"Hi there, my name's Robert, but you can call me Bob.
I’m a pensioner, I have a real sweet tooth, I’m passionate about needlework, and I’m also in prison.
I’ve been stitching with Fine Cell Work for 15 years now. It all started when the prison I was in received a visit from two Fine Cell Work volunteers. They delivered a workshop to 40 of the prison residents and I was one of just 15 guys who stuck with it.
I carried on stitching because I wanted to learn a new skill, which is good for combating the effects of ageing on the mind, earn some money to save for my release, and kill time in my cell.
The worst thing in prison is time, especially the time spent banged up. But stitching makes that time go, once I’ve got my head around a new kit and settled into it, blimey three hours could have gone by, just like that.
But the real reason I’ve carried on stitching for so long is because I’m really good at it! I feel like I have a gift for picking up the stitches and doing them right. I’m a perfectionist and take real pride in my stitching. I try to live up to Fine Cell Work’s value of ‘excellence in everything’, because I know someone is buying my work.
I feel like it’s my duty to do the best I can for the customer and charity.
I’ve been entrusted to work on many of Fine Cell Work’s most important and renowned commissions, which has been a real honour and very humbling. One of my biggest achievements has been hand-stitching three embroidery components of ‘Odyssey In Quilting’, designed by Ai Weiwei and displayed in 2019 at the Human Touch exhibition at Sotherby’s.
I worked on this piece whilst awaiting test results that would later diagnose me with prostate cancer. At the time, I was feeling fear and shock, but concentrating on the intricate stitches really helped me to calm and focus my mind, and process those intense thoughts and feelings.
Whatever problems I have going on, they’re always forgotten when I stitch.
I’m happy to say that thanks to all the fantastic healthcare professionals who treated my cancer, and the Fine Cell Work team, whose needlework kits got me through those difficult days and evenings, I’m now fully recovered and looking forward to the future."
This Christmas, we will be thinking of people in prison. We will be thinking of Bob, the 370 other Fine Cell Work stitchers in prison, and the 28 Fine Cell Work apprentices on our post-prison release programme. We are sending them light, hope, and stitching kits. We hope it will help them to focus and calm their minds over the festive period, which can be a particularly difficult time for people in prison.
Will you help us to continue sharing the healing power of needlework with people in prison?
- Tags: Prison Stories