But, since many of you expressed an interest in the stitch and doing some “real” shisha embroidery with mirrors, I thought we could chat a bit about types of mirrors and resources.
Whenever I’m looking for a needlework item that is somewhat obscure, I start at the website of a store called Lacis located in Berkeley, California.
I visited Lacis several years ago while on a road trip, and really – if you ever have the opportunity – it is a Must for needlework enthusiasts. It’s a crazy-wild store full of everything, from European books and magazines on needlework to every kind of thread, lace, obscure and not-so-obscure tools, beads, accessories … they’ve pretty much got it!
The funny thing about shisha mirrors at Lacis, though, is that, when you search for them on their website, the search results will turn up these…
The first above are made from mylar or something similar. They look like this on the fabric:
They’re very flat. They’re very light. They’re somewhat flexible. They’re punched with two holes so that you can fix them to your fabric first with tacking stitches and then work the decorative edge, or you can string them together, overlap them somewhat like sequins, and the like.
If you’re looking for something that is light, that is inexpensive and comes in larger quantities, these “mirrors” will work fine, but they have some drawbacks:
1. They have practically no height to them, so you miss the “chunky” look of shisha embroidery that’s worked with real mirrors.
2. The mylar-type stuff scuffs easily, so you also miss that very clean, clear mirror effect that comes with real glass mirrors. Still, they do reflect and catch light – they just don’t do it the same way and to the same extent as real glass mirrors.
Here’s the difference in height between the mylar substitute and the real glass mirror.
Incidentally, the real mirrors that I’ve bought from Lacis (search “mirror” in their catalog, not shisha!) are smooth on the edge and require no honing. They’re ready to go.
The disadvantages of real glass mirrors might include the following:
1. They’re more expensive for the quantity you get. For the 3/4″ round mirrors, you get 6 mirrors for $1.60. For the thinner plastic substitutes, you get about 36 for $3.00. So you end up paying about three times as much for the glass.
2. The glass mirrors are heavy. If you’re thinking in terms of wearable shisha embroidery, this could be problematic if you want a lot of shisha on whatever you’re wearing! But for small accessories, for small ornaments, for a little touch of shisha embroidery here or there, one or two glass mirrors aren’t so bad.
Above, you can see the mylar-like substitute on the left, the real glass mirror in the middle, and the acrylic mirrors that I showed you last week on the right. You can see that the acrylic is significantly thicker than the regular mirror.
For me, this thickness is a drawback. It is more difficult to work traditional techniques over the very thick acrylic. Still, the thick acrylic has its uses, and can be fun, since it’s available in so many shapes.
Above, you can see my demo disks made from mat board and colored paper right next to a regular mirror. They’re the same thickness, which works out really well if you want something inexpensive to practice with.
I made these by using a 3/4″ hole punch, a scrap of mat board, some colored paper scraps, and some strip glue – all of which I had on hand. It took about 3 minutes to work up a good pile of them to use for demonstration. If you have the supplies on hand, this is an inexpensive way to practice shisha embroidery.
All that being said, shisha embroidery can be worked with all kinds of other things, too, from buttons to coins to metal disks, washers, and the like. Erica Wilson mentions cutting out card and covering it with heavy duty aluminum foil. I’ve seen pennies figure in shisha embroidery quite a bit, and buttons. Think flattish and round, and try anything that fits the bill!
Shisha can also be worked over square and diamond shapes, and you can find these shapes available in the mylar mirrors at Lacis, too.
Finally, one of the reasons I’m touching on shisha embroidery right now (besides the fact that it’s just fun!) is because shisha makes a nice simple decoration on a basic ornament, so it’s a fun way to whip up little ornaments to use for decoration or gifts, if you’re thinking in terms of Christmas stitching.
We’ll look at some variations on shisha embroidery later on using different stitches and threads. If you’re keen to try other stitches besides the traditional shisha stitch, keep an eye out!