Get Mastered: Learn tambour beading with Mastered and Hand & Lock

Get Mastered

Last month we talked to you about creating entirely original embroidery designs using Diana Springall’s expert techniques, and this month we’re introducing Hand & Lock.

For embroidery enthusiasts, Hand & Lock doesn’t need much introduction. They’ve been producing the world’s finest hand embroidery since 1767, from pieces for the world’s military, the Royal family and couture houses from Chanel to Louis Vuitton.

In our latest couture embellishment course, Hand & Lock’s creative director Jessica Pile, teaches the beautiful technique of tambour beading. Whilst traditional beading can be hugely time-consuming, the couture tambour technique enables you to add ornate embellishment much more efficiently. Perfect if you’re looking to sell pieces or you want to get more creative with sequins and beads.

Sequin tambour

If you’re inspired to create your own tambour designs, here is Jessica’s five-step process:

1. Get out the sketchbook
For Jessica, everything starts with a sketchbook. Carry it with you and, when you see something that inspires you, scribble down patterns, repeats and doodles. Use your phone as a scrapbook too – take photos of jewellery, wallpaper, advertising – even patterns in the natural world- that you love. Your aim here isn’t to create a final design, but simply to establish motifs that could influence your piece.

2. Consider purpose
How will this beaded design end up being used? Will you frame it, or will it become part of a couture evening gown? Perhaps you’ll incorporate it into a piece of jewellery, a belt or something else altogether. Whatever you decide, this will be one of the biggest factors in designing your tambour piece. From this you’ll determine what limitations you have. Rather than killing the creative process, understanding the limitations of your finished piece allows you to design within parameters which can help you stretch your imagination.

3. Think practically
Now you’ve got an idea of what your tambour beaded design will be decorating, it’s time to work out how big the design will need to be. Here, you’ll have to take two things into consideration – the size of the object you’ll be embellishing and how long it’ll take you to complete the design. In an ideal world you might want to cover an entire panel of a clutch bag, or bead the whole collar of a shirt, but you should balance this up with how long you’d like the project to take. When making to sell, this is vital: when making for fun, it’s less important.

4. Get creative
Take a blank piece of paper and, using any materials you like, start drawing designs. Use the sketches and photos you’ve collected as a starting point and consider the following things:
• Will it be a single image, or a repeated motif?
• How many colours will it have?
• Will you use sequins, beads or a mixture of both?
• How will you create texture and detail?
There’s no need to simply create a single image at this point – you might work on three or four designs and see how they evolve.

5. Add beads
A design might look like it has a lot of potential on paper, but how does it look when beads are involved? This doesn’t mean stitching them on – instead, it means laying them on your paper to see how they work together. Take photos as you work, so you can look back at what bead patterns worked best – you can upload them in the next chapter and get advice on what looks best. If it helps the beads stay in place, do what Jessica does and lay strips of double-sided tape to a copy of your design.

Blue and yellow tambour beading

If you want to discover this design process in more detail or you’d like to learn the tambour technique, take a free trial of the tambour beading course here. Want to keep going? Get 10% off the course in February using the code: TAMBOUR at check-out.


Cheryl Adamson
Head of Customer Experience and Success at Mastered. Loves sharing business advice, admiring beautiful things and eating cake.
Cheryl Adamson


Mastered is a talent company for professionals in fashion. We use Instagram way more than Twitter at @masteredHQ.
@Jessiedib It really was! So many good vibes in the room. - 1 month ago
Cheryl Adamson