Shisha Ornaments to Stitch in Time for Christmas
Inspired by the mirror embroideries of India and Pakistan, these vibrant ornaments feature small, bright mirrors held in place and embellished with colorful stitching. Although some of the stitches may look difficult, you’ll find the pearl cotton easy to work with and the limited amount of embroidery manageable if you have basic embroidery skills.
Two kinds of plain-colored shisha mirrors are generally available for embroidery. “Antique” mirrors have a bubbled, slightly irregular surface and soft gray color. They are about 1⁄32 inch thick and irregular in shape. “Perfect” mirrors, cut from highly reflective mirrored glass, are brighter and more regular in shape than antique mirrors and may be thicker. Either style of mirror may be used for these shisha ornaments.
Materials for Shisha Ornaments
• Plain cotton fabric, one piece 5 x 10 inches (12.5 x 25 cm) each of rust, purple, and teal green, washed and pressed
• Small shisha mirrors, 1⁄2 to 5⁄8 inch (13 to 15 mm) in diameter, one each for the rust and purple ornaments and three for the teal green ornament
• DMC Pearl Cotton #5, 1 skein each of the following colors: purple #327, dark teal #517, lavender #554, light teal #598, dark pink #601, gold #782, turquoise #806, dark red #815, dark green #991, olive green #3346, light green #3348
• Graph paper, 4 squares per inch (2.5 cm)
• Point turner
• White dressmaker’s wax-free tracing paper, erasable fabric pencil, or soluble fabric pen
• Ball-point pen or knitting needle
• Sewing machine or handsewing needle, such as crewel or sharp, size 10
• Sewing thread to match your fabrics
• Polyester fiber stuffing, about 1 ounce (30 g) for each ornament
• Crewel embroidery needle, size 5
• Scrap fabric and pennies or dimes for practice (optional)
Sewing the Heart
Enlarge the heart pattern by redrawing it onto graph paper. One square of the pattern grid equals one square of graph paper. With right sides together, fold one of the pieces of fabric in half to form a square. Center the pattern on the folded fabric and pin it in place through both layers. With small machine or handstitching, sew through the fabric around the edge of the paper pattern, leaving a 2-inch (5-cm) opening on one side (Figure 1). Fold one layer of fabric back from the opening and staystitch the remaining layer along the seam line for the length of the opening (Figure 2).
Trim both layers of fabric 1⁄4 inch (6 mm) outside the stitching. Trim the point of the heart to 1⁄8 inch (3 mm) and clip the inside corner at the top of the heart almost to the stitching line. Turn the heart right side out, turning the point with a point turner. Mark the embroidery pattern on the right side of the front of the heart. For placement of the embroidery on the heart after it has been stuffed, either trace guidelines from the stitching guide onto plain paper and then trace them onto the fabric with dressmaker’s tracing paper and ball-point pen or the tip of a knitting needle, or sketch guidelines onto the fabric freehand. You don’t need to mark individual stitches.
Stuff the heart with small pieces of polyester stuffing, using the blunt end of a pencil to push stuffing into the corners. When the heart is evenly filled and the surface is firm and smooth, turn in the seam allowance at the opening and pin the opening closed. Slip-stitch the pinned seam with matching thread.
Stitching the Mirrors
You may like to practice sewing mirrors in place using scrap fabric and pennies or dimes before beginning work on the ornaments. Thread a needle with pearl cotton thread and knot the end. Bring the needle up through the fabric and take a small backstitch on the right side of the fabric where it will be hidden by the mirror. Place a mirror over the backstitch and hold it in position with your left thumb. Bring the thread to the right side of the fabric at the top edge of the mirror, just to the left of center. Make two long stitches, about 3⁄8 inch (9 mm) apart, over the mirror, pulling the thread tight (Figure 3).
Make two more long holding stitches, about 3⁄8 inch (9 mm) apart, at right angles to the first stitches. Wrap each of the second pair of stitches around each of the first pair at each intersection (Figure 4). Pull the holding stitches tight and make a backstitch under the mirror to hold them firm. Bring the thread to the right side of the fabric about 1⁄4 inch (6 mm) from the edge of the mirror and opposite one of the grid corners (Figure 5) in preparation for beginning the ring of Cretan stitch that will frame the mirror. Rotate the mirror so that the corner you’re working on is toward you, and make a loop around the interlaced holding stitches closest to the thread (Figure 6).
Next, take a stitch in the fabric, opposite the first loop, with the needle pointing toward the center of the mirror (Figure 7). These two elements—the loop around the holding stitch followed by the stitch in the fabric—form a single Cretan stitch. Begin the next stitch to the right of the one just completed (Figure 8).
Make a ring of Cretan stitches around the mirror (Figure 9). You’ll need about 16 to 20 stitches (4 to 5 stitches per section of holding stitch) to make a full circle. The Cretan stitch anchors the mirror more firmly and widens the center opening in the holding stitches slightly, exposing more of the mirror’s surface. You may find it useful to draw evenly spaced dots around the mirror to guide placement of the Cretan stitches. Make them with a soluble marker or fabric pencil, dividing the circle into quarters, eighths, and finally sixteenths or twentieths. Stitches made close to the edge of the mirror will form a dense, compact frame. If you make the stitches farther away from the edge of the mirror, they will appear as radiating lines.
Completing the Embroidery
After you have stitched the mirrors in place, work the remainder of the embroidery, referring to the stitching guide for the placement of colors and stitches. To begin stitching, bury the unknotted end of the thread in the body of the heart, bring the needle to the correct position on the right side of the heart, and take one or two small backstitches where they will eventually be covered with embroidery.
Cut two strands of yarn each 20 inches (51 cm) long. Holding the strands taut, twist them together counterclockwise until they start to kink on themselves. Still holding the twisted strands taut, fold them in half and then release the folded end to allow the strands to twist together. Tie a knot at each end of the cord and trim the loose ends. With matching thread, stitch the center of the cord to the notch at the top of the heart.
Evening Star Designs, 69 Coolidge Ave., Haverhill, MA 0l832. (800) 666-3562. Shisha mirrors, embroidery supplies.
SUSAN OPDAHL, a quilter and embroiderer, originally designed this project for the November/December 1994 issue of PieceWork, one of Interweave Knits’ sister publications. | Featured image photo by Susan Opdahl