Tambour: A (not so) brief History

red grown with embroidery looking in a mirror photographed from back
Natasha Searls-Punter

Natasha Searls-Punter

Tambour of water in viscose ombre threads by @takingtimewithtasha

As your are here, you clearly share the opinion with us that embroidery is an exquisite craft that has captivated artisans for centuries. Among its many techniques, tambour embroidery stands out as a timeless and unusual art form.

Tambour embroidery has a rich and fascinating history that reflects its evolution and enduring appeal. Originating in the 18th century, this technique found its roots in France and quickly gained popularity among the aristocracy and upper classes. The French term “tambour” translates to “drum,” which aptly describes the method used to create the intricate stitches.

LES Intermediate Tambour Online Class

The technique of tambour embroidery was influenced by earlier embroidery techniques such as Chinese chain stitch and Indian Ari work. Ari embroidery, has its roots in the Kutch region of Gujarat, India. It is believed to have been practiced for centuries by various communities, including the Rabaris and Ahirs. Ari embroidery is deeply rooted in the cultural and traditional heritage of Gujarat. Ari embroidery is characterized by its geometric patterns, mirror work, and vibrant color palettes. The designs often reflect the cultural and traditional motifs of Gujarat, including peacocks, flowers, and motifs inspired by nature. However, it was the French who later refined and elevated tambour embroidery to new heights of artistry and elegance. French embroiderers developed specialized tools and refined the technique to achieve delicate, intricate designs. Tambour therefore is known for its delicate and intricate motifs, often featuring floral patterns, lace-like designs, and beadwork. Metallic threads, sequins, and beads are commonly used to enhance the opulence of the embroidery.

During the 18th and 19th centuries, tambour embroidery flourished in France, becoming an integral part of high fashion. It adorned luxurious garments, including gowns, waistcoats, and accessories, for the French court and the European elite. The exquisite craftsmanship of tambour embroidery elevated clothing to wearable works of art, showcasing the skill and opulence of the wearer.

As tambour embroidery spread throughout Europe, it influenced other forms of needlework. It played a significant role in the development of Irish crochet lace, where tambour hooks were used to create intricate lace motifs. Tambour work also influenced Swiss tambour embroidery and beadwork, as well as the development of the British tambour lace.

With the Industrial Revolution and the advent of machine embroidery, tambour embroidery faced a decline in popularity. The labour-intensive nature of hand embroidery could not compete with the speed and efficiency of machine-produced designs. However, tambour embroidery continued to be practiced by dedicated artisans, preserving the tradition and passing it on to future generations.

In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in traditional crafts and embroidery techniques. Tambour embroidery has experienced a revival, attracting a new generation of embroiderers and designers. Contemporary artisans and fashion designers embrace the versatility of tambour embroidery, incorporating it into modern designs, bridal wear, accessories, and even textile art.

Today, tambour embroidery has evolved to encompass a wide range of styles and techniques. While traditional motifs still hold their charm, contemporary embroiderers experiment with innovative approaches, combining tambour stitches with other embroidery techniques, mixed media, and unconventional materials.


Tambour, Stitching, Embroidery, Tambour beading, Beaing, Sewing, Design development, Work In Progress, Textiles, Tambour Hook
Tambour Beading Online Class Part 1 Work In progress
Tambour, Tambour Hook, Equipment, Sequins, Hook, Beading, Beads, Embroidery
Delicate Tambour stitching of ginkgo leaves with bullion details : Hawthorne & Heaney
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Tambour Beading with Rocailles seed beads: : Hawthorne & Heaney


Tambour, Tambour Hook, Equipment, Sequins, Hook, Beading, Beads, Embroidery
Black Beads and sequins Tamboured onto Organza with Satin Stitch details : Hawthorne & Heaney

To embark on a tambour embroidery project, a few essential tools are required. The primary tool is the tambour hook needle, featuring a small, rounded tip that allows for smooth stitching. Click through to see our blog on how to change your tambour hook correctly. A hoop or a tambour embroidery frame is necessary to stretch the fabric tightly, ensuring even tension throughout the stitching process. Additionally, a selection of high-quality threads, beads, sequins, and other embellishments is essential to bring your designs to life.

Tambour Hook and Handle with Cotton thread  and sequins on a wooden beading tray

Tambour embroidery offers endless creative possibilities. From delicate floral patterns and intricate lace-like motifs to intricate beading and sequin work, this technique enables embroiderers to express their artistic vision and bring their designs to life. Whether you’re embellishing a bridal veil, creating a statement piece of jewellery, or adding a touch of elegance to a garment, tambour embroidery adds an undeniable charm and sophistication to any project.

LES Intermediate Tambour Online Class

If you’re inspired to learn tambour embroidery, we have numerous online classes and resources are available depending on your level. Our teachers will guide you through the technique, providing step-by-step instructions, tips, and techniques to master the art of tambour embroidery. Online classes are self paced allowing you to learn when it suits you, revisit sections if needed and connect with a global community of embroidery enthusiasts through our Facebook Club.

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Tambour Beading Online Class Part 2 Work In Progress from both sides of the hoop

Tambour embroidery is a remarkable needlework technique that has stood the test of time. Its intricate chain stitches, delicate beadwork, and lace-like motifs continue to captivate artisans and embroiderers around the world. Embarking on a tambour embroidery journey unlocks a world of creativity, where tradition and innovation intertwine to create timeless works of art.

Tambour, Tambour beading, Sequins, Gold Sequins, Blue Fabric, Embroidery, Embellishments, Beads, beading
Tambour Sequin Online Class Part 3 Final Outcome

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