Hawthorne & Heaney Visits the British Museum

It is always wonderful to see what culture and history London has to offer and at the moment, the British Museum has 2 exhibitions on that will be of interest to anyone whole appreciates textiles. Following on from the very sucessful ‘Fabrics of India’ exhibition, they have the ‘Krishna in the garden of Assam’ piece. Also showing now in the main collections are a range of Islamic Footwear some of which regulars may recognise from the ‘Shoes: Pleasure & Pain’ exhibition.


Krishna in the garden of Assam the cultural context of an Indian textile:
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Currently on display at the British Museum is the ‘Vrindavani Vastra’ (cloth of Vrindavan), which is reported to be the largest surviving example of an Assamese devotional textile. Made from woven silk, this beautiful textile depicts the Hindu god Krishna and his life in the forest of Vrindavan. Produced circa 1680, and measuring over 9 metres, the textile features both imagery and text demonstrating the highly skilled and most unusual weaving techniques that must have existed in India at this time.
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The Banyan gown pictured below is made of Chinese floral damask with a lining that is also made from pieces of similar Vrindavani textile woven sometime between 1550 and 1800. The re-use of such textiles in items of clothing has helped to ensure their survival today although sadly the weaving techniques that produced them have since been lost.

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Alongside the other exhibits, including masks, garments, and manuscripts, a short introductory film and an exciting video artwork combine to build a picture of late 17th century lndian history and of Krishna worship.

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The exhibition Krishna in the garden of Assam is at The British Museum 21 January – 15 August 2016. Admission is free.


Life and Sole: Footwear from the Islamic world

Also on display at the British Museum is the Life and sole exhibition, in which footwear reveals an intriguing insight into the historical, as well as current, social and cultural aspects of life in Islamic countries.

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The display features shoes and footwear of different styles, materials, and production techniques, dating from circa 1800, and originating from North Africa, the Middle East, Turkey, Central Asia and South Asia.

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From stilted bath clogs for bathing, to beautiful hand embroidered red leather wedding slippers, the display tells a story of people and their lifestyles and demonstrates the influence of politics and international trade on the fashion of footwear.

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The exhibition runs from 14 November 2015-15 May 2016. Admission is free.

British Museum, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DG, United Kingdom

by Charlotte Hailwood 15/04/16

Hawthorne and Heaney: Tambour vs. Ari Beading

One question we get asked a lot at H&H is the differences between Tambour and Ari beading, technical differences, the pros and cons of each and which is faster. Both tambour and Ari work off of the same principals of applying beads to fabric using a specialised hook. Using the hook a chain stitch is created through a twisting motion of the tool allowing the beads to be applied in a continuous line.


Tambour is the name given to this kind of work in the west, and is believed to have come for the french word ‘Tambour’ as in drum because of the fabric is stretched in the frame. Ari is the name used in the East, countries such as India and Pakistan have a rich history of using this technique for sari making.


In Tambour, the beads are loaded up onto the thread first and then the piece is worked on from the wrong side (back) so any guides are only applied to the reverse.  This means that you can work on a continuous thread until you finish the area, which makes it very quick, avoiding any unnecessary starting and stopping. One challenge with Tambour however is that you can not really see the work while you are working on it unless the material is particularly transparent which some people find more difficult.  In Ari the beads are loaded onto the hook itself so you would load up as many as is comfortable onto the hook, work with them, release the thread, reload the hook and begin again. This allows you to work on the right side of the fabric and see the beads as they are applied but does require you to stop and start as the beads are used up.

                        tambour hookari hooks

There is also some differences in the tools used for these two stitches, the Tambour hook is placed into a holder, usually wooden which allows the size of the hook to be changed according to the work in hand. Notice that the hook is quite long in itself and almost closed to help it to pass freely through the fabric without snagging. The Ari hook is set into a metal or wooden holder so can not be changed between jobs although they too also come in different sizes. The hook part itself is wide but tiny to allow the beads to slip off when applied and to pass through the fabric easily.

   tambour hook detailari hook detail

Both techniques are not just restricted to beads, they can also be used to create the chain stitch allow as a decoration in its own right or to apply sequins instead of beads. As to the question of which is better, that is down to the creator to decide as to which they are more comfortable with, the effect in the end is almost identical.

If you would like to learn more about these couture beading techniques, have a look at the London Embroidery School website for classes and courses on Tambour Beading as well as a way to purchase the Tambour and Ari hooks shown above.