Jan 22, 2014

Op Shop Score! Vintage craft tools for Tambour Embroidery

Have you ever read these lines from Jane Austin's novel Northanger Abbey

Dress is at all times a frivolous distinction, and excessive solicitude about it often destroys its own aim. Catherine knew all this very well; her great aunt had read her a lecture on the subject only the Christmas before; and yet she lay awake ten minutes on Wednesday night debating between her spotted and her tamboured muslin, and nothing but the shortness of the time prevented her buying a new one for the evening.

Did you briefly acknowledge the word tamboured and have no clue what it meant? Well get ready for enlightenment.

While reading some library books researching I came across 'Tambour Embriodery' a popular 18th century pastime. It involves a net-type fabric stretched over a drum or hoop (think Tambourine and the names makes sense) and the embroiderer passes a tiny hook through the front of the fabric, hooks a thread from underneath and draws up a loop through the net, repeats, drops the first loop onto the second in a crochet action, carries on to form a row of chainstitches.

Although I have never done any embroidery - or crochet for that matter - it occurred to me, here was a potentially super easy historically accurate method for embellishing garments.

I trotted off to my local craft and sewing stores to inquire if they stocked Tambour embroidery hooks. Oddly enough they did not. Only one store had even heard of them, announcing no-one had asked for Tambour hooks for twenty years. Well, what can I say? I'm decidedly retro.

Fortunately being decidedly retro I don't stick to the beaten path and in Butterflies Hospice Op-shop on Hanover Street I scored these awesome vintage craft tools that look like tiny crochet hooks. See how tiny the hook is? OK, now these aren't officially Tambour hooks, but they should do the business.

[If anyone can tell what these hooks were really meant for (lace making??) Please let me know.]

And after scoring an embroidery hoop from Restore, (whoop only cost a $1.50) I've been experimenting with differtent types of thread to create the chain stitch, which, just as I hoped is super easy satisfyingly historical.
Tiny hooks (they have their own caps! too cute) used for my Tambour-style embroidery
If you're keen to learn more I've set up a pinboard Embriodery DIY which contains Tambour Embroidery How-Tos amoung others.

PS.  Also known as 'Aari' this style of embroidery is used today for attaching beads to fabric in the couture garment industry. And final fact for the day: Tambour Embroidery was the inspiration leading to the invention of the sewing machine. Neato!

Wait, wait, I forgot to say how much the hooks were. 50 cents each! Score!!!



Linking up this week with other thrifters: Black Bird has Spoken, and Sir Thrift Alot.



17 comments:

  1. Oh,,,so thats what they are.
    i am coming to NZ again next week and look forward to trolling the thrift ( op) shops,

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    1. These aren't offically Tambour hooks, it's just what I'm using them for becasue they're quite similar.
      Tambour hooks have a wooden handle, into which the hook slots in - so you can change the size of the hook - they also have a wee screw which points the direction of the hook which you can't see when it's through the fabric.

      you can see the real deal in action on the Needlenthread page here: http://www.needlenthread.com/2013/11/tambour-embroidery-how-to-video-the-basic-stitch.html

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  2. Oh this is quite beautiful! I had never heard of it before.

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    1. Yes, it's curious what crafts have survived and what have fallen aside. I'm guessing Tambours downfall has something to do with the change in fashion fabrics. Muslin, popular in Regency times, was the perfect material for this embroidery.

      But as for crafts which have survived, did you know you can find useable knitting and crochet patterns from way back in Victorian magazines? "Useable" being a relative term, not many people have use for morning caps and miser's purses...

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  3. Never heard of it before, although I'm sure I've come across someone with that as their surname.I think it is wonderful that you've followed it through from historical reference to D.I.Y, I hope you go as far as wearing a tamboured garment yourself x

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    1. yip, if there's a cheap DIY option I'm all over it.
      I have a feeling a finished garment may be a ways off, but a nice portable craft to take on holiday for those times I have to be seprated from my sewing machines :)

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  4. It is so hard to find a good tambour embroiderer (is that a word?). I have a vintage beaded jacket that I have no idea where to start repairing it.

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    1. What type of fabric is your jacket? Tambour work requires a net or loose weave fabric like muslin so that the needle doesn't leave holes, where as other types of beading can be done with a standard sewing neelde and thread.

      I'm a bit of a Hermione when it comes to this stuff, go check out what your library has on anything to do with beading. My local library puts 'bead embroidery' in with the general embroidery books.

      Hope this helps!

      .

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  5. I've recently bought some tambour items too, not as cheap as yours, but the local craft store (Hands Ashford) does actually stock the Lacis branded ones. I have some crochet hooks like yours and believe they were used for making very fine crochet or for adding beads to knitting; which is what I use mine for.
    I'll be following your blog, as you said on my blog, nice to find someone else in NZ doing the Historical Sew Fortnightly.

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    1. Yes, I saw the Hands ones online - but decided against buying them striaght off in case I couldn't actaully get the hang of the work.

      Thanks for the heads-up on what these hooks may actually be for :) Good to know.

      Nice to 'meet' you also via HSF, I will certainly be following your blog too.
      I'm sure there must be more of us HSF types in the south island??? Maybe we should put a call out on the facebook page. It would be nice to have a local-ish support group.

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  6. Can't stop ogling the hooks. ;) It really is so mean we don't get proper op shops here selling treasures like that. :)
    Last week I finally found the proper fine crewel needles needed for muslin whitework. It is another period option of avoiding those nasty poke holes in muslin and fine linen. Even though I'm definitely a dedicated "stabber" when it comes to embroidery, I would love to try out the tambour method, too. Really ,ooking forward to seeing what you will make with your new toys. :)

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    1. no proper op-shops? You poor thing.
      & yes, the tambour method should be perfect for muslin whitework.
      the down side to tambouring is the lack of variety in stitches.but the up side is it's fast.
      maybe you could do a blend of the two? I look forward to seeing your embroidery

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    2. We only have an Oxfam and that's about it. And the other night I googled around about whitework a bit and found this book: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/20776/20776-h/chapter_5.html. Chapter 4 also has some net embroidery stitches if you're interested. Can't wait to try it, neither. :)

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    3. ohh! thanks for the book link :)

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  7. visiting from op shop show off. This is amazing. What a find, I would have been stoked if I had found those

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