The enduring appeal of brocade

By Dylan OShea
September 22, 2020

Dylan O’Shea, of A Rum Fellow, explains the history and appeal of his company’s handwoven brocade

A Rum Fellow’s handwoven brocade is no ordinary fabric. The unique characteristics of sized panels and limited lengths has sparked the creativity and ingenuity of interior designers. Sometimes limitations inspire the most inventive ideas. Designers approach this singular fabric in unique ways to create truly bespoke spaces for their clients.

Our passion for textiles crafted by hand and infused with rich colour and pattern led us to explore the highlands of Guatemala in search of Maya weavers whose legendary textile tradition has thrived for over 1000 years.

Backstrap weaving is an intrinsic part of Maya heritage, the loom takes its name from the strap attached around the back of the weaver. However, the simplicity of the loom is in contrast to the intricacy and complexity of the brocade textiles woven on it. The resulting brocade is a substantial fabric with an elaborate embroidered appearance and textured raised design.

The technique combines embroidery and weaving, integrating the design stitch by stich between the warp and weft. The arms reach of the weaver determines the width of the textile. The process is slow and meticulous, taking weeks to weave a panel of 48 x 100cm. The fruit of this labour is a textile artwork of unparalleled qualities, there is simply nothing else like it.

As designers, the attraction of brocade is the infinite possibilities to create complex colour and pattern combinations.  We’ve led the way in introducing these fabrics into modern interior design, but the great pleasure for us is seeing how designers use our brocades and how different their approaches can be.

Brocade was the starting point of a scheme for Kit Kemp at The Whitby Hotel where panels used on headboards inspired the colour scheme for a bedroom design. The fabric lends itself to creating a statement piece in a room, upholstered into seating the brocade adds a unique detail and tactile pop of pattern and colour.

In other projects the brocade is used as a finishing touch, adding an exuberant detail to pull the scheme together. An oversize brocade bolster cushion spanning the width of a bed in projects by Studio Peake ties the room together.

We love to work on bespoke brocade with designers for their projects creating custom colourways and weaving specific panels for uses such as curtain lead-ins or for feature panels in upholstery. However it is used, the brocade becomes a talking point, the life and soul of the room and its beauty enriched by the back stories.