Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Tambour Embroidery Project Updates, Class Offering & Needlelace

I've been off the blogging world lately but I have been busy behind the scenes creating tambour embroidered pieces as well as some other needle-y pursuits.  I've finally taken the care to order some business cards from Moo cards-  I got some regular sized ones and some of the mini size ones, of which I have quite a collection (because they are so cute!) from artists I have met or ordered from.  Now I'll have my own cute little cards to pass out.  This photo above is what I put on the front of one of the cards.  It is a tambour embroidered wheel using bugle beads, all metallic threads, and a Swarovski crystal center.  The threads are really unique in that, other than the gold thread, they are each actually two colors.  The green is green when you tilt it one direction and yellow, the other.  Blue is green one direction and blue the other.  Lilac and silver, etc.  I got these threads, which are machine embroidery threads, thus showing that in tambour one can use almost any thread, at a quilt show and am sorry I didn't get one in every shade of every color as they have proven to be so useful, with limited fraying or tangling and are very, very sparkly.

I usually don't really have a tremendous idea of what I am going to be stitching when I start.  Some embroiderers can mock up the sketch, measure it out, plan it very eloquently.  But I have a general idea and make it up as I go along.  Here is an example of this.  I'd planned for this wheel to be a large flower with sequins and a french knotted middle to match a small flower I'd already made.  But I went to a bead show and also had bought a bead spinner.  If any tambour embroidery people out there are reading this and do not own a bead spinner, run out and get one and start spinning all your non-hanked beads onto thread!  The bead spinner is my new BFF!  I love it.  So easy to use and I have a much bigger supply of beads to draw from that were not on hanks previously.  They don't work with bugle beads, alas, so you have to thread those yourself if you want to use up stash.  This is what I did with these pretty green bugle beads I got at a bead show in Hampton a few months ago.  But I am off track-- I went to a bead show and brought home a whole bag of beads, but none of them on hanks, and put them in the bead spinner and Voila!  Instant stash.  I wanted to use some of the beads I got because they were very iridescent and these are the beads that are attractive to me right now.  The green bugles were calling my name.  For inspiration, I like to look at architecture, and in my neighborhood there is one particular window that is above a door that is a half moon sectioned into clear glass panels.  I took a photo of the half moon, downloaded it, enlarged it on the computer and then used it as a template for this wheel.  The window is very old and the panels are not evenly spaced.  This is why, on the tambour embroidered wheel, some sections are slightly larger or more narrow than others.  I traced one side of the printed photo on to my fabric, turned it around and traced the other side, and then went from there.  This is how I work.

The beginning of the wheel.  Note close proximity to flower that does not match the wheel.  This was the flower I'd intended to match and is now rather a pain in the rear I am contemplating as I hate to frog my work, but it really doesn't match.

Adding metallic threads, which are worked on the surface of the design.  In tambour embroidery, beads and sequins are worked from the bottom with one hand pushing up the beads and the opposite hand working with the hook from the top.  It takes a little getting used to but after a billion stitches it becomes second nature.  Ha ha.  Each segment stops and starts with the thread turning into a tangle of spaghetti until each strand is pulled through with the hook to the wrong side.

And the metallic threads are all in place, very tiny stitches indeed.

What to do with the middle?  I knew I wanted to put a Swarovski crystal in the center as it would catch all the metallic thread colors very prettily.  First I started with sequins that matched the lilac shaded threads.  After two rows, I knew that wasn't going to look like I wanted, so I frogged them.  Then I hand sewed the crystal in the center and started a pulled stitch (pointe terre) radiating around the crystal.  That, too, wasn't the best choice and was frogged.

Here is what I went with for the finished middle:

This is just to say that there is a good deal of playing around with threads, composition, color, texture, and piece placement in tambour embroidery.

A little while ago, I started offering a beginner class in tambour embroidery.  In the class, I try to cover as much territory as is possible in two days and twelve hours.  Here is my student (hi, Marina!), having driven up from North Carolina to spend time learning this fascinating art form.  We work together, one on one, and she learned to frame up her fabric using two methods- threading the sides and also lacing the sides with twill tape as is done in France.  She learned how to properly hold a tambour hook, how to insert and tighten the needle, how to correctly tension the thread, basic surface chain stitching, how to make straight lines, starting and ending the thread, turns, rows, circles, etc.  From there she started to learn how to use beads and sequins, and started a small flower using all the elements of our class.  Many questions arise and it is very beneficial to have one teacher, one student, to maximize the experience of learning with full attention placed on the student.  Here she is at her frame:

And doing very well at home, I might add.  I am very proud of this busy lady making alot of time for keeping up her skills and advancing at a very good rate.  Good job, Marina!

And here is our class project, a small flower that has wunder under added for a backing, and then cut from the frame and fashioned into a small pin.

If anyone is interested in taking my beginner class, I offer a two day class in Richmond, VA or will travel to your location if several students are interested in taking class.  Contact me at or  I'd be happy to teach you!  I am also available subsequent to our in person session via Skype for further instruction, questions or advice on problem solving your work.

Tambour embroidery is my first love, but I also am completely enthralled with other needlework.  Right now I am learning needlelace.  It is so portable, I take it with me everywhere I can and work on it whenever I have some time to sit and ponder my books and manuals, as, once again, there are very few teachers in this needlework anywhere in the U.S., let alone anywhere near to where I live.  So I rely on books.  This leaf is my first project.  Here is the pattern laid out with two strands of perle cotton thread, couched down 1/8" apart.  All that is needed is a base sandwich of fabric, some craft paper, clear book cover film, a crewel needle, a tapestry needle, and thread.  Everything else is left to needle and thread and knowledge of the stitches, plus alot of work on tensioning properly.  This first skeletal portion is called the Cordonnet.

I worked several sections, some of them more than once, or twice or three times, before I was more satisfied withit.  The sections worked are:  Top left- Single Brussels.  Middle left- corded Brussels with small diamond.  Bottom left (so far)- Pyramid stitch.  Top right- corded Brussels with small diamond (which I learned from an online lace guild was worked much too loosely so I tightened up the following attempts).  Right middle- Pea Stitch Variant Number 3.

Today I finished the next section down on the right, and added another corded Brussels section with small diamonds as well as Gros Point diamonds, until my eyes started to cross and I had to go back to a single small diamond and plain corded brussels.  There is a quarter in the upper left corner for size reference.

A close up of what I have worked so far:

Now I must figure out what stitch will balance these.  The idea is to have balance-- lacy next to closed stitches, and so on.  It's challenging but I am really loving it.  When it is finished, more thread is added and then the entire cordonnet is buttonhole stitched very closely to hold it all together.  Then the final step is snipping all the couched down threads, picking them out and, voila!  A whole piece of finished lace.  :-)

A final note for today is a question no flower-o-phile I know has been able to answer.  What on earth is this flower?  There are masses of them located behind the museum near where I live but no one knows what they are.  Any thoughts?  I'm stumped.


  1. What brand is the machine metallics you are using?? I have found Superior, YLI and Floriani work well. Also not to spread my bad habits but a #70 needle fits into a lot of beads and they can be loaded on the needle and done from the top. Lovely work!!

  2. Shirlee, I used Marathon brand machine embroidery thread.

  3. I think it is a cistus rose, also known as a rock rose, I'm not entirely sure, but the leaves look right.
    And I love the tqmbour work, love it,

  4. Jennifer, can you tell me where you buy the cotton tulle material shown in Marina's picture?

    1. Sorry it's so long replying on this, Bob. It's actually silk organza, not cotton, and I bought it at Mode in NY City, although you can purchase silk organza through many online sites. I would recommend Dharma Trading online to start.

  5. I see you do the beading from the bottom up. I've seen videos of French ebmroidery doing the same technice. But the Indian Ari and Zardosi style they do the beading and fill in stiching on the top. Which do you consider the proper technic to use. Seems to me the top side version is easier to accomplish.

  6. Hello Jennifer! Oh my goodness I used to live in Virginia actually at Ft. Lee then Chesapeake. I miss it so much. I went to college there, I used to commute to Richmond. Well anyways. I have always enjoyed creating everything from art, music, pottery, crochet, knitting, sewing to quilting. But I have always wanted to learn to make lace. I stumbled across a post here on Pinterest that show a woman making Tambour and I was in awe. Unfortunately it was in the Russian language but I can learn quickly by watching a demonstration. I am trying to learn all that I can before I go out and purchase supplies. I live in Southeastern Kansas now so I don't get out to your region any more. I will check back to your blog. Take care!