Tambour Embroidery

Last week I took a week long, all day class at the San Francisco School of Needlework and Design. The class was taught by Bob Haven. He is such a fantastic teacher!! I have dabbled in tambour and took not one but two classes. I have always fought with the hook – I’ve not been able to get it out of the fabric with out tearing threads or ripping the fabric. My only goal in taking this class was to master the hook! Well, I have done that!!! I can get it out of the fabric easily (it still gets stuck once in awhile, but I can fix it without damaging the fabric) and add beads, sequins, etc.

Chain stitch

We first practiced the chain stitch in straight lines, curved lines and around corners. We used sewing thread, cotton embroidery floss and rayon – the rayon was a bear and kept fraying, but eventually I got the hang of it.

Vermicelli, beading and applique

This little practice area covered quite a bit of information. The gold “squiggly” lines you see underneath the fabric is chain work done in vermicelli (every stitch goes a different direction), the middle is beadwork done in vermicelli and then we chose fabric to overlay over all that. The stitching you see is first a chain stitch around the shape, then a zig zag stitch (to prevent fraying), then we cut off the extra fabric.

Stem stitch

Once the appliqué fabric was attached and secure, we added beads. We could add them any way we wanted, but since Bob had just demonstrated adding beads using the stem stitch, I had to try that. The beads you see close to the bottom just look like jumbled beads – Bob said to add more beads to each stitch – once I did that, it worked out much better. You can see how the beaded stem stitch looks much better on the right side of the circle.

Basket weave

Basket weave stitch. I really have to work on getting my stitches to end (and start) at the same place. Those little indents you see are supposed to be vertical lines not kind of wobbly lines.


We worked on shading, not great but I’m happy with my first try.

Stem stitch with two colors of beads

Bob showed us the stem stitch using two colors of beads. Of course I had to try it. Two spools of thread each with their own color of beads, have to be used. It’s a little fiddly but I really like the effect. This tiny little line of two color, beaded stem stitch took me all morning (like 2.5 hours!). The student next to me went on to make a line of three color, beaded stem stitch which I will try at some point.

Sequins in a circle

Then it was on to sequins. The fun thing about this is that we learned how to end the circle in such a way that no one can see it. All the sequins are laying next to each other and the end is not visible. Magic!

Sequins around a corner and bugle beads

Next up was applying sequins around a corner, making a “sharp” corner. I still need to work on this technique, but you can definitely see that there is a corner there. Then came bugle beads. These are a bit tricky because the ends are sharp and can cut the thread if not applied carefully. This is my attempt at a straight line and a corner in bugle beads.

Bugle beads standing up.

And last, but not least was stitching the bugle beads down in such a way as to make them stand up. It’s not hard and now the ideas running through my head are non-stop.

I have a ton of homework to finish and am really looking forward to practicing. This was Level 1 of Tambour and I have already signed up for Level 2. I can’t wait!

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