Tambour Beading

The process of tambour beading. The process of tambour beading.

Tambour beading is a technique that developed in Europe in the late eighteenth century. A small hook (tambour hook) is used to attach the beads to the ground cloth, rather than a needle. The word tambour is French for ‘drum’ and is named after the drum-shaped tensioning frame that was originally used. The technique of tambour embroidery originated, so it is assumed, in India in the seventeenth century or earlier.

The origins of tambour beading in Europe lie in the introduction of tambour embroidery in the eighteenth century. In 1770, for instance, Charles Germain de St. Aubin, Embroiderer to the French Court, wrote about this new technique in his article: La Broderie en Chainette et au Tambour. It soon became a fashionable recreational activity for European society ladies. It was classed as one of the ‘gentle arts’ and appeared in various portraits of ladies, such as in Drouais's painting of Madame Pompadour at her Tambour Frame and The Ladies Waldegrave by Joshua Reynolds.

It was not long after the introduction of tambour embroidery that tambour beading was developed, with a European twist. Unlike many other forms of beading, the European 'haute couture' tambour technique is characterised by the design being worked on the underside of the ground material that is held by the frame.

Beads are strung onto the beading thread in advance of working the design. This takes a considerable amount of time and it is essential that the threading is accurate in order to get the correct design. The beading thread is then secured on the reverse side of the cloth. The tambour hook passes through the ground material from the obverse to the reverse and catches the thread just below the first bead. The thread and hook are then brought back to the obverse side of the cloth and a small chain stitch is made in order to secure the bead in place. The next bead is then pushed into place on the reverse side of the cloth and the process is repeated until the design is completed. Then the cloth is turned over and the 'reverse' becomes the obverse side and used as 'normal'.

The technique of tambour beading quickly spread to Britain, France, Ireland, Saxony and Switzerland. It was introduced in North America in the early 1800's. Since then it has spread throughout the world. It remains the favoured method of beading by haute couture houses.

Also known as: French beading; couture beading; couture bead embroidery

Digital source (retrieved 12th May 2016).

Digital source of illustration (retrieved 3rd June 2016).


Last modified on Tuesday, 09 May 2017 17:36
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