Shisha Embroidery

I belong to a textile art and embroidery group called Wye Valley Stitchers and we’ve been planning our programme of activities now that Covid restrictions are lifting somewhat. One suggestion was that we should try Indian Mirror Embroidery – or Shisha. As we’re short of funds and can’t afford to hire a tutor just now we thought several of us could practice and remind ourselves how to do it and then in small groups pass on the skill to others in our group. So I volunteered – a habit of mine which sometimes I regret afterwards!

But I never want to just try out a technique, I always want a product to emerge from the results of my work. So I decided to make a decorated cross-body bag to carry my mobile phone around on the occasions when a handbag was unnecessary and when I really didn’t need much more than the phone with me.

These were my starting tools. I used a little fabric glue to hold the small one-centimeter mirrors in place. It isn’t strictly necessary to use glue but I decided it might make my job a little easier. However it does stiffen the cloth underneath.

As it was a long time since I’d done any Shisha embroidery I researched the methods in my library of books, on YouTube and various internet sites. I tried tried out different techniques, some more complicated than others and finally returned to the very first that I had tried. This was from the Embroidery Stitch Bible by Betty Barnden, a spiral and hard bound amazing reference book produced by Search Press. However many books I accumulate I return to this one over and over again.

Here are the images to show how the first stitches create a simple but firm trellis to hold the mirrors in place. I’m using Perle 12 embroidery thread and making sure my stitches are not too close to the edges so they don’t slip off. The centre hole will become larger as the edging stitches are completed as shown in the following photos.

Here I removed the work from the hoop because I found it easier to hold the fabric in my hand for wrapping through the trellis stitches and then chain stitching the outside edges. Bring a new thread up from the bottom left and insert the needle through from the middle and under the crossed threads as shown. Then a small first chain stitch is worked under that stitch at the outside edges. Repeat this wrapping and chain stitches all the way around the circle.

It takes practice to achieve a smooth and regular edge to the circles but I found that the more I did the easier to became. the thread should be firm but not pulled tight otherwise the edge can become uneven. Back in the hoop for embroidered stitches between the mirrors and the addition of beads was my attempt to create a more Indian look.

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