Detail of handwoven Italian silk brocaded on silk with floral motif, c. 1730–50.
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Brocade is a class of richly decorative shuttle-woven fabrics, often made in colored silks and with or without gold and silver threads. The name, related to the same root as the word "broccoli" comes from Italian broccato meaning "embossed cloth," originally past participle of the verb broccare "to stud, set with nails," from brocco, "small nail," from Latin broccus, "projecting, pointed.
Brocade is typically woven on a draw loom. It is a supplementary weft technique, that is, the ornamental brocading is produced by a supplementary, non-structural, weft in addition to the standard weft that holds the warp threads together. The purpose of this is to give the appearance that the weave actually was embroidered on.
Ornamental features in brocade are emphasized and wrought as additions to the main fabric, sometimes stiffening it, though more frequently producing on its face the effect of low relief. In some, but not all, brocades, these additions present a distinctive appearance on the back of the material where the supplementary weft or floating threads of the brocaded or broached parts hang in loose groups or are clipped away. When the weft is floating on the back, this is known as a continuous brocade; the supplementary weft runs from selvage to selvage. The yarns are cut away in cutwork and broché. Also, a discontinuous brocade is where the supplementary yarn is only woven in the patterned areas.