Tambour embroidery / Aari work

How to do embroidery and beadwork effortlessly with Aari embroidery needles. Aari work/Tambour embroidery

I always marvelled at the speed with which some of the embroiderers who work on high end fashion garments attach bead and do embroidery. I could only see their needles moving at the speed of light and thought they were magicians. They are, now I know. You need magical patience for learning how to do this work. But it is a magic that you can learn with some practice. And this work is called Aari embroidery.

Aari work is the Indian name for an embroidery which uses a special needle to make looped stitches (chain stitches) – If you are experienced in using the needle, I think it is the fastest way to do embroidery on fabric. 

This embroidery is also called Tambour embroidery and In france it is called Point de Beauvais. Other names for this work are Maggam embroidery and Luneville embroidery.

Things you need for Aari Embroidery

You need mainly  four things – fabric, hoop and thread and the aari needle – and beads if you are using them.

Thread : You can use normal sewing thread, silk thread or metallic thread for this work

Fabric : Must be an open weave fabric – the needle hook has to go through. Most cotton fabric and thin silks come in this category.

Aari needles : 

Ari needle for tambour work

There are two types of Aari needles – one has a short neck and it is a little thicker, the other one is very very thin and has a long neck. The thicker one is used for embroidery stitches and the thinner one can be used to string beads.

You need both hands to be free to do this work with ease and speed. So a free standing embroidery hoop is preferred. The type of embroidery hoop you use will also depend on the size of the fabric you have. Big fabric pieces need to be stretched on large frames; Medium sized free standing frames of 16-18 inch diameter can be used for medium width fabric – like that of necklines, hemlines. 

The frame needed for tambour work

How to embroider with the Aari needle

Basics : In this work, you will insert the needle and take up the thread which is kept under the fabric. This creates a loop stitch (chain stitch) – this is then connected to the next loop the same way. The thread is always kept under the fabric and brought up with the needle hook part. You will be holding the needle on one hand (right) and the thread on the other.

Step 1

First and foremost, fit the fabric onto a nice and tight embroidery hoop.

Knot your thread at the end – use a single strand of thread.

Thread, hoop and the needle for tambour embroidery

Step 2

Make a loop of the thread (just fold into a loop) near the knot and bring it to the back of the fabric with your left hand (near the design, where you will bring your needle)

Step 3

Insert the needle into the fabric where you want to start with your right hand.

insert the needle into the fabric

Catch the thread loop you have on your left hand with the needle. On the back, this is how it would look. (the loop should be securely held in your hand)

The view from the back of the loop - the tambour needle catching the thread in a loop

Step 4

Carefully bring the needle up again through the same hole, carrying the thread you have caught.

Bring up the loop of thread to the surface of the hoop with the tambour needle

You now have the loop on your needle. Pull the loop ahead to the next space where you will be inserting the needle to start the next stitch.

Step 5

Insert the needle again a little ahead in the stitching line  (the distance of the stitch you want) through this loop.

Insert needle again

Under the fabric, Bring the thread near this line, with your left hand.

Catch the thread with your needle again – you will have to roll the thread around the needle hook for it to be held there as you pull it up. Roll the thread around the hook.  Bring the needle up.

Needle will come up through the loop with the new loop.

Another loop is brought to the surface with the aari needle
Bring up the next loop

Step 6

Continue making these loops. 

A single line of stitches made with the tambour embroidery technique

As you get to finish the thread, you have to make an anchoring stitch as you would with any hand sewing stitch. Otherwise it will all come off – infact if you leave your stitch without the anchoring stitching the whole thing in aari embroidery will unravel in a second. Make a small stitch to the front and then to the back and then to the front and then bring the thread up to the front of the fabric and cut off the thread.

tambour chain stiched design

When you have had lots of practice at this, you will be making these pricking actions with the needle and in no time you would have finished embroidering. But, only with practice.


This maneuver with the needle needs a lot of practice. The first time will usually make you swear, but do not worry, it gets smoother and easier as you do it. 

If you feel your needle is not going in smoothly, apply a little beeswax on the needle, wipe thoroughly and then use it. Maybe it rusted a little bit. 

One important thing – At all times insert the hook straight down- otherwise the weft or warp thread of the fabric will be snagged on the needle and it will also come up. You have to hold the needle perpendicular to the ground fabric to avoid pulling up the thread of the fabric. 

The first knot as well as the anchoring stitches at the end are important; otherwise, the whole stitching will come off. So be thorough there, or all your efforts will go in vain.

How to attach beads with the Aari needle

For attaching beads (the easiest way to attach beads if you have speed) you will be using the thin aari needle with the long neck.

beads are taken on the aari work needle

The needle can be threaded with many beads and use the beads one by one or you can insert the bead one at a time in between. The first method is the fastest. But at first this may seem difficult. Instead you can insert one bead at a time. 

You will be using the needle as you did earlier – inserting the needle from the top and then bringing up the thread by pulling up the needle and then connecting the stitches by inserting the needle through the previous loops. But with beads you will be inserting the beads one by one as you pull up the thread.

Bring up the loop with the needle hook.

take up the loop of thread with the ari needle

Insert the bead into this loop. Just move the bead from the needle to the loop being careful not to loosen the hold.

insert the needle on the needle through the loop

Bring up the loop.

the bead is inserted into the loop

With the needle still on the loop insert the needle a little ahead (one bead distance).Bring up the loop.

bring up the thread a little distant from the first stitch

Now take up the new loop through the older one on your needle.

Continue doing.

How to do couching with the Aari needle

Couching with aari needle can create a perfectly raised satin stitch – this is a very good method for doing gold work. Using metallic thread, you will be doing the couching over a cord and create the effect of a raised satin stitch

Related posts : Beadwork supplies and tools ; Different types of beads; Different ways to add beads to fabric

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Author: Sarina Tariq

Hi, I love sewing, fabric, fashion, embroidery, doing easy DIY projects and then writing about them. Hope you have fun learning from sewguide as much as I do. If you find any mistakes here, please point it out in the comments.

2 thoughts on “Tambour embroidery / Aari work”

  1. Wow, I have never heard of this. Because I don’t need any more commitments, I won’t try this until later. I’ll stick to improving my other hobbies. Very informative, I feel like I could teach this. It also reminds me of crochet. Tres cool.

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