For 25 years, Fine Cell Work has taught expert needlework skills to men and women in British prisons. They provide highly-skilled, creative, paid work to more than 8000 prisoners to foster hope, discipline and self-esteem. Now, they are raising money to produce a limited-edition book, Thread of Time: 25 Years of Fine Cell Work, which tells the stories behind some of the charity's most significant stitched works, such as a quilt depicting life at HMP Wandsworth, designed and created by inmates of the prison.
The book is a story of rehabilitation through needlework. It explores how designers, contemporary artists and volunteers have worked with prisoners and helped them to gain new skills, rebuild their perception of themselves and create connections with the world beyond prison walls. It offers a remarkable insight into how prisoners have turned their lives around through the therapeutic power of needlework, teamwork and creativity.
Renowned authors Tracy Chevalier, Esther Freud, Louis de Bernières, Isabella Tree and more than 30 other writers are taking part in this unique collaboration of words, art, design and needlework to celebrate 25 years of prisoner rehabilitation programmes from Fine Cell Work. Each of the book’s richly illustrated chapters will explore how a particular stitched work came into being and the different lives affected by the experience.
The vast majority of the prison stitchers are complete beginners who gradually pick up needlework skills with the support of Fine Cell Work volunteers. After spending time learning these skills, many become highly-skilled stitchers who are entrusted with demanding, high-profile commissions. As well as providing the opportunity to earn money through their involvement in Fine Cell Work, for many inmates stitching offers a great deal more. It is an opportunity to find peace, to focus, to still the internal mental chatter. As one prisoner comments, you can't sew and be angry at the same time.
Find out more about the Threads of Time project and how to support Fine Cell Work on their Crowdfunder page.