattern in relationship to the furnishing item and/or interior space, brocatelle is good to use. This is quite important to note before making any purchase.

For example, because brocatelle has large and bold patterns and a looks like embossed damask textiles, it would become overwhelming if combined with fabrics that have an embroidered appearance.

So try not to combine brocatelle with fabrics like broche which is similar to brocade with its small floral patterns, or with fabrics that have damask or heavy type patterns.

It can become distressing to the eyes if a room is filled with various patterns of traditional fabrics in different spots of the same interior space.

Authentic vs Modern

Authentic brocatelle fabrics of the 13th and 14th centuries were double weave textiles made of linen and silk warp, with silk and linen filling.

However, today's brocatelle materials have changed from those traditional woven fabrics but still have raised embossed details in the tightly woven warp effect.

And though some may wrongly classify brocatelle textiles as flat upholstery fabrics, it isn't. Brocatelle patterns still stand out conspicuously in distinct "high relief".

Brocatelle fabrics are not very easy to find online or offline, but a few number of online stores do have them in many varieties and colours.

And unlike centuries ago when the textile came in only two colours, there are now brocatelle décor fabrics that come in more than two colours and with much more modern patterns.

© 2011 viryabo


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