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extraordinary embroiderer

If I could choose only one type of artistic endeavor in life, and all other types of art were closed to me, I would choose hand embroidery. That is the choice I would make today, but not the choice I would have made if this had been eleven years ago. Eleven years ago, I had yet to discover the embroidery books and techniques of one particular English woman. Are you familiar with her name? Have you guessed it? Helen M. Stevens.

I first came across a publication by Helen M. Stevens in a bookstore in the year 2000. It was in Honolulu. Before that, I had done freestyle embroidery for years, not really progressing beyond the easier stitching techniques, but I had designed some tropical bird images myself and enjoyed the process. I had also made cross stitch patterns from other artists and then designed some cross stitch bird patterns in the software. I did a needlepoint picture and I really didn’t like that kind of stitching because I didn’t like the thicker, thicker threads.

My mother did a lot of small dot photos over the span of two decades and I appreciate the finished, framed photos because my own mother stitched the photos herself, but small dot doesn’t interest me as something I want to do. Most small knitters need to use a magnifying glass to count the stitches.

The real embroideries of Mrs. Stevens

Before seeing a book by Helen M. Stevens, colorful threads in dozens of shade variations were what drew me to embroidery work for me. In freestyle hand embroidery, I had experimented with the straight stitch, satin stitch, shadow lining, and other simple stitches. The freestyle form of embroidery has been used for thousands of years. It is relaxing and creative at the same time. In 1999, I thought I had done enough embroidery to last a lifetime. There was oil paint and chalk pastels and other forms of art that I wanted to study and try.

Helen M. Stevens calls her embroideries: True Embroideries. The first book of his that I opened was called The timeless art of embroidery. My waning interest in the art and history of embroidery arose suddenly. There I was in a bookstore, trying not to be impulsive, but feeling like I had just opened the best book of my entire life. I looked at the book for an hour before allowing myself to buy it. I had to have it! It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Since then, I have purchased many more Helen M. Stevens books.

The difference between Ms. Stevens’ techniques, realism, enthusiasm, and engaging storytelling in her books compared to other embroidery books I’ve read cannot be adequately explained in a short article like this. The entire art world offers its possibilities when you open a book by Helen M. Stevens.

In 2006, when I purchased my fifth Helen M. Stevens book, I was once again amazed at how many beautiful, realistic, exciting, finished embroidery projects were photographed and contained in the book. There were five master classes in the book, but many more photos of finished projects and notes on each topic on how to achieve realism and interest in the image if we want to imitate it. I decided to email Ms. Stevens. In my email, I told her that I really admire her work. I asked her if she outsources the actual embroidery work to people she has trained in her methods of doing it. She replied that she does all the embroidery herself. She takes care of each commissioned project and, like any other artist, she does all the artwork herself.

This is the address of the Helen M. Stevens website: http://www.fritillary.co.uk/

If you click About Us on her website, you can read about Ms. Stevens’ long and dedicated journey of accomplishment in the arts of embroidery.

There are so many techniques to learn: opus plumarium radial, opus plumarium strata radial, opus plumarius directional, opposite angle stitches, and subtle hollowing, to name just the ones I’m trying to conquer. These are some of the techniques that Helen Stevens has perfected so that her embroideries of bird feathers, cat fur, blooming flower, anything and everything, can seem so real and exciting.

Helen Stevens’ work is exhibited in many amazing venues in the UK and abroad. She read and studied a lot on her own to gain the knowledge she needed before developing her ‘signature’ techniques She understands the history of embroidery. She has been an embroidery artist for 25 years and I dare say she is the UK’s most recognized embroiderer. She is a member of the Society of Women Artists. His art of hers hangs in the British Museum and the Palace of Westminster!

He works mainly with silk threads. She explains in her books why it is important to work with silk threads, but sometimes she also uses cotton threads and special threads.

Helen M. Stevens emphasizes in each of her books that we can and should create our own embroidery designs, not just use her ideas, once we have mastered stitch techniques and the color wheel. She is a true artist, an extraordinary embroiderer.

If I imagine one of my granddaughters one day inheriting an heirloom oil painting I did that looks realistic and took two hours to paint and then I imagine the same granddaughter instead of opening a package with an embroidery I did. .of the same theme, whatever it is, which took me 20 or 30 hours to create and it looks absolutely real in every detail, I don’t know; maybe it’s just me, but I think the embroidery is much more exquisite.

And I happily admitted, I am my mother’s daughter.

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