Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Tambour Work before Europe

Whenever one thinks of tambour work, one conjures up exquisite 18th century stitchers like Madame de Pompadour, fashionably dressed, working point de Beauvais at their frames, twisting their neat hooks to show off elegantly turned wrists while creating the finest of chain stitch. However, tambour work has its origins further east. It reportedly arrived in France in the 1720s from China.
And it has a long history on the Indian subcontinent, from there it was transported by the various European East India Trading companies to Europe via the fabulously new embroidered muslins of India and the Arabian Gulf. You only have to visit the Asian Textile Gallery at the Victoria and Albert Museum to see the scale of some of these embroideries - the hours of work and life consumed made feasible only by cheap labour. Here you can see that there is no bar to age or sex in the profession and instead of the work being stretched and laced on a rectangular frame or held within a circular frame, it is laced on a large circular frame which gives it even more of the drum quality from which it takes its name - tambour.

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