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Shisha Embroidery

March 22, 2013

Shisha’s sea shells by the seashore.

The farther I venture into the embroiderer’s territory the greater my longing to create ornately illuminated, thread-iful things. Up till now the only stitches I knew were the blanket, chain, and back stitch – otherwise classified as outline and/or edge stitches. The line work within individual stitches is an art unto itself. So is the shading effect you get when you multiply, vary and overlap stitches; creating patterns on top of patterns until you are effectively painting 2D shapes and sculpting 3D form.

There’s a multitude of embroidery stitches and techniques out there to choose from – ‘Bibles’ of them in fact. Thanks to “imagineers” (of the non-Disney kind) like Cayce Zavaglia, Bascom Hogue, Diem Chau, and a gal named Nat, I’ve been inspired to yield a broader understanding of needlework craft.

My first step towards needlework enlightenment is learning shisha (mirror) stitch. “The word shisha means little glass in Hindi and the origins of shisha work can be traced back to India and the reign of Shah Jehan (1628 – 1658) who built the Taj Mahal in memory of his wife, Mumtaz Mahal. She, in turn, is credited with originating the technique of using mirrors in embroidery, although before this time, pieces of mica or shiny beetle wings had been used in a similar way.” Source: NSW HSC

What I love most about this technique (in it’s modern form) is that you wrap an organic, hand-sewn envelope around a symmetrical, machine-cut piece of glass; thereby connecting the medium back to its non-symmetrical roots. The finished effect is often crude, imperfect, and quite appealing. My fingertips tell a less enthusiastic story though, being that they’re full of enough pins pricks to paint crimson colored polka-dot patterns with them.

If you are interested in trying any of these shisha stitches, I’ve added the links to the DIY tutorials I used below.

Small mirrors sewn on fabric and paper using variations of the shisha stitch. Paper hand carassing the top of embroiered fabric showcasing the shisha stitch. Small mirrors sewn on fabric using variations of the shisha stitch.

© 2013 Dana Aubrey

Feeling much gratitude towards all the DIY contributors out there, without whom discovering new skills and techniques would be a more arduous route.

A: Let’s Learn Embroidery’s basque stitch

B: Let’s Learn Embroidery’s detached chain/lazy daisy stitch.

C: A Crafter At Sea’s Fancy Shisha Stitch

D: The Embroiderer’s Guild’s Shisha Stitch

2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 23, 2013 8:58 pm

    Okay, if this is all your work I am very bloody impressed…especially that ‘star’ shisha in “C”, the work is so neat, and you’ve done so much of it, I would never believe you were a beginner or had just learned. You’re some kind of perfectionist freak of nature, or you’re an alien life form. This stuff is too great, Dana.

    • March 25, 2013 11:35 am

      You seriously just made my day. 🙂 I did everything but the yellow piece that my hand is on (hoping that was obvious because of how worn it looks). I had been practicing it for a few weeks but of course I only shared ‘the best of’ or ‘greatest hits’ from the group. If you are that impressed, I’m incredibly encouraged. Thank you for that! xo

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