Remember the impromptu hand embroidered Christmas ornament I finished right before Christmas?
Well, when working on the backside of it – the side with the mirror in the center, that you can see in the photo above – I heard from many of you, wondering where to find mirrors for shisha embroidery, and other general questions about mirror embroidery.
If you’re wanting to learn how to work shisha embroidery – how to attach mirrors and the like to ground fabric with secure, decorative stitches – you’ll find four tutorials for shisha here on Needle ‘n Thread, each with a different variation of decorative stitches.
All four tutorials are listed in the Stitch Fun Index and in this alphabetical index of embroidery stitches, under S.
Today, though, let’s talk about resources for shisha mirrors, different types of mirrors for embroidery, and other objects that can be attached effectively to ground fabric with the same stitches used in shisha embroidery.
Practicing Shisha Embroidery
If you’re practicing shisha stitches, you might not want to invest in mirrors right off. The mirrors are not really expensive, but you might want to try different shisha stitch variations first, to see if you like the techniques, before shopping for mirrors.
What can you do?
Well, you can make your own mirrors. You can punch 1/2″ to 1″ holes in card stock and wrap the resulting disk in aluminum foil. This is something that Erica Wilson suggests in her episode on shisha embroidery, which you can watch on YouTube. (Fantastic episode – definitely worth watching!)
Truthfully, this isn’t my favorite solution to “immediate mirrors.” Even if you use heavy duty aluminum foil and a tapestry needle, the needle catches in the foil, dents it, pushes it about, can even inadvertently tear it.
It works in a pinch, and it can be done, but it’s not super convenient.
An alternative that I’ve written about before, that I think works a lot better, is to skip the mirror look altogether while you’re practicing. Instead, punch out 1/2″, 3/4″ or 1″ pieces from pretty greeting cards that you might have lying around, and use these paper punches for practice pieces.
The results are really pretty! And you can coordinate your thread colors with the decorative paper. Just make sure that the pieces are at least card stock weight.
Shisha Mirrors and Where to Find Them
Of course, if you want to go straight to mirrors, that’s great, too! Shisha mirrors, in general, are not too expensive, depending on the type you get.
Mylar “mirrors” are not really mirrors, but they’re made and sold for shisha and other techniques, costume decorations, and so forth.
These are very thin, flexible, shiny pieces of mylar – essentially polyester – that come in various shapes. For the quantity you get, they’re the least expensive option for bought “mirrors.”
The mylar mirrors have holes punched in them, which can be an added boon. You can tack your mirror to your ground fabric with sewing thread and then do your shisha work over that, and not worry about the mirror shifting.
The disadvantage of mylar mirrors is that…well, they aren’t really mirrors, are they? They’re somewhat reflective, true, and they’re shiny.
But in the end, they look a lot like thin little pieces of shiny plastic – probably because that’s what they are.
More authentic mirrors are these prepared mirrors, which are really mirrors.
And that particular mirror above would be a bit more mirror-looking, if it hadn’t been quite so cold in my workroom. On cold days, like any glass, these steam up when you start handling them or are close enough to breathe on them.
They’re made of glass, they’re cut out into specifically sized disks, they’re about 1/8″ thick, and they have relatively smooth edges. They’re much heavier than the mylar mirrors, so if you’re planning to encrust something with mirror embroidery – especially something you plan to wear – take the weight into consideration!
Both the mylar and these specifically sized glass mirrors can be found at Lacis. In their catalog, search “mirrors” and both options will show up in the search results.
You can also find different shaped mirrors (diamonds, rounds) in different sizes at Stitching Shop, out of Denver, Colorado. The shisha mirrors are listed under “new products” right now. I’ve ordered their Shisha mirror variety pack (24 / tube) to try them. I’ll let you know how they are when I’ve worked with them a bit!
Now, if you want to be super-duper authentic with your shisha embroidery, then these traditional mica mirrors from India are the way to go.
These are very rough little mirrors, not perfect in shape and size, but they are the mirrors used for traditional shisha embroidery. They are much lighter than the pre-cut mirrors above, though not as light as the mylar mirrors. They’re bubbly and not perfectly smooth. Occasionally, you might come across sharp edges that require a little buffing with the right sand paper.
The only place I know of that carries the mica mirrors outside India is Silken Threads in the UK.
Using Shisha Embroidery to Attach other Things to Fabric
Keep in mind, you aren’t limited to attaching only mirrors to fabric using shisha techniques.
Flat semi-precious stones can be attached to fabric with shisha stitches.
Buttons? Sure! This is a painted mother of pearl button with a small shank on the back. I opened a hole up in the fabric with a stiletto for the shank to fit through, and then used the traditional shisha stitch to attach the button.
Obviously, it’s not going to work like a button, but that’s not the point!
Any type of semi-flattish object (round, square, diamond shaped – doesn’t matter) will work.
If you’re into the whole steampunk look, just think of the possibilities! You can attach all kinds of hardware to fabric this way, if you really wanted to.
And don’t forget objects from nature! Shells, beetle wings, small flat stones…
Shisha is a great technique for attaching beetle wings to fabric in a way that’s decorative and functional. You can find my tutorial for beetle wings with shisha embroidery here, if you’re feeling adventurous.
Washing Shisha-Embroidered Items
If you use mylar mirrors, regular mirrors, or mica mirrors, garments embellished with shisha are washable, depending on the other materials in the garment and embellishment. Make sure the washed piece is capable of drying completely. You don’t want mildew building up behind the mirrors, if the fabric never dries.
Obviously, paper, aluminum foil-covered paper, decorative card stock, and the like are not washable.
Beetle wings are washable in cold to lukewarm water. Hot water and steam for longer periods of time will change the color of the wings – they’ll turn a little more rusty looking. Again, make sure the piece can dry completely.
Buttons, stones, seashells – these are all washable, but be gentle when washing them. Too much stretching or moving of the cloth could cause them to pop out of the embroidery, due to their weight.
Hardware should be washable, but make sure the piece is able to dry thoroughly fairly quickly, because hardware can rust.
More to Come
I’m playing with a small spot of shisha right now, just to have a photo for illustrating an article. I’ll share it with you later!
In the meantime, if you have any questions about shisha, or you’d like to see something in particular demonstrated, or you have some suggestions for objects that can be used in shisha embroidery, Feel free to chime in below!
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