Last night I attended a workshop as part of the Third Annual Handmade Festival being held at Central Library, here in London, Ontario. During Handmade Festival, there are a series of free workshops put on by local artisans; this year it has been felting, shisha embroidery, and jewelry making. The culmination of the festival is on May 5th when selected artists are given the opportunity to display their arts and crafts to the community.
The mirrors are glued on using fabric glue and are awaiting the embroidery
The term “shisheh” is a Persian word for glass. Shisha embroidery refers to a type of embroidery where small pieces of mirrors are attached to fabric and then embroidery stitches similar to a blanket stitch or button hole stitching are done to essentially form a border around the mirrors. It is apparently most common in India and Pakistan and you will see it prevalent on their brightly coloured clothing as well as cushions, curtains, wall hangings, and other textiles.
The embroidery begins with a base of criss-crossing stiches
The little mirrors come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. The ones we were using were quite tiny, making for very intricate work. Originally, mica flakes were used in place of the mirrors, then little fragments of blown glass, and now small mirrors.
On the right, you can see one where I’m working on the second type of stitching. As I said, it’s somewhat like doing a blanket or button hole stitch around those foundation threads you have put there. All of us had the issue of our foundation stitches not being tight enough so when we went on to this stitching, they weren’t lying perfectly. I’ll have to practice!
These tiny mirrors are apparently not available anywhere in my area – our instructor, Imrana Ahmad, said that she can find them in the Toronto area or often just has her sister send them over straight from Pakistan. It’s the same situation with the thread. We were using a traditional embroidery floss but she gave us a sample of the actual silk thread she also has sent from Pakistan to try out. You can buy silk thread here, of course, but apparently it is somewhat different than what you can get in Pakistan.
To show you what it looks like when an expert does the stitching, Imrana allowed me to take a photo of the shisha work she had done to embellish a plain sweater.
It was such fun to learn a new craft! I even reconnected with an old friend at the event. Imrana was an extremely talented, patient, and gracious teacher. She offered to allow us to contact her anytime for future assistance with it and I certainly plan to take her up on that!
I’ll be posting more of a step by step tutorial in the next few days showing you how to do the basics that I learned – I just want to find some bigger mirrors (or something to use in their place) so that the stitches will show up better in the pictures.