Shisha mirror embroidery

This embroidery from India features a number of mirrors embroidered into the design. I don’t have much information on it – perhaps if you know something about it you could leave a comment? It’s another piece from Dr. Shirazi’s personal collection.

The central motif is a bullock or ox (depending on whether you’re speaking British or American English). Cows are considered sacred in Hinduism, but I have no idea how that relates to this piece. I don’t believe this is a religious embroidery.

Anyway, design-wise, blue and blue-green are good colors for outlining the central motif so as to draw the eye to the center – they contrast strongly with orange.

Here are some details of the border. I like the bright feeling from the mirrors and colors. Note how the main colors here are yellow, orange, blue-green, and blue – they form a whole section of the color wheel. White is a neutral accent color here, and along with the mirrors helps the design feel light even though the orange background isn’t pastel or pale in any way.

Here is the back – very neatly done.

This is one of a special series of posts based on the embroidery collection of Dr. Faegheh Shirazi, from The University of Texas at Austin. Her research is on “textiles, dress, gender identity discourse, and material culture in the Middle East; the meanings of veiling; rituals and rites of passage as they relate to material culture.” Over the years she has collected a number of examples of embroidery from around the world, and has very kindly allowed me to photograph them for my blog.

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6 Responses to Shisha mirror embroidery

  1. Hello dear,
    these are looking so smart! nice embroidery!
    ps. Do you know what is the meaning of Shisha?
    Shisha is a word from Urdu language which means Mirror :)

  2. Rachel says:

    It’s a really vivid panel, isn’t it, and beautifully worked!

  3. Marta Brysha says:

    That is a gorgeous textile. Given the sacred status of cows in India you would think that the ox would be a common motif in Indian embroideries, yet it is not. Curious. It’s interesting the way people like to look at the back of embroideries. It offers a slightly abstracted version of what is on the front, which is visually interesting. I can’t decide whether people look at the backs to see how the magic on the front was achieved or whether looking at the back increases the wonder of what is on the front.

  4. There are 3 methods (of which 2 are fairly recent, and invented to speed up the process for commercial use, so you can make up your own too!):
    1. The traditional method, and the most difficult – lay a circle of loosely made chain-stitches around the edge of the mirror. When the base circle is complete, make another circle of chain stitches mounted on the first one and tighter. make 4 or 5 circles until the mirror is firmly fixed. This makes a lovely frame and this method covered about half the diameter of the mirrors, so only a small circle peeked through. Seldom seen anymore, except on pieces worked 20 years back or older.
    2. The quick wheel – lay a circle of chain-stitch round the edge of the mirror, work a row of blanket (buttonhole) stitches mounted on the chain stitch, tightening gently on the inside of the circle. (The above pic is made solely of 1 row of buttonhole stitches, without the chain base).
    3. Straight stitch – Covers up about half the mirror surface, but is also used for other shapes like the diamond, triangle, square, etc. Lay a straight stitch across each corner of the mirror. Once all the mirror corners are stitched in place, lay more straight stitches to cover the triangular bits of mirror that are exposed on the corners (a diamond shape will end up a square). If working a circle, lay it across part of the diameter, go back to near the start, and stitch a little further along the diameter, continue in a spiral till done.
    tips: glue the mirror down so it’s easier to work on; We get mirrors of all shapes in India, but they tend to make the embroidery very heavy, so a recently started trend is to use thick sheets of tinfoil cut into circles – much lighter to work with!

    • Hannah says:

      Thank you so much for this very thorough explanation. It’s really helpful. I love it when someone comes by that knows more than I do – sometimes it is very hard for me to find information on styles from other countries!

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