I do love a variety of fabrics and materials when it comes to designing and constructing garments, but one that sits close to the top of my list has to be jacquard fabric!
It is known for its avant-garde design and long-lasting quality, but Jacquard has woven itself into the complex history of the textile industry – quite literally using the jacquard loom! But what is Jacquard fabric, exactly? How did it garner such a reputation within the industry? And what gives it its longevity?
Learn the fascinating history of this beautiful type of fabric and how it has helped to shape the world of textile weaving and become something of an icon in today’s fashion world.
History of Jacquard
The history of Jacquard traces itself all the way back to the 6th-century Italian Brocade. Brocade is a highly decorative shuttle-woven fabric made from high-quality colored silks and has often had luxurious gold and silver thread woven into its stunning patterns.
Jacquard fabric was invented by Joseph Marie Jacquard back in 1804. Joseph Marie Jacquard worked as a draw boy during his youth, which meant he grew up surrounded by wondrous textile fabrics. The idea for the innovative loom stirred in Joseph Marie’s head in 1790 before the French Revolution, which delayed Jacquard’s progress in creating his loom.
When the French Revolution had ended, Jacquard returned to the textile industry, where he would finally transform his dream into reality. He invented a straightforward yet innovative way that simplified the process of weaving intricate patterns using machines instead of artists – though in my opinion it takes an artist to be able to come up with some of the detailed and beautiful jacquard fabrics that I have seen!
By 1804, Joseph Marie Jacquard unveiled the world’s first programmable jacquard machine which created his namesake’s fabric – Jacquard!
What is Jacquard Fabric?
Jacquard fabric is a patterned fabric that is created on a loom. The weaving process means that complex patterns are woven directly into the fabric and it is this that makes it more distinguishable compared to other woven fabric types that feature printed, stamped, or embroidered designs and are often a much simpler plain weave or variation of.
One particular aspect of Jacquard fabric is how it’s woven to give it a reversible pattern that is visible on both the outside and inside of a garment, similar to damask fabric. Jacquard weaves provide the garment with a “negative” side to the pattern or design. Also, there is no right or wrong side regarding jacquard fabrics. In fact, if both sides are aesthetically-pleasing, then there is absolutely no reason to choose one over the other.
How Can You Tell if the Fabric is Jacquard?
It is relatively easy to tell if the fabric is Jacquard or not. Any fabric with a distinct woven pattern that is visible on the ‘wrong’ side as well the ‘right’ is jacquard fabric. This unique design of Jacquard fabrics make it perfect for reversible clothing designs.
Why is Jacquard Expensive?
Jacquard is generally expensive due to the method used in making it. There is a lot of time and skill involved in designing and completing an intricate pattern – while a simple woven pattern may consist of two or three warp and weft threads, some have many more, and there are additional warp thread and wefts needed for those designs with more detail in both the pattern and the background.
Silk jacquard is extremely expensive as each thread used in the warp and weft is silk, and as jacquard can be tightly woven with a high thread count, a meter of fabric can require a lot of threads.
That said, cotton jacquards are generally the least complicated and least expensive of the various jacquard fabric types. Nowadays, jacquard is within the same range as other similarly woven garments in terms of price.
The main factor that constitutes the final price tag of a jacquard fabric is the complexity of its design and the fiber used.
What Clothes Can I Sew with Jacquard Fabrics?
While you’ll easily find jacquard upholstery fabric, it can be trickier to find jacquard material that is suitable for garments.
That said, if you find some you love, you can use it to sew a variety of garments, from jackets and coats to skirts and dresses – just make sure that the fabric weight of the jacquard is mid-weight so that those highly detailed and intricate designs stand out!
Note that as jacquard woven fabrics are heavier in weight, any seams created can end up bulkier than in non-jacquard fabric types. This also makes them tricky to ‘ease’ with, so be mindful of this when designing.
What is the Difference Between Jacquard VS Brocade VS Damask?
It can be confusing to separate Jacquard, Brocade, and Damask fabrics from each other due to how similar they look. However, to the trained eye or those who know what to look for, there will be subtle tells which will help distinguish one from the other. There are several Jacquard fabric types, which incidentally also include Brocade and damask.
Jacquard is the general term used to describe any fabric that has the pattern woven into it.
The versatility of Jacquard fabric makes it an excellent choice for fashion designers to experiment with for some unique and creative designs. I’m a big fan of a website in Europe which sells deadstock fabrics from designers such as Dries van Noten – they’ve sold out of a jacquard I had my eye on but here’s where you’ll find their latest jacquard fabrics. (https://thefabricsales.com/collections/jacquard
Brocade fabric is also woven on a Jacquard loom, but it is generally a floral design which is non-reversible. It has floats on the reverse, so any garment made with brocade will need lining to protect the threads.
Also, brocade fabric generally incorporates metallic tone threads such as silver and gold. A traditional brocade fabric features gold and silver patterns woven into silk. Modern brocade fabric also includes cotton and polyester fibers.
Interesting fact: when the rocade fabric is woven solely in metallic yarns it is referred to as ‘imperial brocade’.
Brocade fabric is also more rigid and rough than Jacquard and Damask. This rigidity also gives dresses made with brocade fabric a certain feeling of elegance and sophistication which are often absent from the other two.
Finally, we have Damask fabric which is significantly smoother to the touch thanks to its general use of cotton and satin threads. Similar to Jacquard, Damask fabric has patterns and designs visible and distinguishable inside, but the motifs are woven in only one color rather than multiple.
This makes Damask fabric reversible as well but not nearly as intricate or exciting as jacquard or brocade in my opinion!
Hopefully, this article has shed light on what jacquard fabric is and its unique qualities. Jacquard fabric has many uses, but its contribution to the fashion industry is undoubtedly one of its most notable, helping to make our designs stand out creatively, while we incorporate style and functionality too.
Eve Tokens (aka The Creative Curator) is a fashion designer, creative pattern cutter and sewing pattern designer.
Eve graduated with a 2:1 in Fashion Design from the University of The Creative Arts in the UK, has a BTEC diploma in Creative Pattern Cutting, a Foundation Degree in Art & Design from Wimbledon College of Art and gained extensive experience in the fashion industry by interning and freelancing for London based fashion brands – Hardy Amies, Roland Mouret, Peter Pilotto and others.
As well as running her own small sustainable fashion brand, Eve has more than 25 years experience sewing and making clothes for herself and family members.