with Marjorie Coles from Fine Cell Work
on 07 March 2017
At our meeting on 7th March, the talk title “The Transformative Power of Stitch” was well illustrated by the speaker from the charity Fine Cell Work. The charity has 270 volunteers who work in 32 prisons and last year they worked with 523 prisoners. Fine Cell Work became a registered charity in 1997 and came out of the work and ambition of Lady Anne Tree. She became a prison visitor in 1949 and worked in that capacity until 1974. As a keen sewer, her aim was that prisoners should learn needlework and be paid for the high quality work they produced.
Each volunteer brings their own particular skill to their classes from quilting and applique to tapestry. Prisoners begin with kits made up by the volunteers; designs are sent in by established textile designers. Each kit is counted or printed so it is easy to follow but as the prisoner becomes more skilled, they can design their own work. After the classes, which are usually once a fortnight, the prisoners can take the work back to their cell. Sometimes commissions are placed and Stella McCartney has had a quilt made by a prisoner.
Since 1997 prisoners have been allowed to keep a percentage of the money from the sale of their work. Fine Cell Work sells the work on their website and through various sales throughout the year. Besides the money, the prisoners gain a lot from their sewing. “My sense of achievement is immense, ” said one. The speaker brought a range of beautiful items from lavender bags to cushions and the majority were snapped up by members.