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American Quaker Sampler stitched by Krista


Saturday, 12 December 2015

Beyond the Little X – An Interview with Jackie Du Plessis of It’s Fine-ally Finished!

For this month’s interview we are delighted to sit and chat with Jackie!  We will hear about her journey in stitching, how she came into teaching and creating three dimensional art, and the stories about the projects that are near and dear to her heart.  Her stitching and embroidery skills are truly amazing to see.  Each and every detail is so special.  Grab a nice cup of tea and have a good read.  It will feel like Jackie is sitting right next to you!  

Jackie, how old were you when you first picked up a needle and who taught you to stitch?

I honestly can’t remember how old I was when I first had a needle in hand.  My childhood was idyllic, spent playing with chickens and calves while building mud huts with the farm’s workers children.   We spent our days outside mimicking a grown-up world of make-belief.   When we moved to the coast, my neighborhood was filled with boys so I rode bike, played cricket and Robin St. Crusoe always exploring and looking for treasures.   I do remember, most too, all the woman in my family and our family friends were creative.   My mother and two grandmothers were always busy, knitting, quilting, gardening, painting, pottery, sculpting, singing and writing.  Being creative is simply a part of us all.  I think I learnt the most from me Mom.
What was the first needlework project that you stitched?

I now wish I kept all those doll clothes.  For my sixth birthday I received a Cindy doll. I still remember her being blonde and beautiful, in a slender cardboard box.  She was dressed in a red bathing suit with open toed high-heeled sandals.  We were instant friends and she became my travel companion.  With me turning six that year, big girl school would start and Cindy did not have the necessary school uniform.  I recall my mom helping me, making her a blue jumper and white shirt.  I hand stitched an emblem on that jumper.  So Cindy’s uniform emblem must be my first stitched memory.   

I was 8 when at school we were assigned to embroider a placemat.  Here is a picture of that placement.   It showcases rudimentary cluster blocks on Hardanger fabric in browns and orange with a Herringbone outline border.  I use the Herringbone stitch often in my work; this must be why I am so partial to the stitch.  

When I was 12, we had to make a dress for school and then walk wearing it in the fashion show.  I was so shy and afraid of falling; the poor boys in our class had to be the dwarfs.  I was the second tallest girl in my class and none of the boys had not come into their growth spurts yet, I remember that I really like this short dwarf.

The first time I was able to see the entire line of DMC fibers, was when we moved/immigrated to the US in 1995.  I was astonished to see the selection and could not wait to buy/use every color. 
Arriving and living in Indianapolis for four years, I joined the local EGA guild, took out every needlework book from the library and spent those years just soaking it all up, refining and developing.
The Indianapolis library was stocked with wonderful books and there I found Janice Love’s Hardanger Instruction books and taught myself to hardanger.  I remember well buying that cut of Lugana and almost falling over at the cost of the yard piece.   (Remember I was still converting Rands to Dollars at $6 = $1 and today it’s $14.60 =$1. 

Here is a picture of one of the four corners of my Janice Love table cloth teaching.  I could not wait to complete it, worked on it day in and out, almost for two months.  When finished, I showed it at EGA “show and tell” the ladies were so encouraging.  I have to admit – this will probably be the one and only for me to complete!  I love hardanger but find adding color and making objects into functional 3-D objects more rewarding.   
Here is a of a toddler dress with bullion stitch flowers I made while we lived in Florida in the late 1998.  I loved exploring the different fibers now available to me.  I made the dress from Irish linen and used Floche fiber to work the chain stitch and bullion stitch flowers.   

Hetsie Van Wyk, who wrote ‘Embroider Now” and “How to Embroider” taught my grandmother to do “combined work”.  Here you see a combination of counted thread and surface stitches.  The Sorbello stitch is worked with pearl bottom.    This blue fiber on white Lugana table cloth was worked when she was still 83 years young. 

Hetsie’s book can still be found on e-bay now and again.  I often pull mine out and use it when designing.  I have an Afrikaans and English version.  A funny note, I can’t follow the Afrikaans version, I have no connection to the stitching terminology, and I only use my English version.  I must stitch in English then.    

A closer look at the Sorbello stitch.   

Another table cloth my grandmother made for me – Unfortunately she did not add a hem, and I have been reluctant to add it, so it’s neatly stored but I pulled it out to share her work with you all. 

My mother was a phenomenal quilter.  Her free hand quilting skills were amazing.  She was able to teach many quilters in South Africa and here in the US her skills.  I feel very fortunate to own a few of her pieces, now my treasures.  

Below is a view of a Trapunto quilt she worked as a class model.  I added the scissor to show scale of her machine stippling. 

Here is a view up close of her work.  See how all her corners meet perfectly.  My mom taught me to pay attention to detail, her color selections were outstanding; I hope we share that color gene too.


This quilt hangs in my entry way.  It’s called “New York Beauty”  I cherish it everyday!

What is your favorite time of day to stitch?  Do you sit in a set place and what tools do you like to have on hand? 

I enjoy stitching when the house is quite – when everyone has left for work and school, but my most favorite time is when the morning light is bright with sunshine.  It makes all colors look brilliant.  I often work at our dining room table.  It’s a large table, in front of a bay window, that allows plenty of natural light and I can spread all my fibers and linens out on the table.  I love adventure of starting a new project.  Seeing how it develops and grows to completion.   

Do you use the stick and stab technique, or a sewing stitch?  Do you prefer to stitch in hand, or with a hoop or frame? 

I stitch in hand mostly using the stab technique but when my samplers are large I’d like to put them in scroll frames and then I work in a stand.  When deadlines are looming and I need to complete a project, I will scroll frame the linen and use a table stand so that I can work with two hands.  Stick and Stab is the only way I stitch, but when finishing I will sometimes use the sewing technique. 

Do you have a favorite linen and thread?

My selection of linen is dictated by the project I am creating. When stitching samplers my first choice would be Lakeside or Legacy Linen.  When 3- dimensional pieces are created my preferences is working with the linen that has sizing in it such as Wichelt or Northern Cross linens.

Is there a specialty stitch or technique that you enjoy using?
Specialty stitches – I love them all.  What I really like doing is adapting stitches to meet my design needs.  I create three-dimensional objects where the linen sometimes needs to have texture and color – so the linen becomes the fabric of the shape.  That is why I use many different stitches, such as pulled-thread, surface and textured stitches to achieve a desired look.  When I started teaching my main focus was to utilize a sewing machine to explore the different aspects because of my tailoring background and now I find myself moving more towards complete hand finishing.

When did you start creating your own designs?

I used to finish for chart-print designers, students and other stitchers.  With my finishing company being used by so many needlepoint and counted cross stitch shops, I realized there was a great need to show stitchers how to finish a basic pillow, ornament and stocking.  This was in the early 2000s.  It made me think of how I could do it…and I found myself thinking and dreaming of projects, in which to show/teach a finishing technique.

The first project I created to teach was BEE Safe – I did it in two color ways – a solid AVS silk for class and then a hand-dyed version for an on-line session. 

Bee safe is completely stitch on the exterior and finished with silk fabric on the interior.  I find that I adapt my linen ground by adding color and texture so that it becomes a usable fabric to create the object.  

Examples are:
Celadon – the front of this etui is linen with silk but a hand-dyed fiber with pulled stitch is used to create the filigreed fabric. 

Ella’s Slipper –
Hand-dyed fibers were used to stitch the toe panels for this dainty slipper

Secret Garden - A combination of hand-dyed fibers and specialty stitches were used to create this completely stitched folding etui with flower box pockets and detached buttonhole fountain for button storage. 

Then Briar Rose was my first project created for a workshop where I was the sole teacher.  It has been a favorite of mine for all these years but recently I had to retire it and offered the last of my supplies as an on-line class.  I find it is becoming a huge challenge obtaining and maintaining a current source for supplies used in projects. 

A vew of what it looks like getting ready for a class, all supplies cut and sorted. 

What led you to designing three-dimensional needlework?

All forms of needle art inspire me but the greatest satisfaction I get is when a pretty object becomes functional.  Three-dimensional pieces allow me to make a pretty object functional.  

When offering classes, so much focus is being paid to the finishing aspects that I wished my students to practise these techniques.  I started making smaller complete supplies kits – calling them Make-it Kits.  

These I offer for sale at classes and via a Newsletter offering as “Show to Sell”  and Facebook.    Facebook has been a wonderful took – connecting the grapevine of information.  If you are looking for me, I am JackieIFF. 

Can you tell us about your creative process of designing?   What inspires you? 

What inspires me of can be anything from a coloratura shape to a button to away the fabric falls.

Inspiration comes in many ways, it could be a button, fiber color, a pleat in a piece of fabric anything basically.  When something intrigues me, I can’t stop thinking about it.  I find myself driving in the car thinking, doing daily chores while still thinking….and that’s the start of the process.  I sometimes wake up very early and needing to work until I have the concept or the shape figure it out.  When I have the concept figured out and in concept I mean “object” I will then select my linen and then either the lining fabric or the fiber pallet. 

This project is called Thistlewood.  Purple is my favorite color and when I found this bolt of silk, I knew immediately I wanted to create a shaker styled roll-up etui covered with thistles. 

The removable pin keep has a linen pocket for scissor storage, a ribbon tool bar and the thimble dimple. 

I wanted to create a thistle interior, so the silk lining fabric is manipulated into a drawstring pocket to look like a thistle and a tiny thistle tassel embellishes the top green silk pocket. 

Which designs appeal to you the most?

It could be just the color scheme and the specialty stitches that make me look at a sampler twice, but most three-dimensional objects appeal to me.   Historical samplers are very inspiring but I try focusing on what is relevant to me as a needle artist so I try and create objects that are fitting to our time in either color scheme or functionality.

This is Ebony and Ivory, it was a joy to create.  

Working with only two colors creating different values by adding ivory silk underneath as lining to areas and weaving ebony ribbon into voids.

Above is the silk fabric ort container that stands and collapses.  All my friend’s husband thinks this is the coolest of all of my projects.  

This picture shows the carry-all created using combinations of three silk strips machine sewn and then encasing a shipping tube.  Two sides were added as well as a ribbon handle. 

Do you display your stitched pieces? 

I purchased a lovely class display cabinet last year, thinking it was large enough, but I found I needed two additional class shelves to showcase all my tiny treasures.  This display case is in our living room so our guests stand up to go look at my treasures; it’s always very interesting to hear the comments.  It is very interesting what appeals to the woman versus the men.   

What other types of hand work do you enjoy?

During my lull times I knit, the fiber and colors sooth my need to doing something.  I find the knitting keeps my hands busy, my mind at ease and gives me a feeling of accomplishing and not wasting time with idle hands.  I am not a good knitter – but a suburb yarn purchaser! 

What has been your worst needlework disaster?

Touch wood…I have not had a mayor disaster…but thinking of wood. 
This past year’s seminar project for Annie’s Needle arts festival in Williamsburg VA, used a beautifully handmade Birds’ eye Maple frame…and the love of my four legged live, my whippet Leo decided that it would be a wonderful teething ring.  That specific day was my husband’s birthday and we decided to go out for lunch.  My work went into my sewing box, placed in the center of our dining table, the wooden frame under the linen cuts that I have been working on for days….upon our return, wooden bits were “Hansel and Gretel -ed” around the house.  I broke down crying…maybe due to the stress of getting the project completed to meet deadlines or just the fact that this stunning purse frame was not more.  Leo knew he had done wrong and true to whippet character quietly left the room and spent the day in his bed.


Here are three dogs enjoy the winter sun.  Two Vizsla and one Whippet. 

Now that I think of it, another disaster could be the retirement / discontinuing of supplies.  I created this basket many years ago, it’s called Treasures of Comfort, with needle book.  The linen was discontinued before I had a chance to buy supplies and could only teach it twice.  I hope to one day, rework it with linen, but for now my creative path journeys forward.

If you can pick just one, which is your favorite project that you stitched? And why?

Florine’s Palm-Vane and Reticule could be my favorite at the moment.  I think it has to do with my husband’s comment.  He is a wonderful supportive and encouraging man that always finds the time to look at the object I created during his work day, always with a kind work of “ That pretty” or “That’s really nice” but showing him Florine he said “ I have to show my Mom” – I knew  that moment I did good.   

A view from above to show the stitched reticule handle and open fan needle case.  


The added storage area of the bottom panel – I will be working on accessories that will fit inside this tiny secret area in the next few months.  

In the Sampler and Antique Quarterly magazine of 2010 and 2012 – Fall issues, the Indian ink and Case of Indian Ink was featured.  I have since added the third case called “Star of Indian” as well as ornaments and ort containers and photo holders.  Maybe this is the collection I favor the most.  A very dear lady said to me after stitching Indian Ink, “Jackie, it’s like pop-corn…I could not stop until it was done”.  

Are you currently working on a project that you can share with us? What do you most enjoy about it? 

I have just returned from Williamsburg where I have been teaching at Christmas in Williamsburg for the past nine years.  Everything since October has been placed on the back burner until this week of my return.  It’s the last of my teaching and I spoil myself by working on someone else’s work.  Here you find Martha Edlin – wip.   I will be alternating between her and a few ornaments I would like to see on my Christmas tree (worked on 52/62).  The day after Christmas “Boxing day” will be spent getting ready to work on the new project.  Such as the Sweet Pea Sewing set with Cherry workbox, Tribute and Ode.

Here are pictures of the “Ode” project’s desk. It is a cherry lap desk filled with needle workers accessories all styled as writing tools and implements.   This wonderfully crafted cherry lap desk will be lined with stitched band panels reminiscent to the time period of Jane Austen, showcasing her lovely English garden.  The needlework accessories will showcase a variety of techniques for finishing and assembly.  Inside you will find a needle book fashioned to look like a dictionary, a inkwell thimble holder, pen-wipe pin cushion...all the treasured tools Jane would use.   

In mid January if all stitching on my new projects go well, I hope to announce an on-line class offering.  The class will focus on finishing with strawberries as the theme…below is a sneak picture of the dimensional strawberries with pincushion, thread winders and workbasket I hope to offer. 

What other hobbies or interests do you enjoy? 

I love buttons, simply owning buttons.  I do not think of myself as a button collector…To be a collector  in my mind is to obtain the perfect /ideal  one and only…not me, I love them all and buy all when able to do so in many shapes and sizes.  My first love are carved diminutive mother of pearl buttons.    I have spent many hours looking in many different places for these tiny treasures.   

I am an art teacher by training and favor the Post-Impressionist artists such as Cezanne and Gauguin but I do love modern cubist art as well.   To be able to work with glass and color such as Chihuly does is breathtaking.  Working with glass is on my bucket-list.   

Merry Christmas and happy blessed New Year filled with many hours of stitching.  


Thank you so very much, Jackie, for bringing us into your world of stitching and three-dimensional art!  Your personal stories are so special and yet, I am sure, pull at similar heart strings in all of us.  Your projects are all so detailed and beautiful, they will surely inspire us on our own stitching journeys.  To keep up on all of Jackie’s endeavors please visit her website here.  Perhaps you will be inspired to join a class or two! 


Connie Ciampanelli - RI said...

Jackie is as lovely a woman as is her work, which is not only beautiful but astounding in its execution. If you ever see her pieces "in person," they will take your breath away.

Thank you for posting this marvelous interview.

Denise said...

Jackie is an excellent teacher and a very sweet lady. I've had the pleasure of being her student many times. I still look forward to taking more classes from her.

Thank you for a wonderful interview.

samplerlover said...

What an amazing interview. I throughly enjoyed it. So many stunning pieces to ooh and ahh over. Thank you Jackie and Krista.

Robin L. said...

Excellent article! Jackie is beyond amazing, as a designer and loving friend.
Thank you for this lovely piece.

Le trame della Galaverna said...

My eyes are seeing beautiful and wonderful needle works and incredibles stitches and projects. Congratulations. Giovanna

brod'attitude said...

Thank you for all these interviews. I always love to read them

Theresa said...

Wonderful to see such creativity and variety. It really expands our horizons to see all the possibilities for our needlework! thank you Jackie (and Krista)!
Reading these interviews are the highlight of my month : )