Tambour Work:

Every so often someone who has visited my Stitch Collection sends me an email with a query about Tambour work. Tambour embroidery is a type of chain stitch worked with a fine hook. Originating in Persia and India where the hook is known as ‘ari’ it is a form of embroidery that now hides under a number of terms and names. As a stitch in the West it is sometimes known as Beauvais stitch. As a form of embroidery it is now found in historical collections throughout Europe and a number of craft traditions have developed using the technique.

However when this type of embroidery is worked on a very fine cotton background to produce a tamboured net lace fabric it is known as English Tambour hook Lace, Lace from Lier, Lierse Kant, Coggeshall, or Limerick Lace. As such it is related to whitework embroidery.

All are worked in a similar manner on a hoop under tension, manipulating the thread with a crochet like hook. You have to use a fine relatively loose weave fabric such as muslin, stretched on a frame or hoop in order to manipulate the hook.

To identify tambour embroidery examine the back of the embroidery. Chain stitch that is done with a hook has a continuous thread without any joins whereas, chain stitch done with a needle, will display separate stitches.

Oyster and Rosette chain


Just as other things in our life run in and out of fashion so do the use of a particular stitch. A particular stitch that is popular in one decade sometimes falls out of favour and is rarely used in the next. I have no idea why this happens. Perhaps people tire of it and move on to using other stitches.

Oyster stitch has been enjoying a renewed popularity in the last few years but it does have a poor cousin called Rosette. I have no idea why Rosette chain is not as popular as oyster stitch but at the moment that is the case. I only see it being worked occasionally but Rosette chain was very popular in the 70’s and 80’s as it produces a great braid like appearance which can be used in both contemporary embroidery or traditional work. You can often see rosette chain used in borders and perhaps that is one of the reasons that it is not used as often. What is referred to as border stitches were often used on domestic linens such as table cloths which few people embroider today. There is still a place for border stitches however as they can be used to outline larger motifs or create an interesting linear element to contemporary designs.

Oyster stitch is based on Rosette and can be useful in floral motifs. Contemporary embroiderers can also find it useful as produces a raised nobly spot. Both stitches are worth exploring as experimenting with different weights and thickness of thread yields interesting results.

To add extra sparkle both stitches can be combined with beading techniques. Rosette chain looks great with seed beads embedded in the braid and oyster stitch lends itself to beads at the base of placed in the center.

Contrasts in texture is one of the key elements in contemporary work so both these stitches are highly useful. Both look complicated at first glance but are actually not difficult to work. Needless to say I have added them both to the Stitch Collection today.

The illustration on the right is a detail taken from a crazy quilt block of Oyster stitch tucked between the prongs of feathered up and down stitch. Both are worked in silk.

Twiggy bits with feathered up and down buttonhole.

Twiggy lines are sometimes a girls best friend, particularly if you are a traditional stitcher and enjoy floral motifs.

Up and Down buttonhole stitch feathered is one of those stitches that once you learn it you will draw on it all the time. It is a variation of buttonhole stitch which is easily worked on all types of fabrics and equally effective when worked in straight lines or following curves. This means it is ideal for those who are interested in Crazy quilting.

Although I have introduced Up and Down feathered buttonhole as a traditional stitch if you are not interested in “cute” you can push this stitch to form strong interesting linear elements and textures in a design. Explorations into variation in the length of the spines, spacing of the spines, width of the line, weight and texture of the thread, and size should keep contemporary embroiderers busy. Changing the weight of thread and overlapping rows of this stitch in an irregular manner produces an interesting effect. Also you can play around with the direction of the spines.

It is great fun, try it out. Needless to say I have added it to my stitch collection.

Up and down stitch added to Stitch collection

This is just a quick note today, as I am back at work after three weeks break. I just wanted to say that yesterday I spent a busy afternoon completing a site clean up and I added Up and down buttonhole stitch to the Stitch Collection.

I always feel adding a stitch is major event as I rarely seem to manage to find the time to do it. I am hoping that this blog will stimulate my enthusiasm for the project as I have a number of other samples worked and hope to get them online soon. Anyway I hope the information is useful.