Nicola has been fortunate to view Ann Leaver’s very beautiful sampler. The two Leaver sisters Ann and Jane were both talented embroiderers. Both their samplers are finely worked and have highly decorative floral borders. There is, however, a difference between the two.
Ann’s sampler was worked with a tambour hook.
In the 18th century embroidery with a hook was known as tambouring, because the work to be executed was stretched tightly on a frame, resembling the tension of a drum. Small drums are also known as tambours. It was taught as an additional accomplishment and was an essential skill for girls who were going to earn their living with their needle.
The thread was drawn on a fine hook down through the material and picked up the thread held below the work in the other hand and drew it in a loop producing a chain stitch.
Tambour hooks had extremely fine hooked blades and had to be protected when not in use, most therefore unscrew and reverse to be used fitting back into the handle for storage. Most common are ivory examples, but mother-of-pearl and silver were also popular. They often contained five or six variant, held into the stem by a wing nut system.
Crochet work, although popular in France, was not widely introduced until the 1820s and didn’t become popular until the 1850s. Hooks were often made in graduated sets and were sometimes incorporated into stands.
In the 21st century tambouring is used by the haute couture fashion houses for embellishing fabric with beads and sequins.
If you would like to find out how to use a tambour hook Mary Corbet has an excellent Video tutorial available.
If you would like to view the Leaver samplers they are in the collection of Witney Antqiues and are available to purchase.
Witney Antiques are holding an exhibition this summer.