• Flowing lines of continuous
• The difference between
chain stitch and tambour is seen on the back. Tambour
work looks like a back stitch, whereas with chain stitch,
there is a tiny gap between each stitch.
• Fabrics - range from net
to silk, cotton, linen to thick woollen rugs.
It is worked with a hook, an ‘ari’ in India,
and in the West, a ‘tambour hook’, like a
sewing machine needle turned into a crochet hook which
is placed inside a wooden holder. Tambour hooks sizes
70 to 140, were as thin as sewing needles. A fine fabric
– cambric, muslin or netting – is placed drum
tight in a free standing embroidery hoop. The right hand
holds the tambour needle whilst the left hand, below the
work, holds the thread. The needle pushes through the
fabric, catches the thread, pulls a loop back through
the fabric and through the loop to create a continuous
line of chain stitch.
Is believed to be of eastern origin, worked in China,
Persia, Turkey and India as early as the 14th century.
(Britannica) The technique reached Europe about 1760 and
was referred to as ‘tambouring’ from the French
‘tambour’ for drum, a forerunner of the modern
tambourine. Named after the drum shaped frame which originally
came from the East.
Its height of popularity in Europe was 1780
to 1850, to decorate the fine flowing muslin gowns, net
wedding veils and scarves when, due to the Napoleonic
Wars, it was difficult to obtain the highly fashionable
In 1782, an Italian, Luigi Ruffini, set
up a workroom near Edinburgh, which led to massive production
of ‘flowered muslin’ or ‘sprigged muslin’
(other names for it). Tambour work was introduced into
Coggeshall in England by Monsieur Dago in1810.
After 1809 when machine made net became
widely available, there was a huge demand for tamboured
and needlerun net laces. When fashionable taste turned
towards more structured gowns in richly coloured silks,
tamboured muslins were still used for veils, collars,
fichus, cuffs and caps.
Tambouring was highly fashionable and an
easy and elegant accomplishment for aristocratic ladies
in their drawing room and allowed their delicate hands
to be seen to advantage. Madame de Pompadour had her portrait
painted showing her working on a piece of tambour embroidery.
With the advent of multi-needle tambouring
machines in the 19thC, commercial enterprises and professional
workshops were set up in Switzerland, Germany, Scotland,
England and Ireland to produce endless lengths of embroidered
In the late 19thC, when heavily beaded clothing
and trimmings became fashionable, Louis Ferry, a workroom
manager in Luneville, France, realized that tambouring
could also be a very efficient means of attaching beads
to clothing. It became known in England as Luneville.
Used on the flapper dresses of the 1920s along with beaded
bags, scarves and fashion accessories. It is still used
today in ‘haute couture’.
In India and Turkey, metal thread was often
used. The main use for tamboured articles in Turkey was
for covers which were part of the ceremonial life of a
household – tables, floor spreads, barber robes,
hangings and prayer cloths. It was a status symbol to
have many embroidered covers.
The Indians of Peru also work a coarse chain
embroidery, but their work is produced without a frame.
Tambour work was also called tamber, broderie
en chainette, double Kensington stitch, point de Luneville,
Beauvais stitch, hooked needle embroidery and often just
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©Valerie Cavill 2008