Tambour beading is a very ancient technique, with embroideries being imported as early as the 16th century. Another early reference dates back to the 18th century, where it found it's way to Europe from its roots in Asia. All the finest examples of tambour beading were imported to France and England from places like India and Persia and China.
1780–95 French Tambour Embroidery
Tambour beading evolved from tambour thread embroidery and is named from the drum shaped frame originally used - ‘tambour’ is the French word for drum. It was considered an exotic and exciting craft, and became a very popular pass time amongst women.
There is only one stitch to master in tambour embroidery.Using a fine, sharp hook instead of a needle, it is punched through a tightly stretched fabric to catch a beaded, fine thread from beneath and draw it up, creating a linked, chain-like stitch. The pieces are worked on from the back of the fabric, with the design growing underneath.
Haute Couture Tambour Beading
As the stitch is continuous, this allows embroiderers to stitch much quicker than traditional beading methods. The technique can also be used alone, without beads or sequins to create a beautiful lacy effect.
A stunning piece of antique embroidery originating from China
Although tambour work was extremely popular during the 18th Century, it's popularity has been somewhat of a bumpy ride throughout the 19th Century as new machines were introduced, that produced similar outcomes at a much faster rate than working by hand.
Chanel FW2014 Haute Couture
Despite this, tambour beading is still widely used today, especially amongst high end fashion houses who wish to produce the finest quality embellished pieces for their collections.
If you're interested in learning tambour beading, we have classes for all levels in our section.