Fine Cell Work

At first glance, the cushions and quilts at the Fine Cell Work showroom could be made by top professional embroiderers.

Tattoo-like designs
Love Eagle & Heart and Birds by Karen Nicol, Ship by Jenny King

In fact, they are the work of prisoners taking part in a scheme to help give them skills and independence on the road to rehabilitation.

Swag bags and hearts and birds on chair.

Source: Simon Bevan

Heart and Birds & Swag Bag by Karen Nicol. Styling by Louisa Grey

The Fine Cell Work charity trains prisoners serving sentences at 29 UK prisons in skilled needlework that is practised in the time inmates spend in their cells. Prisoners do hand-embroidery for between 20 and 40 hours a week and it takes on average five months to complete a cushion.

An inmate at work
An inmate at work

At the end of this month, the charity is setting up a showroom in London selling a variety of cushions and quilts made by prisoners at up to 80 per cent off their retail price. Around 37 per cent of the income goes directly to stitchers, with the rest being reinvested in the charity.

Cushion with moustachioed men design
Cushion with moustachioed men design, by Jenny King

Patterns have been created and donated by famous designers such as Cath Kidston and Daisy de Villeneuve, as well as celebrity supporters such as Mick Jagger and AA Gill.

Noah's Ark, designed by Marion Rhoades
Noah’s Ark, by Fine Cell Work

80 per cent of the 480 stitchers are men, and all the classes have waiting lists.

Piero Donat, marketing director at Fine Cell Work, says, ‘We want to give a second chance. We are part of the rehabilitation process, and the re-offending rate is clearly lower with us. An ex-offender is volunteering for us at the moment who has a fantastic eye for fashion and colour – we’re trying to help him get a job.’

Lyrics from Johnny Cash and Seasick Steve songs used to decorate cushions

Source: Simon Bevan

Lyrics from Johnny Cash and Seasick Steve songs used to decorate cushions, by Fine Cell Work. Styling by Louisa Grey

The idea for Fine Cell Work was conceived by Lady Anne Tree in the 1960s when she visited HMP Holloway, and became a registered charity in 1995.

Crown cushion
Crown cushion, by Fine Cell Work

The Fine Cell Work showroom runs from 21 -25 January at 38 Buckingham Palace Road, London, SW1W


Bird cushion designed by Karen Nicol
Bird cushion designed by Karen Nicol
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