Mary Corbet

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I learned to embroider when I was a kid, when everyone was really into cross stitch (remember the '80s?). Eventually, I migrated to surface embroidery, teaching myself with whatever I could get my hands on...read more

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Stitch Fun: Shisha, No Mirrors


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Do you want to try shisha stitch, but you don’t have any mirrors to practice with?

Are you working with mixed media, and you’d like to add a bit of paper and a bit of stitching to it?

Are you embroidering something that won’t be laundered and want to add a special touch?

Did you know you can work the shisha stitch without mirrors? You can use it to attach practically anything flat or barely domed to your embroidery surfaces.

This little bit of stitch play came into being by accident.

I was preparing to work up a tutorial for traditional shisha stitch, which is a decorative technique of stitching down little mirrors onto fabric, but I didn’t have any mirrors.

In fact, the whole thought of a mirror under studio lighting while trying to photograph a stitch tutorial seemed problematic to me, so I opted for card stock. After all, it’s the technique that’s being taught – once you know the technique, you can use it however you want!

Shisha Stitch - No Mirrors

I took out a 3/4″ hole punch and started sifting through my paper supplies.

In my paper supply box, I also stash away old notecards and greeting cards that I “recycle” in one way or another.

This happens to be a great way you can recycle a pretty note card! I figured if card stock would work as a substitute for a mirror, why not something a little prettier?

Shisha Stitch with Paper

Using paper products in place of mirrors in shisha embroidery only works, of course, if you’re not planning on laundering the embroidery or taking it out in the rain.

For playing around, for “sampling” stitches, for making mixed media art that won’t be washed, and just for the fun of it, using card-weight paper cut outs is a fantastic way to play with shisha stitches!

Shisha Stitch with Paper

And of course, once you start playing, your stitched elements can grow and grow. Here, I’ve added a couple circles of buttonhole stitch around the central element.

You can find my step-by-step photo tutorial for traditional shisha stitch here.

I’ve also added three other variations of shisha embroidery to the Stitch Fun index. All three will secure small items to fabric, and they’re all different and beautiful in their own way.

Erica Wilson’s Embroidery Book has the best instructions for basic shisha embroidery, which involves a buttonhole stitch and a chain stitch worked around a base of foundation stitches. You can find Erica Wilson’s video for shisha here on YouTube, which is very helpful if you want to play around with the stitch!

You can find more Stitch Fun articles here, if you’re in the mood to play around with some stitches this weekend!

Have fun with it!


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(19) Comments

  1. What a great idea to use a pretty bit of card! As you say, no good if you need to wash or whatever, but it does look soooo pretty and it’s great for doing samples and so on.

  2. Mary – how clever of you! This is so pretty, and so very creative – it opens up lots of possibilities 🙂

    As always, thank you!
    Tomi Jane

  3. This is wonderful – a great way to recycle cards and to make even more cards. 🙂 I love to stitch small items and turn them into greeting cards for friends. Has that personal touch. Thanks for the new idea.

  4. Hi Mary,

    I just wanted to say thank you for today’s article. And all the other ones. I learn something every time I read your blog and love seeing the creative use of stitches, the stitch play, the free patterns and the book reviews. I really appreciate your time and effort that goes into all this. THANK YOU.

  5. ooooh – I LIKE this idea! I’ve always been nervous about using mirrors for fear they would break at some point. You could also do this around a pretty brooch!

  6. After you first introduced us to Erica Wilson’s U-Tube videos and I saw the one on Shisha, I had it in my mind to give it a try, but no one sells mirrors around here. About a month later I came across a website that had Mother of Pearl discs on clearance. They were apparently rejects from the button factory. They are just discs without holes or shanks and are of various sizes, the largest of which is 3/4″. I got them thinking they’d be perfect for shisha. I’m glad you brought this stitch up again as I keep putting off trying it. Now, when you post your video I will be ready to try it with fresh instruction. I’ll post a picture if it turns out well. Thanks, Mary.

  7. This is very pretty. You could laminate the card stock circles and trim them so they remain sealed…then they’d be waterproof too!

  8. I like the idea of using something pretty in place of the mirror. If you wanted to do this with something more permanent, hand painted buttons or cabochons would work. I have done this with semi-precious cabochons, eg tiger eye, which looked fabulous and a piece of amber-looking stuff (not real amber obviously).

    My Dearly Beloved saw me with the proper shisha (ie mirrors) one day, went, hmmm, as is his wont, disappeared and came back later with a fistful of little shiny discs that he had cut from worn out CD’s. They work very well, and may be better for your video Mary, as they don’t reflect light as the real things do. If you would like some let me know and I will send them off post haste.

  9. Dear Mary

    Thank you so much for this article, what a great idea to use card pictures and stitch around it, this would be great for greeting cards. Can’t wait for the video on shisha technique never heard of this before.

    Regards Anita Simmance

  10. Mary, you can cut your own ‘mirrors’ in any shape you want from old CD’s or DVD’s. Works best if you use strong kitchen scissors to cut them. Not a good idea to put the finished article in the tumble dryer though.

  11. Thanks for the tutorial link. I just finished 3 purses using mirrors and some directions from an older STITCH magazine. Erica Wilson’s method was so much better- my directions only used a square grid followed by a lopping or weaving technique.
    it was so easy to pull the stitches too tightly and have it slip off the mirror-also the only mirrors I had were domed as well. The video made want to do some more! The double chain type stitch aroun the edge resembles a stitch used on a piece of Indian embroidery someone gave me. Time to experiment. thanks so much again!

  12. You’re right! – the point is to master a new technique, to widen your knowledge and then you can create something quite unexpected and very original 🙂
    thanks for inspiring

  13. You could laminate the paper bits. I’m not sure how that would stand up to actually washing, but a bit of rain shouldn’t hurt. Stationary/office supply stores will do lamination, or they sell wide, heavy clear tape; sandwich the paper between 2 pieces of tape and trim close . . . we used to do that with newspaper comic we wanted to keep on the bulletin board (especially Dilbert, in one particular office); they lasted a lot longer than just newspaper would have.
    BTW, I’m saving this post because the flower on that card would work beautifully in an embroidery project.

  14. I really hope you can post something on tambour/ari stitch some day! Indian embroidery uses this technique heavily, and it is SO pretty. It seems to be a chainstitch done with a hook!

    I love your website, merci!!

    1. Hi, Sarah – Not yet. I’m working on videos again in July, and it’s on the list. I can’t wait to get back to videos, actually, but too many other things in the pipeline right now. Soon, soon! ~MC

  15. If you could throw in something about square and diamond shaped mirrors it would be amazing! I’m having a bit of trouble finding tutorials on those shapes and I’m really curious.

  16. I found small round mirrors at one of the dollar stores in the craft section. I have also used the large sequins or paillettes and they went through the wash and dryer with no problem.

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