Recently I have been ordering books again and found Helen M Stevens books from the 1980s. The first of her books I purchased was "The Timeless Art of Embroidery". Her first set of books were more like coffee table books. She explains art theory and shows how to use it to make more realistic embroideries. When I ordered one of her first books I thought she used mostly needle painting. However she gets really lovely results using simple shadows, perspective and a stitch called opus plumarium. You can see a preview of her book "World of embroidery" with stitch guide by clicking on this link www.books.google.com/books?isbn=0715326651
On Amazon they have a preview of the book and offering a good price for the book used. http://www.amazon.com/World-Embroidery-Helen-M-Stevens/dp/0715309773/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1386356398&sr=8-1&keywords=world+of+embroidery
She does use other stitches but opus plumarium and directional opus plumarium seem to dominate her embroideries. Directional opus plumarium is a simplified form of needle painting in this case using fewer colors then other needle paintings. Another factor that makes her work so unique is the use of colored background fabric especially black. Helen M Stevens' use of art and stitches make her work very unique.
Then in the 90's her work was released again only this time it contained projects with more detail instructions. These books were renamed "Master Class Series". Then finally the "Master Class Series" was remade again in the 2000s to be even more streamlined. This newer "Master Class" is even more concise in teaching specific techniques and has very specific projects. I bought the third series "Embroidered Landscapes" which includes 5 lovely projects.
Personally of all of her book series I prefer the first. Even though the first set of books are a bit rambling they bring out more of the authors ideas and character. The first series is richly illustrated with the authors embroidery. Each page has at least one embroidered piece or sketch from her journal. The first series may not give many detailed instructions, but for someone who already embroiders they can use the pictures alone to make any of the illustrations.
Yesterday I started getting ready to embroider one of her birds. I simply copied the embroidery onto card stock. Then cutting out the bird I traced it's outline onto black fabric using a white fabric pencil. Next I went over the traced lines and sketched in some of the details. This will be the first time that I've tried embroidering on black fabric and look forward to the challenge.
I hope this little review has inspired someone to look at Helen M. Stevens' books and maybe even buy one.