Whenever the subject of brocade comes up, someone is bound to say, “Of course, we can’t get real brocades any more. The stuff that passes for brocade is all Jacquard.”

Then everyone nods solemnly, sad at the thought that they can’t get real brocade any more, and feeling just a smidge less authentic because they’re making do with Jacquard. And, just maybe, feeling a little stupid because they don’t know the difference between a brocade and a Jacquard.

Here’s the difference:

A brocade is a complex weave in which the pattern is executed in a different weave and with different threads than the ground.

A Jacquard is a loom that creates complex weaves, using a nifty system of punchcards.

Jacquard looms can weave damasks. They can weave matelasse. They can weave brocatelle and tapestry and paisley. And, yes, they can weave brocade. Unless you have a boatload of money or you know a weaving laurel, all the brocades you can buy are woven on a Jacquard loom.

So the next time someone hauls out the tired old saw about how we can’t have nice things any more because Jacquards ruined it, educate them.

Then go enjoy your brocades. Your real, Jacquard-woven brocades.


(Next step: Learning that most of the things we call brocade are actually damask.)