A tambour tool is used for bead embroidery (also called French Embroidery Beading) as well as decorative chain stitch embroidery called tambour work. It has a small, bent tip similar to a crochet hook or rug hooking tool that catches the thread on the back side of the fabric, pulling it to the front side to create loops or attach beads.
Many different types of ethnic embroidery styles use a tambour hook, including Central Asian embroidery known as Suzani embroidery from other parts of Asia and Europe, and in 19th century England to make very fine tambour lace.
Tambour embroidery is worked on embroidery fabric stretched tightly in a frame, which is then attached to a lap or floor stand to allow the embroiderer to use both hands.
Chain stitch embroidery using a tambour hook is worked from the top surface of the fabric, with the right side of the work, facing the embroiderer. However, when a tambour hook is used for beading and sequins, the beads are threaded onto the working thread and the design is worked from the back side, with the wrong side of the fabric marked and facing the embroiderer.
An excellent tutorial for working with a tambour hook for chain stitch embroidery can be found on the EmbroideryAddict site.
Tambour hooks can be difficult to find in your local needlework store, but Lacis carries a wide selection of specialty tambour hooks in varying sizes and materials, and classes in tambour beading are offered by Couturebeading.com if you would like to try working this unique style of embroidery.