Sequintial Art – Tambour Beading Unravelled

Sequintial Art with Claire Barrett from Hawthorne and Heaney

There are many different beading techniques available today and many of them are used in the fashion industry. The one I am going to de-mystify today is tambour beading.

It is the most commonly used beading technique in the UK and is used in most couture houses as it is a very quick and neat way of covering a large area quickly. However be warned, it is for the patient.


Givenchy Beading And Lacework
Givenchy Beading And Lacework

Tambour Beading was introduced into France in the Eighteenth century. Its origins some believe are from Gujarat in India as early as 16th century with evidence of export by The East Indian Company around that time. Since, there have been records of production in Ireland, Switzerland and Saxony before it was introduced in the US in the 18th Century. During this time the technique was championed by a French embroiderer Charles Saint Aubin who named the technique ‘La Broderie en Chainette et au Tambour’ from the fact that the fabric to be stitched on had to be a s tight as a tambour drum. During this time it was quick and efficient way of recreating the effect of the French laces which were hard to obtain between 1780 and 1850.

The Ladies Waldegrave by Joshua Reynolds
The Ladies Waldegrave by Joshua Reynolds


The Ladies Waldegrave Joshua Reynolds

The technique became most popular in the 19th Century when Louis Ferry of Luneville saw it as a quick and easy application of beads onto clothing, this has continued as Tambour is used in most couture houses till this day most notably Maison Lesage.

The technique is worked back to front onto the fabric. Beads are strung onto the thread in advance (which takes a lot of time as we experienced before our tambour beading Class at London Embroidery School last week!) The thread is then secured at the point where the beading is to begin with a few stitches back a forth. The hook then passes through the fabric from the reverse and catches the thread below the first bead with the hook facing the direction you are going. Then twist the hook to face you so that it does not catch on the fabric as you pull the hook and the thread through the fabric to the top, which will create a small loop. You then pass the hook down back through the loop with the hook facing the direction you are embroidering. Now, push one bead along the hanging thread underneath and grab the thread with the hook below the bead … and repeat.

If you found that a little difficult to follow have a look below at my wonderful diagrams or come to a class at the London Embroidery School and they’ll get you going !

Tambour Beading Diagram from Hawthorne & Heaney
Tambour Beading Diagram from Hawthorne & Heaney

Tambour Beading is a wonderful technique to master as you can really cover area quite quickly once you have the knack, but be warned, it is frustrating at first. Happy stitching!

Claire Barrett

Claire Barrett is an embroidery designer who has been working in the embroidery industry for six years. A former Creative Director at Hand & Lock, Claire runs Hawthorne & Heaney, dealing with celebrity clients such as Kanye West and high profile companies such as Henry Poole & Company Savile Row tailors.

Claire is passionate about making embroidery accessible to everyone by offering sponsorships to young designers and even running the London Embroidery School to teach beginners classes to those who are interested in getting a taste of what embroidery has to offer.

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