"One of the most gratifying things about stitching is the time it affords me to both focus and reflect. Having had poor and inappropriate coping strategies in the past – when faced with stressful or problematic issues – it is wonderful to know I can sit down and pull my sewing easel towards me. It acts as a “comfort blanket” and shield when things are trying and I’m not quite ready to involve anyone else.
It gives me a chance to get my head straight, examine what’s troubling me, strip it down to its constituent parts and then focus on the root of the problem. I suppose it’s like unpicking something bad whilst sewing something good. What I’ve also found helpful is the way I have to focus on individual stitches – getting them in the right place, in the right order, in the right colours (!) for quite a while before then sitting back and looking at the whole. It’s helped me to look at the bigger picture more often instead of just ‘sweating the small stuff’.
Obviously the work is rewarding, but there is no feeling like the one I get when the last stitch is in and it’s time to detach the work from the frame. That sense of accomplishment is priceless. But I often wonder if the wonderful, generous customers who buy the work can understand not only how important they are to us as stitchers, but how valuable their validation is. My stitching, and probably others too, is a tapestry not only of threads and colours, but an accumulation of concentration, happy memories, fears, idle whimsy, regrets, frustrations, song lyrics and hopes for the future (among other things) all woven together into a single cushion or quit, wall-hanging or ornament. So it is not just my work that is being validated, it’s my process. Again, priceless.
I can’t speak for everyone’s experience, but conversations I’ve had with other stitchers over the years have taught me that there are many similarities in how we work, and that my experience is not unique. Fine Cell Work has given me not only purpose and financial reward, but also comfort and direction. My sewing needle becomes a compass needle, giving me the chance to recreate the pattern of my life and its path.
In short, thank you to Fine Cell Work, it’s wonderful volunteers and phenomenal customers. Prison and my future would be very different without you!"