Tambour Rugs

by Diana Blake Gray
Master Rugmaker

Tambour rag rugs are a widely varied group with flat textures, raised textures and textures that appear braided. They are made by pulling loops of fabric strip up through a burlap, monkscloth, linen base fabric, or rug canvas with a rug hook or similar tool. Each loop is interlocked with the previous loop to create the characteristic chains.

The placement of loops and the number of strands worked together create widely different appearances in tambour rugs. The easiest tambour rag rugs appear to be braided, and are made using either one strand or two strands alternately.

The tambour method blends well with any type of rug worked on burlap or canvas such as hooked or anchored loop rugs. The tambour techniques are also very adaptable to working with wool or cotton rug yarns for lighter weight rugs. Shown is a tambour rug, made with wool tapestry yarns, still on the frame.

When working on a burlap or monkscloth base, it is essential to stretch the burlap on a rug frame, especially if the tambour chain is used, or used in combination with traditional rug hooking. Otherwise the tambour chain will distort the base fabric. In the rug shown, that characteristic was used to intentionally distort a rectangular piece of canvas to create a tambour rug with a very modern look.

Several tambour braids can be combined in the same rug for special design effects.

Above, a tambour rug made on a rectangular canvas showing intentional distortion caused by tambour chain under tension

A 2-strand tambour braid rug

Detail of the 2-strand tambour braid rug, showing rug canvas

Fireworks over the farm a rug combining several different tambour braids with cotton fabrics

Tambour chain used with tapestry wool for wall hanging, detail shown in progress, detail shown in the center.

A single strand tambour braid used as an edge for a locker hooked rug

Publications in our catalog:

Rugmakers Bulletin #9: Tambour Braids (covers the basic 2-strand braid)

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