Tambour work

I’ve been trying out some very old embroidery techniques over the past few days.  Tambour work was introduced to Europe from India in the mid-eighteenth century, but is not widely in use today as a hand technique.  It involves working on fabric stretched in a frame or hoop, with a reel of thread underneath the fabric, and both hands free – one above and one underneath the work.  You then use a little hook to pass down through the fabric to pick up a loop of thread from below.  Each loop passes through the previous one to create a line of very fine chain stitch on the surface.  Tambour hooks come in different sizes, and the hook usually fits into a carved or turned wooden holder.  I don’t have a tambour hook (yet!) so I used a very fine (0.6mm) crochet hook for my first attempt:

This sample is worked on plain cotton fabric with hand-quilting thread.  The weave is reasonably coarse so the fine crochet hook passed through without too much difficulty.  I’ve ordered a couple of tambour hooks so am looking forward to comparing them with the crochet hook.

The wrong side is quite attractive too.  You get a very regular set of straight stitches in a row:

This little sample took quite a long time.  I dread to think how long it would take to tambour enough fabric for a dress or a set of curtains. 

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8 Responses to Tambour work

  1. Beautiful. I love both sides :o)

  2. Chris Gray says:

    I agree with Carolyn!…both sides are gems in themselves.This is a technique I've been promising myself I'll have a go at…..Maybe now is a good time… 🙂

  3. I'm now going to look at a couple of pieces I have….I always wondered if they were hand made. Well done.

  4. arlee says:

    WOW Karen–i've always wanted to try this–especially with beads too, but i KNOW i wouldn't have the patience or the eyesight 🙂 Beautifully done–thought it was an actual historical sample!

  5. Deborah says:

    Lovely stitching on both sides!

  6. Barbara says:

    Tambour work is one of the (very many) things I have always wanted to try – and never got around to. Looks just as fascinating as I thought it would be.

  7. Karen Turner says:

    Yes, I've wanted to try it for ages too. It's a bit fiddly, but strangely satisfying.

  8. maggi says:

    Fascinating. It will be interesting to hear how different you find the tambour hook.

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