The Magic of Mirrors

We asked Stephanie Griess, ace stitcher and our media sales manager, to share her thoughts on shisha work. Here’s Stephanie:


Each a celebration of color and light, these ornaments will give you a small taste of the elaborate mirror embroideries of India and Pakistan.


I was eight years old when my mother taught me to cross-stitch. I remember the huge sense of accomplishment when I completed the very last back-stitch that would make the sunflower whole. While I don’t partake in embroidery nearly as much as I did as a child and young adult, I always find myself going back to it between my quilting and knitting projects (and I’m currently cross-stitching a Christmas stocking for my son with just a few short weeks to finish!).


When Editor Jeane Hutchins told me that the PieceWork team was putting together a Shisha Ornaments kit to embroider, my curiosity got the best of me. What exactly is “shisha”? I found my answer in Linda Lynton’s article, “Shisha Embroidery: The Mirror Work of Gujarat,” in the November/December 1994 issue of PieceWork— it’s mirror work embroidery. 


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In the 1970s as Linda was travelling from Istanbul to Delhi, she noticed a change in the women’s clothing as she entered the “embroidery belt” that stretches from Afghanistan trough Western India. The change from modest clothing with little embroidery to ornate skirts with tiny mirrors intricately embroidered on them was easily discernable. As the author journeyed south and east of Afghanistan, she noted similarly embroidered textiles that appeared to be the norm throughout the nearly 800,000-square-mile embroidery belt.


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Little is known about when shisha work began, though it is likely to have ancient origins. As to the significance of the work, one theory states it was a way to ward off the evil eye. It was believed that harm can occur through looking at someone and the reflective surface of the mirrors could deflect these harmful looks.


Now I’m even more fascinated with shisha mirrors and their long tradition! And even though stitching is far from part of my everyday life, I won’t hesitate to carve out the time to make the Shisha Ornaments. Won’t you join me in trying something new?


Happy stitching,