The Magpie Anthology

Fine Cell Work – a Stitch in Time…

There is an amazing workforce in one of the most unlikely places and they are producing astonishing work in a medium that is even less likely again.

Fine Cell Work enables prisoners to build fulfilling and crime-free lives by training them to do high-quality, skilled, creative needlework undertaken in the long hours spent in their cells to foster hope, discipline and self esteem. They can also learn sewing machine and textile production skills in prison based workshops. Currently working in 32 British prisons, and engaging with over 500 prisoners each year, Fine Cell Work addresses key issues affecting prisoners’ offending behaviours: establishment and reinforcement of work skills, building relationships, and mental resilience.

Prisoners are taught by experienced volunteers and staff to work in their cells and in prison workshops. Having the opportunity to work independently helps them to regain control of their lives and allows them to maintain dignity, they gain a sense of connection to the world outside prison through the sale of their work and it also helps them to establish a work ethic, and allows them to send money to their families or save for their release. Now designer Cressida Bell is collaborating with Fine Cell Work on a new range which sees the designer’s passion for colour, pattern and the past transformed into four cushions. Each cushion is beautifully handmade in UK prisons and encourages prisoners to lead independent, crime-free lives.

The discovery of a Fine Cell Work needlepoint cushion in Sigrid Rausing’s Scottish Highlands home and learning the story behind its creation inspired Cressida to approach Fine Cell Work for a collaboration. Diverse influences, from African textiles to the Victorian embroidery collection of Liverpool cathedral, informed her initial hand-drawn and hand-painted sketches of the Granadilla and Pyramid cushions. Each cushion is either expertly crafted from needlepoint or screen-printed then intricately hand-embroidered.

In explaining her unique decorative aesthetic, Cressida reveals that, “somebody once said to me – ‘You shamelessly plunder the past’..” and that she believes in interiors “it’s all about colour.” On her choice to collaborate with Fine Cell Work, the designer “loves the fact that you get the name of the person who made it on the cushion” and that, as an alternative to modern throwaway culture, each piece is “more of an heirloom, more of an investment.”

Fine Cell Work in numbers
· We work in 32 prisons
· We work with 500 prisoners a year, we have 200 prisoners on a waiting list to join
· We made 4872 products in 2017 in prisons across the UK
· On average prisoners spend 24 hours a week stitching
· The most difficult cushion takes 200 hours to stitch
· 96% of stitchers are men
· The reoffending rate amongst Fine Cell Work’s trainees is 8% compared to a national average of 46%

See more of Fine Cell Work at: 

Twitter: finecellwork
Instagram: finecellwork


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