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FAQ

ABOUT FINE CELL WORK


Fine Cell Work was founded by Lady Anne Tree and began its work in prison in 1997. Lady Anne was a prison visitor in the 1960s and 1970s and had long-standing family links within the textile and interiors industry (her mother in law, Nancy Lancaster, owned Colefax and Fowler). Lady Anne was a strong believer of purposeful activity in prison and believed that part of that sense of purpose was created by ensuring that prisoners were paid for their work. She campaigned for this for 30 years before the law was finally changed in 1995, and Fine Cell Work was born.


We currently work in over 30 prisons across the UK. We don't publish names of specific prisons in which we work in order to protect our stitchers.


Yes we do, although the majority of our stitchers (94%) are in the male prison estate. This is reflective of the prison population.


Since Fine Cell Work began, we have worked with over 8,000 prisoners. In any given year we will engage with over 600 prisoners, working with around 350 at any one time.


Paying stitchers for their work is an essential part of our charity's mission and the money they earn is theirs to spend as they wish. Some stitchers send money home to their loved ones, some use their earnings on items from the prison canteen and others save it, so they have funds when they are released.

Over the course of a year, 30% of our income from sales is distributed amongst our stitchers as remuneration for their work. They are paid per item and receive their wages as soon as we receive the completed piece, regardless of whether it is sold or not. The more complex the piece, the more they can earn. We also award bonuses for work which is completed to a particularly high standard.


There are many benefits to Fine Cell Work which reach far further than the financial reward – in fact, in our most recent prisoner survey, earning money came eighth on a list of why our workforce choose to stitch with us. The highest rated response was the feeling that by completing Fine Cell Work they were doing something positive with their time, followed by the importance of learning new skills and a sense that stitching made them feel better about themselves.

The paid element of the work adds to the purposefulness of the activity. Having meaningful work can provide a significant boost to self-worth, self-esteem and confidence.

Read the prison stories on our blog to find out more.

WRITING TO A STITCHER


All of our items have a swing tag attached which includes the name of the person who stitched it. Simply pop your letter or card in the post to the address written and we will make sure it gets to them.

If your item was made by a workshop team, this will also be indicated on the swing tag. You can write a letter addressed to the workshop team, which they pin to the notice board for everyone to enjoy.

Please make sure not include any personal details in your letters such as full names or addresses but do feel free to share a photo of your item in its new home as this is really gratifying for our stitchers.


Unfortunately, unless it is a bespoke item it is very hard for us to match up an individual stitcher with a specific product if they have chosen not to be named.


As a small charity with limited resources, we can only facilitate passing on letters as a direct result of purchasing one of our handmade items. There are other organisations who facilitate pen-friend schemes within prison and are better placed to accommodate requests like this.

PRODUCTION & DESIGN


Fine Cell Work are very fortunate to have collaborated with many contemporary designers and artists such as Pentreath & Hall, Neisha Crosland, Cath KidstonCressida Bell and Kit Kemp which allows us to have a diverse, beautiful product range and lots of different levels of skilled work for our stitchers. We also have an in-house design team who design many of our collections.

Our full range is available to shop online.




We primarily use DMC threads for our embroidery products and Appletons wool for our needlepoint. We are always grateful for donations of these providing they are complete skeins or hanks.

We can get the most use out of plain, neutral coloured linens as these can be used to back our most popular cushions. Shades of charcoal, grey, blue or black are always in demand and would be gratefully received if 1m or more. Patterned or good-quality quilting fabrics are also useful for some our training projects. We are unable to accept any scraps of fabric.

We welcome donations of tapestry frames and embroidery hoops, provided they contain all the nuts, bolts and screws to function properly.

To arrange a donation of materials, please first contact our production team at production@finecellwork.co.uk.


Fine Cell Work have a small number of needlepoint kits which are all available to order online as well as pin cushions and needle cases for those who are keen home-stitchers.

COMMISSIONS


Absolutely. Our talented and skilled design team can create original artwork or use an existing design and transform it into a beautifully stitched cushion, wall-hanging, quilt or rug. Find out more about commissioning us.


The average commission takes 12-18 months to complete although this can vary depending on the complexity of the design and how much stitching is involved. Designing a piece of needlework from scratch is a time-consuming process and a lot of work needs to be done by our in-house team before the piece is ready to be sent into prison to stitch. It then takes time for our stitchers to produce an immaculately stitched piece. We will work with you every step of the way to ensure you are completely happy with the design before we send it into prison.


Commission pricing is determined by the size and complexity of the piece with prices starting at £500. Find out more about how to commission us.


Yes we do, find out more about Fine Cell Work's cushion making up service. We charge £55 (inc VAT and UK delivery) to turn your needlepoint into a cushion.


Yes you can. Prices start at £25 and we need approx. 4-6 weeks notice to personalise an existing item. Find out more about Fine Cell Work's personalisation service.

VOLUNTEERING


All of our current volunteering opportunities can be found on our volunteer page.

If you are looking for an opportunity which isn’t currently available, please feel free to contact volunteer@finecellwork.co.uk to discuss ways in which you might be able to help. 


Our award-winning team of prison volunteers are core to the delivery of our rehabilitative programme. Recruiting new prison volunteers is a big commitment for both the volunteer and the organisation, therefore we ask that you are able to commit to Fine Cell Work for a minimum of two years if you wish to volunteer in this role.

The majority of our prison classes are taught fortnightly and the class lasts about 2 hours. Almost all classes fall within Monday - Friday 9am - 6pm so are best suited to those with a regular time slot of availability in the week.

You will receive robust training from our team and further training from the prison before attending your first class. You don’t have to be an expert stitcher to volunteer in prison, if this is the case we will pair you up with someone who is.

Please note that it can take 9-12 months between application and receiving clearance to go into the prison. During this time you will be offered training and support, but you may not be able to go into the prison regularly until this clearance has been received.


We often call upon volunteers to support our Production and Commissions teams with a range of tasks. This includes everything from kit-making and sampling new designs, to adding finishing touches to large, often complex commissions.

If you would like to volunteer to support us in this way, please contact volunteer@finecellwork.co.uk.


Absolutely. Throughout the year we rely on volunteers to help us with our pop-up shops, to help run events, to support us with office admin tasks and to support our apprentices as mentors. Some of these are one-off opportunities and others require prolonged support. All of our current volunteering opportunities can be found on our volunteer page. 


We offer training to all our volunteers, whether that be in prison, at events, at our pop-up shop or in our London Hub. Training varies depending on the role you take on and will be explained to you when you apply.

PRISON


Setting up new groups is something we do quite slowly and circumspectly. Income from products that have been made in prison covers only around 30% of the cost of running the project - broadly speaking, the materials costs, the prisoner pay, and other costs like postage. This means that we rely on fundraising to cover the costs of new groups, for example recruiting and training volunteers, paying their travel expenses, and so on.

When choosing to set up new groups we look at how static the prison population is - prisoners need to have at least 6 months left of their sentence before joining our group and stitchers require the ability to have a needle in their cells.

To find out more or to discuss further please contact our Head of Programme Delivery, Jenni Parker, at jparker@finecellwork.


We can only work with prisoners who are in a prison where we currently have a group. If this is the case, they should ask the activities or education department in their prison. If we have a group in the prison they work in they will be able to tell them how to join the group or waiting list.


Our Open the Gate programme offers support to anyone who has spent time in prison, regardless of whether you worked with Fine Cell Work inside. Find out more about the eligibility criteria and how to refer yourself.

SHOPPING WITH FINE CELL WORK


Fine Cell Work's designs are handmade in small batches so it can take a while before we get our most popular items back in stock again. Simply visit the page of the item you'd like and sign up for an automatic email notification so you'll be the first to know when an item is back in stock.


As a charity, we regularly hold pop-up shops in wonderful locations, from Peter Jones to South Molton Street. Fine Cell Work is not currently running a shop, so to be the first to hear about our next pop-up shop join our newsletter.


As a charity and social enterprise, Fine Cell Work is not able to currently offer a substantial trade discount. However, we can take 10% off wholesale or interior design orders up to £500, or 20% if you spend over £500 with us. Please email info@finecellwork for further details.


Please sign into your account to track your order. All orders are dispatched using either Royal Mail First Class or Parcelforce 48 Hour. We aim to dispatch your order as soon after it is placed as possible and most orders will be received within 5 - 10 working days although please allow up to 21 days from the date you place your order for delivery. Please note that due to current circumstances, dispatch of orders may take several days longer than usual.
 

If you'd like to amend your order, please email us at info@finecellwork or call us on 020 7931 9998 as soon as possible and we'll do our best to get it corrected for you.


After you subscribe to our newsletter you'll be sent a welcome email including a code. Please contact us at info@finecellwork if you don't receive this so we can re-send.