So… what is tambour embroidery?

While working away at one of the several things I’m preparing for you guys (I hope to be ready to announce it soon), I did make progress on the embroidered shoulder pieces for the Róza blouse. In fact, I’m all done with the embroidery. As soon as I get a chance, I’ll sew up the whole blouse and post the pattern for you to download and stitch up. It’s nothing complicated – just a kind of stippling pattern with a few swirls and points that you can complete with a regular chain stitch. Which is what I did, except I did it with a tambour needle (you absolutely do not have to!). Here’s what it looks like right now:

Roza top with stippling embroidery on shoulder

I used this cotton voile (right from the Kate & Rose shop), and you can sort of make out that the two embroidered areas are the tops of the shoulder pieces of the Róza pattern. I used Valdani #8 perle cotton in Mulberry Grape, a stunning variegated thread I’m kind of in love with.




I have plans with this thread that I’ll be sharing with you soon! Valdani threads are made in Romania and are a bit from DMC or Anchor perle cottons in that they’re softer, less shiny, and wash really well (I suspect they’re not mercerized the same way). It’s the kind of thread people like to use in Hungary too. I don’t know, they feel warmer somehow. I have no way of knowing this but I think Valdani uses the same factory that makes the Romanian embroidery thread a friend brought from Transsylvania a while back. I started using it because the Hungarian bright red perle cottons aren’t completely colorfast. This thread is:

Romanian Thread

And isn’t that kitten so cute? Here’s a little more thread-candy for you:



So gorgeous. But, back to the business of tambour embroidery. I thought I’d tell you a little bit more about what it is, and what tools I use for it.

The main thing about tambour stitching is that instead of a needle you use a kind of tiny crochet hook with a sharp point (the tambour needle). Because basically, tambouring is just crocheting through fabric. Here’s the needle, in the wood handle, secured with a screw:

tambour needle


It’s by Lacis, comes in a set that comes with a handle and three needles in three sizes. I have to confess I can’t really imagine using the smaller ones because they are so tiny – the one you see here is the largest size. Here it is up close and personal:

Tambour needle

It is much easier to do tambour embroidery using a hoop with stand. I got mine on eBay:

embroidery hoop with stand

It seems to be the same as this stand you can buy through the Royal School of Needlework, 10″ wide. I bound it because I wanted it to look serious, like I know what I’m doing. (I promise you I don’t – if you look closely at my stitching on the shoulder pieces at the top of this post… ahem. I could use a lot more practice. It could all be a lot more even. Oh well.)

There aren’t a lot of places you can learn how to tambour-embroider, I’ve found few tutorials, though some of those few are very good. It’s a tricky thing to show because part of what you have to do happens under the fabric. Mary Corbet has an excellent new video tutorial, go check it out if you’d like to do some tambouring too! I also found one book that provided clear directions: Tambour Work by Yusai Fukuyama. And another video that was helpful (it deals with tambour beading, which is almost the same).

It takes a fair bit of practice to get a rhythm going, but once you do, you can go pretty fast. That’s all for today – until next time!

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