Tag Archives: tambour embroidery


At long last, the tambour embroidered cotton rug we bought in India is on display! I have always wanted to put it someplace, but was loathe to use it on the floor. We did so in our apartment in Pune, and being fragile, keeping it clear of the sacred dust of the subcontinent was a bit of a challenge. I’ve been plotting and planning to hang it instead. But where? At one time I considered the stairwell or either the upstairs or downstairs hall, but when I began thinking about transforming the former bedroom of our now-independent Eldest into my office, greed overcame my desire to post it in a more public area of the house.

But how to do so? I asked the Interwebs, and got answers from a number of people including folk who have staged hanging textile exhibits for museums, private collections, and adjudicated fairs. Consensus was to back the top edge of the piece with 4-inch (10cm) Velcro, with the fuzzy side sewn to the rug. Then mount a board on the wall, staple the hook side of the Velcro to that, and suspend the piece that way.

So we did. It took a lot of effort to stitch the heavy mounting strip to the back of the rug. I had to go through the folded selvedge edge of the rug, the canvas the front was backed by (with its own folded down seam allowance), while avoiding piercing through to the front. I used a curved upholstery needle, abetted by the firm grip of a pair of pliers. I averaged about 6-10 inches per day, and the piece is just under 9 feet wide.

Affixing the mounting board to the wall went rather quickly. The Resident Male identified stud locations, leveled the thing, and used long screws for the install.

I then used a staple gun to affix the hook side of the Velcro to the board, and smoothed the two sides of the hook and loop tape together. No pix of that though, my hands were full of Velcro roll and the staple gun.

And the finished result!

It’s in a corner that’s well protected from direct sunlight, nestled between bookcases holding my needlework and knitting library. The Berber rug on the floor is something we’ve had for many years. I will need to empty the two small bookcases so I can unroll it fully, then replace the bookcases on top and re-fill them. But that’s another day.

In the mean time, a tale of experience.

This is what the rug looked like when we bought it, and what it looks like today.

The colors of both are true. The bright crayon reds, intense blue, and the near neon orange and yellow have darkened and muddied considerably. What happened?

Remember I said that when we brought it home it was thick with dust? We brought it to a respected rug merchant and cleaning service to have it cleaned. It came back to us rolled for storage and sat that way for about 9 years. My dye-wise apprentice thinks that the cleaning reagents used worked on the cottons, and the blue especially migrated. The very uniform way that this happened (no “hot spots” or streaks) indicates that this probably happened when the rug was washed and dried, and indigo dyed yarns do sometimes shed pigment. I wish that the rug people had “come clean” and told me about the dye migration when we picked the thing up, but on the whole, the difference isn’t fatal. I’ll just try to avoid ever having to wash it again.

Verdict? Project success. Next steps? Obviously letting the floor rug relax and tucking it under the bookcase. Then having an antique barrel chair recovered in deep indigo denim, to sit on that rug, perhaps with a small side table and reading lamp, so I have another cozy place to read and stitch.


I’m sure that ever since humankind first wiggled toes on a bare floor, and decided that something colorful and soft would be nifty to stand on, no rug dealer has ever lost money on a transaction.  That being said, I am quite satisfied with value we bargained for today.

Our apartment here in Pune is very white.  White unadorned walls, hard white marble floors, neutral color furniture and curtains, all blend together to make the comfy but totally featureless box in which we live.  I did bring bright color sheets and towels, but we certainly could use more visual contrast here.  So today we went out looking for area rugs to bring some color and brightness to the place.

After a minor comedy of misunderstanding with our driver (“rug” here means bed covering or bedspread), we ended up at a store specializing in Kashmiri handcrafts, where we looked at lots of small and mid-size carpets (aka “Orientals” in local English).  We ended up selecting two items, to use here and then to send home to use there.  Both are about 6’ x 9’. 

One is an all wool hand-knotted rug in a traditional pattern:


The main colors are oxblood, steel, and tan, with accents of celadon and ecru.  It’s plush and thick, and a joy to walk on.  I can’t remember the knot count, but from the unofficial hierarchy of all-wool rugs, this is an A-grade.  There were a couple that were even finer, but not in all wool.  I really like the minor variations in the pattern repeats – something that brings the design to a life not achieved by machine made rugs.

The other is a type less commonly seen in the USA.  It’s all cotton, done entirely in tambour (ata needle) embroidery.  The stitching is so dense that it totally covers the ground cloth with work that closely resembles chain stitch:

Rug-2 rug-3

Also handmade, it’s backed with a second layer of heavy cotton.  The colors are garnet, sapphire, gold, and orange, with accents of leaf green, baby blue, brown and white.  It’s no where near as thick as the wool rug, but it shines like a jewel.  It won’t last as long as the knotted rug, and isn’t suitable for heavy traffic areas or for under chairs that move around, but it’s perfect for our living/sitting area with its fixed furniture.

Next I go to a textile vendor to buy some similarly brilliant yardage, to sew new covers for the brown and ecru throw pillows on our sofa (or have them sewn by a local sewing-shop).

I feel brighter already! 

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