It has been a challenging year for us all and here at Fine Cell Work we have had to make significant changes to how we work in order to ensure that we are still able to provide meaningful, paid work for our stitchers.
Our formidable team of prison volunteers usually visit their groups on a fortnightly basis. As well as teaching and motivating our stitchers, they also hand out kits and collect finished pieces for us to make up into cushions. Since the UK went into lockdown at the end of March, our volunteers have been unable to visit prison. This has meant that all of our kits are now being sent to prison staff, on whom we are reliant to distribute the work and return it to us upon completion. There has been an enormous amount of goodwill from prison staff, but we are mindful that they have many other duties and are also running with reduced staffing in many cases. Beautifully stitched products are still being returned to us, but at a slower rate and in smaller quantities.
In addition to this, our two prison workshops - where the majority of our products are made up - have also been closed since March. We are currently solely reliant on our community Hub to make up products ready for us to sell. The apprentices enrolled in our post-release programme have been truly incredible and are working alongside a small team of volunteers to prepare and make up as many products as possible.
Whilst we are prioritising our bestsellers, there is still an inevitable and unavoidable delay to products being returned to us which means it can take longer for your favourite products to be back in stock. We are also currently experiencing longer lead times than normal for new commission enquiries, as our commission stitchers are at capacity.
Our stitchers are still producing meticulously hand-stitched pieces - from giftware right up to commissions - but the complexities of our production model coupled with the challenges thrown into the mix by the pandemic has presented us with some real hurdles this year. We would like to thank our loyal customers, donors and supporters for continuing to shop, donate and engage with us and for being incredibly patient as we adjust to these new ways of working. It is hugely appreciated by us all and with your support, we will ensure that we Keep the Sewing Going.
- From all at Fine Cell Work