Mirror work, or shisha work, is one of the most captivating traditional handicrafts of India. Small pieces of mirrors in an assortment of shapes and sizes are embellished onto a base fabric. More often than not, mirror work is found alongside other traditional textile handicrafts, such as applique, embroidery, patchwork and tie and dye. The employment of mirror work alongside one or more other traditional handicrafts results in designs and patterns being greatly enhanced. This is due to the lustrous shine of the mirrors that signifies the essential charm of the mirror work. Mirror work as we know it today originated in India in the 17th century.
Captivating colours of traditional Indian mirror work
The handicraft is suitable to be carried out on light, medium and heavy weight fabrics, and embellishments are most secure when stitched to a firmly woven base fabric. Mirrors used can be of various geometric shapes – circle, square, triangle, hexagon and polygon. These mirrors are secured by means of a framework of different types of decorative stitching. The rough edges of the mirrors help to secure them in place on the base fabric. The three main stitches used in mirror work are:
Chain Stitch, otherwise known as Chikana
This ancient sewing technique is a type of embroidery stitch. In mirror work, it is utilised as a solid framework of stitches that essentially cover the entire face of the mirror. This ensures that the mirror embellishments are secured firmly to the base fabric.
The chain stitch holds the mirror firmly in place
This is also a type of embroidery stitch and is made up by looping of the thread. The cretan stitch is used to pull aside the chain stitch, thus exposing the mirror for the overall design.
The cretan stitch pulls aside the chain stitch, exposing the surface of the mirror
This type of stitching is commonly used to embellish round ornaments, rings and mirrors onto a base fabric. The buttonhole stitch is widely used alongside other types of stitching in other traditional Indian handicrafts, such as applique. The two variations of the buttonhole stitch are the kitikiia and baiganomangia kitikitia, which incorporate an extra half-stitch to secure motifs.
L: How to embellish a small piece of mirror using the buttonhole stitching technique
R: The buttonhole stitch is solely for the embellishment of round objects, such as mirrors
A small piece of mirror is perfectly stitched to the base fabric
Images: My Learning, Joyful Abode