Indian shisha embroidery

Technique, basics

Shisha or abla – that is how mirrors were called in Indian culture – is the original embroidery of Indian “origin”. This is a truly unique type of handmade decoration of clothes, shoes, accessories, household items.

And this is not just beauty, but a real amulet! After all, a mirror, as we all know from fairy tales, has always been considered something magical, with magical properties.

Since ancient times, Hindus have believed that sewn mirrors, reflecting sunlight, and with it unkind looks, protect good people from evil spirits and the evil eye.

History of Indian embroidery with mirrors

Shisha (shisha) “officially” is an initially unusual, absolutely non-trivial type of “purely Indian” embroidery. Its “highlight” are small mirrors (particles of real or imitation), sheathed in a special technique.

Patterns of this embroidery have also been found in Pakistan for a long time, as well as in Afghanistan. Translated from Hindi, “shisha” means just “small glass”. Mirrors, embroidering, began to insert the wife of Shah Jahan.

However, even earlier this technique was used by the poor, achieving a spectacular sparkle of matter with the help of mica. They wanted to look as beautiful as the rich, whose clothes were embroidered with gold and silver, studded with jewels.

The mention of magic in the case of shisha is quite justified!

After all, the word “magician” is from “maja”, that is, “mirror”. Moreover, a very specific mirror is the very one in which the god of creation Brahma (in Hinduism), as the ancient legend says, sees himself, as well as all the miracles of his own power.

A fairly well-known fact, in addition to this, is the assertion that a mirror is a talisman against the evil eye: it is worn in a pocket / bag, but so that the side that directly reflects is always directed away from the owner. And in this case – people believe – any negative energy is reflected and returned straight to the one who wished the unkind.

Shisha, in contrast to other ancient embroideries, is not so ancient – it was “invented” in India only in the 17th century. True, something similar had happened before, but in those days, mica was used instead of mirrors, and in addition to it, iridescent beetle shells, a small coin and tiny metal plates.

It was the pieces of mirrors that entered the traditional Indian embroidery with threads only during the time of Shah Jahan (XVII century), who built the Taj Mahal in memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal. It was she who began to embroider with mirrors first.

Previously, round mirrors were cut by hand, which was unsafe, inconvenient and time consuming. And today mirrors for shish are made in factories. And a variety of forms.

In addition, shisha is cut from glass, the reverse side of which is silvered, and the edges are smoothed.But, in general, the edges of the fragment (whatever material is used) should not necessarily be even – embroidery will cover them. But they must be smooth without fail, so as not to fray the threads over time or even immediately.

Shisha embroidery technique

Shisha is an embroidery that is diverse, and there are no strict restrictions in it. You can use a variety of threads as workers – silk, cotton, woolen, and metallic.

There are also no requirements for fabrics – it is only important that the matter has enough density in order to withstand not only thread embroidery, but also sewn mirrors. The latter can also have any shape.

And they are easy to replace with some other (visually similar) elements – pieces of glass, plastic, metal, sequins, etc.

Subtleties of execution

First of all, a base-lattice is made that holds the mirror in one place. In the process of embroidering, the needlewoman must constantly control the thread – it must be pulled tight. In addition, the stitches forming the lattice must be strictly parallel in all directions and run as close as possible to the center of the mirror fragment.

When there are remaining stitches around this lattice, they will pull this lattice away from the center of the mirror, visually opening it. If the stitches are too loose or too close to the mirrored edges, they will not be able to fix the “shisha” in its place, as a result of which it will simply fall out.

To complement the created decor lattice with stitches that can be close to each other, the image is a dense frame around the mirror, or they can be quite far from one another – then the frame will look truly filigree, and the “shisha” will be much more visible.

Step 1

It is necessary to hold the mirror element based on embroidery (on fabric) with your thumb (or you can fix it with glue or double-sided tape). Next, bring the thread to the RS at the edge of the mirror.

After that, you will need to make 2 horizontal stitches parallel to each other as close as possible to the mirror center.

Then a very small stitch will need to be done on the opposite side, and then return to the side from which the slave began.

Then it will be necessary to pass the needle on the IS and bring it to the forehead at one of the sides of the mirror. There will be 2 already vertical parallel stitches at right angles to the first stitch pair.

Important: it is necessary to work in this technique “from oneself” and, for example, from the bottom up. Skip the needle under each stitch of the first pair at the edge of the mirror element and release a very small stitch in the side. Thus, a lattice will turn out – a shisha-base.

Step 2

Next, draw the needle on the IS and bring it to the LS at any point near the edge of the mirror. Then it will be necessary to place the thread along, for example, forward / up and, working by the clock p, the stitch is stitched, for example, down – just under the previously formed lattice.

Step 3

The next step is to place the working thread along the forward / down direction, and after using the “chain” stitch just along the mirror edge. Then repeat steps 2, 3 (see above) around the circumference (entire) of the mirror element. Fix the last link of the decorated chain by passing the needle on fig.