With the high quality of workmanship and skilled voluntary workers we have created covetable items. It would be wonderful at the end of the day if we could have an upholstery workshop and training scheme so everything could be done in the prisons.
I have to thank Melissa for her overwhelming sense of humanity and quiet determination to get things done, Blithfield for their inspiring fabrics and everyone at Fine Cell Work for their enthusiasm and commitment.’
There is an awful lot of stitches and stitching going on here. Kit has introduced sophisticated stitching and applique work to interior furniture with designs sourced from antique textiles. The Tree of Life headboard is a linen applique on boiled wool, incorporating French knots, whipped back stitch, feather stitch, buttonhole, and coral stitch. The footstool and mirror frame with counted darning stitch uses crewel wool on a natural linen base.
Touched by the work of this pioneering charity, Blithfield became the other thread in this collaboration and worked with Kit and Melissa to select fabrics from its collections that would lend themselves best to embroidery. The cushions include The Pineapple and Small Damask from the Peggy Angus collection, which are drawn from original lino blocks making these prints perfect to embellish with vibrant stitching and enhance with French knots.
Fine Cell Work is a charity and social enterprise, founded by Lady Anne Tree in 1997 with the aim to enable prisoners to develop new skills, earn and save some money and to acquire the self-belief to stop offending. Currently working in 30 prisons across the UK, they work with 250 prisoners at any one time. I think I am right in saying that this is the largest group of embroiderers in Europe today. I like that.
The prisoners’ work is sold around the world. Some are interior design collaborations and commissions, others heritage pieces for the likes of the V&A, English Heritage and the Duchess of Cornwall and Prince of Wales.