What is Brocade?

Brocade weaving with flowers and geometric designs in earth tone colors done on a backstrap loom by master weaver Cristine Hernandez from Guatemala. Front and back side of weaving
Example of brocade in backstrap loom weaving. Zoom in to see more detail of the front and back threads.

 

In backstrap loom weaving, brocade is a technique that creates a richly decorated fabric by adding in extra weft threads (the over/under thread) to create designs.  In Guatemala the term bordado (bore-DAH-do) is used and translates as embroidery.  Although brocade can give the appearance of embroidery, it is not. Embroidery is done with a needle on an existing piece of fabric.  To distinguish between the two, Guatemalans refer to embroidery as bordado a mano (embroidery by hand) or bordado de aguja (needle embroidery) whereas the brocade pictured above is referred to as bordado a telar (loom embroidery) or simply as bordado.

Brocade is a very time consuming process that, in the hands of an expert, results in beautifully rendered patterns and designs.  Interestingly enough the word brocade has the same root as the word broccoli. Here in Guatemala, brocade and jaspe are the two most popular techniques used to decorate backstrap loom woven fabrics.  Below is a video showing how the individual brocade threads are inserted in order to form a pattern. Note the bone pick she uses to place the threads in the correct location.