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Page last updated at 15:12 GMT, Thursday, 22 April 2010 16:12 UK
Local inmates earn money sewing designer cushions
Fine Cell Work
It take 90 hours to complete one cushion design

Prisoners in the North East are making designer cushions as part of their sentence, and are earning money whilst locked up.

The classes are run by charity Fine Cell Work which sends volunteers to 30 UK prisons to teach prisoners to sew.

Prices start at £60 and in 2008, 403 Fine Cell Workers earned a total of £61,890.

The stitchers spend an average of 20 hours per week doing embroidery in their cells.

One needle

Linda volunteers in North East prisons and she told BBC Tees why she gives her free time up for the programme.

"We take up to eight people at a time and teach them the basics of needlework, and once they can follow a pattern, the charity sends ready printed kits and threads.

"Each pupil is approved by the prison security, are only given one needle each, and are only allowed to do it when they are locked up, alone in their cells."

Linda said that starting to teach inside the prison was daunting to begin with.

"The first time I went I wasn't sure what to expect and there is a lot of tension. It takes a long time to go through the security process, but when I get into class it is like unlocking a door for the prisoners as you're from the outside and not involved with the prison.

"These classes enable them to do something they never dreamt they would be able to do. Some people used to look in and they would think it was sissy stuff, but within a few months, those people have joined and then take a great pride in what they do."

Each pupil is approved by the prison security, are only given one needle each
Each pupil is approved by security, and only given one needle each

90 hours work

The cushions and rugs are quite expensive and Linda explained where the money goes:

"Fine Cell has to commission the designs and pay for the materials. The do around 90 hours work to produce one piece and they get paid £25 for their embroidery work.

"Then that piece goes to London and is made into cushions, and the prisoner also gets a third of the final sale price of the cushion."

She said that it is not just about earning money though.

"I think to see the change in the men's attitude is rewarding. To start with there is some antagonism, but then you see them asking if it is alright, and then they are told that it is.

"I think some of these people have never got anything right or been praised for anything and its like watching the sun come out on their faces really."

Embroidery gives prisoners hope
10 Feb 10 |  Arts & Culture

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