Our dining room table is strewn with flowers. Shisha flowers, that is, as I’ve been experimenting with fabrics, threads, and stitches, not to mention mirrors, sequins, shells and silver card. Yes, I am trying to decide what to put in the workshop kit, and what exactly to stitch with those materials.
The threads are a fairly easy decision – I’ve been stitching most of my models in Anchor Multicolor perle #5, but for the kits I’ll probably use some skeins of DMC Variations that I’ve got in my stash and don’t use very often because there is no matching #8. The fabric is the next thing; blue cotton, lime green linen/cotton blend, or off-white silk dupion? Having just almost ruined a flower on dupion by ironing it too hot I am inclined to play it safe and go with one of the coloured fabrics; they are also less expensive (not unimportant when putting together kits for a charity workshop).
And which flower? The Cretan version uses less thread, looks nice and is quick to do, but the fly stitch version looks more floral. However, it might take too much time, especially as I will be using this design for a 90-minute workshop later this year, and I do think it’s important that the project can be finished or at least nearly finished within the time of the workshop – so much more encouraging than taking home something that’s barely been started. The yellow shell discs I got some weeks ago look nice, but some people might feel they are not really doing shisha embroidery unless it’s got a mirror. I could bring both and offer the option; the shell discs are a little bigger than the mirrors, but both just about work with the same size transfer.
Which brings me to size. And budget. I printed my little flower design in three sizes, to go with a 15mm, 18mm or 20mm mirror/sequin/shell. The smallest of the three fits snugly into Craft Creation’s small square aperture cards. The medium one, which I would need to use with the mirrors I’ve got, requires the card one size up. Which, unfortunately, is 50% more expensive. So ideally the design would use an 18mm mirror but be no bigger overall than the 15mm one. Using my photo editing program and the scanned design I enlarged and shrunk various bits and I think I’ve got a version that will work, although it may look too cramped with the shell discs. Watch this space!
Now, sequins – yes, I will definitely include the sequins. Options here are to attach them with holding stitches using stranded cotton, securing them with metallic petite beads, French knots, or standard seed beads in a contrasting colour. One thing to bear in mind is that my size 9 needle would only pass through about one in every three petite beads, so the size 7s definitely won’t stand a chance with them (I decided on 7s for the workshop as being a little less challenging to thread). I do like the look of those tiny beads, though, so perhaps I’ll just bring a few size 10s or beading needles to pass round the class (must remember needle threaders too).
So far I’ve tried three different stitches for the scrolled stem: stem stitch, chain stitch (apologies for the example below, it’s not the most even chain stitch I’ve ever produced) and heavy chain stitch. I really like the look of the last one, but it’s probably a little too complicated for a two-hour workshop. Stem stitch may make an appearance in the leaf, so I think plain chain stitch will be the best choice.
The leaf has been a great place to experiment, and I tried five different styles before finding the look I was after. Four of them I outlined, mostly in stem stitch, but one in backstitch. The necessity for this no doubt arose at least in part because my stitching wasn’t neat enough to produce tidy looking edges, so the outline made up for that. The first I tried was fishbone stitch, and I do like the look of it, but it does require more precise stitch placement than some of the others and takes a bit of time. Next I tried feather stitch, but that just looked rather haphazard. Fly stitch looked better, and I liked the line that formed down the centre of the leaf. Satin stitch can look great, but it needs to be done very accurately to get it to look its best, and I didn’t really take enough time over it. Finally I returned to fly stitch, but I worked it less densely, which had the advantage of being less time-consuming as well as producing a nice light look. It was also the only one that could stand on its own without outlining, even when worked rather quickly.
So what’s it going to be? Blue cotton fabric (although I may use up the bit of lime green I’ve got left as well), Cretan stitch for the flower, chain stitch for the stem, open fly stitch for the leaf, and metallic petite beads to secure the sequins. And if I can get all these things to work with an 18mm mirror and the smallest design size, I’ll be well pleased!