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Mary Corbet

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I learned to embroider when I was a kid, when everyone was really into cross stitch (remember the '80s?). Eventually, I migrated to surface embroidery, teaching myself with whatever I could get my hands on...read more

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Embroidery Designer Spotlight: Helen M. Stevens

 

Helen M. Stevens is currently one of the UK’s foremost embroidery designers and educators. Her books are popular all over the world – I have four of them myself, and intend for my collection to keep growing.

Helen Stevens not only offers on-site, in-person embroidery classes, but she even offers on-line video classes through the Helen M. Stevens Website. Here, you can find an array of classes in her specialty, which is needlepainting.

Helen Stevens’s online classes range from beginner to advanced, and feature needlepainting projects illustrating flowers and animals. They echo the quality projects found in her books, but I would imagine that the classes are even more effective than her books, since you can view video clips of every part of each project. If you think it’s something you would like, try her free class. I like the video clips – they don’t last too long, but they show the essentials.

Helen’s work features Piper’s silk, conveniently wound on tubes (this is a great sell-point to me when it comes to flat or softly-twisted silk). I’ve never tried Piper’s and I’m not sure what it looks like close up. From the photos, it looks a lot like the silk from the Japanese Embroider Center, but I have no idea, as I haven’t tried Piper’s. Piper’s Silk is located in the UK, and their website indicates that orders can take up to 21 days for shipping within the UK. I assume the wait must be longer for an order from the US! I have not found any specific purveyors in the US, although I am certain there must be, given the popularity of Helen Stevens’s books. On Fritillary, the website which sells Helen Stevens “goods” (fabric, notecards, tools and accessories, threads, and fabrics), you can find True Embroideries Sleave Silk which looks like Piper’s silk under a different name.

The Embroiderer’s Year is one of the several books I have by Helen Stevens, and I like it very much! Although we’re always advised to never judge a book by its cover, the cover is what sold me on this book, and I’m not sorry for it!

Going back to my previous blurb on kits and designers, I don’t think you could go wrong withHelen Stevens’s projects and designs for anyone wanting to learn and perfect the technique of needlepainting.

While you’re checking out her site, be sure to check out Fritillary. There’s some beautiful stuff on there! The silk cabinet and the Bobbin Joe (both found under furnishings) look like fantastic additions to any embroiderer’s stock of accessories. They’d make perfect gifts. Too bad my family doesn’t frequent my site – or I’d leave a really BIG hint!

Remember when ordering from the UK that there’s a hefty difference between the British pound and the American dollar – and that you’ll also be paying a pretty penny in shipping, with a longer wait than usual. The ideal would be to find a US distributor who sells Helen Stevens supplies and such. If anyone has any resources available, I’m all ears!

Thanks to Marilyn for suggesting the topic!

 
 

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(6) Comments

  1. I am a BIG fan of Helen’s and have done two of her kits, each with butterflies and flowers.
    Her silks are wonderful. I had to give them up when the dollar went so bad, but I have quite a bit leftover to use for special pieces.
    Even working with the books only is a treat. I’m glad to see you recommending her work.

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  2. Hello Mary

    I’m so glad you expanded on my suggestion about Helen. She is an international treasure.

    When you sign up for her classes you are offered a set of silks that are used in that class, directly from Helen. I found her shipping to be very fast, even to Alaska. The silk itself is very like the Japanese silk only a much thinner thread. I often double it in the needle.

    “Someday” I will be able to go to one of her classes in England. *sigh*

    Marilyn

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  3. Hi! This is Helen M. Stevens!

    Thanks so much to you all for your write up and comments about my work, books, classes, etc. It’s a pleasure! Many of you will have been familiar with my website http://www.helenmstevens.co.uk for some time, but http://www.fritillary.co.uk is new and I am so pleased that you are enjoying it! It’s been such fun to share not only my love of embroidery, but also my – now quite considerable – range of products, silks, books and classes with a new audience. And – as you mention, Marilyn – we do try to turn our orders around really quickly (within 48 hours +/- 2 working days) as I know how frustrating it is to keep waiting and waiting ….

    So many thanks and much love to you all – do keep in touch!
    Helen

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  4. Hello, Helen! Thanks for stopping in!

    I love your site, and I love Fritillary site as well – beautiful stuff on there! I’m a great fan of your books. They’re as informative as they are beautiful.

    I’m so glad you have such a quick turn around on orders, and I’m really looking forward to receiving my recent purchase of silk!

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  5. Hello Mary,
    What is the name of the thread HELEN uses in her Embroidery? Can we substitute stranded cotton (ANCHOR or DMC)for it?

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    1. She uses Pipers silks. You can substitute, but you won’t get the same look at all. That flat, shiny look is due to the threads combined with the stitch she uses.

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