HMP Wandsworth Quilt thumbnail 1
Not currently on display at the V&A

HMP Wandsworth Quilt

Quilt
2010 (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This quilt was created by the all-male quilting group of Wandsworth prison. It was commissioned by the V&A in collaboration with Fine Cell Work, a registered charity that teaches embroidery, patchwork and quilting to inmates. Hand pieced over paper, each hexagon has been designed by an inmate and presents an aspect of contemporary prison life. The design is based on the floor plan of Wandsworth Prison and some of the cottons and wools are the same colour and weave as those used for the inmates' uniforms.

The emphasis of the collaboration has been on creative expression, personal reflection and community, centred on the art of bringing the participants together to stitch. Many of the hexagons demonstrate a clear conversation with both the history of the British prison system and contemporary discourses on authority. In one, a fingerprint is surrounded by borders of DNA, suggesting issues relating to the identification of criminals and the control of personal freedom. Other hexagons directly engage with the action of the probation board, the intricate subculture of prison life and the tools of the stitcher. The diversity of these designs demonstrates the continuing appeal of the needle as a tool of both subversion and salvation.

Fine Cell Work responds to the philanthropic model set up by its founder, Lady Anne Tree. Volunteers work with small groups of inmates teaching embroidery, patchwork, quilting and various other needlework skills. Each prisoner involved with the charity carries out his or her needlework whilst confined to his or her cell.


object details
Category
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Pieced, appliqued and embroidered cotton and linen
Brief Description
Quilt, 'HMP Wandsworth Quilt', pieced, appliqued and embroidered cotton and linen, designed and made by the inmates of HMP Wandsworth, England, 2010.
Physical Description
Hand -pieced, -appliqued and -embroidered cotton and linen quilt, with some applique details in wool. The design is based on the floor plan of HMP Wandsworth, and uses tessellating hexagons to represent the panoptican design of the wings. The cottons and linens used for the hexagons are of the same colour and weave as those used for the inmates' uniforms, and include calico, recycled denim cotton, recycled wool and wool mixture suiting fabrics. The hexagons have been hand embellished with applique and embroidery, including chain, stem and back stitch, before being worked all over in kantha stitch and hand-pieced over paper into the wider design. The floor plan design has then been applied to a plain linen ground, with further linen figures fused to the ground and outline quilted in running stitch. Edged with a hand-embroidered cotton calico border in the design of a brick wall. Lined with a screen printed linen by 'Brixton Print Works' showing anonymous male figures. Quilted all over in a linear design and outline quilted around the hexagon patches, squares and triangles. The threads used include polyester, cotton and wool. Wadded with polyester fibre.
Dimensions
  • Height: 195cm
  • Width: 260cm
  • Weight: 4.28kg
Production typeUnique
Marks and Inscriptions
The Wandsworth quilt, commissioned by the V&A, is the work of many hands It has given us the opportunity to discover our creativity This work not only gave us great pride by also purpose while we are serving our time We used our surroundings and feelings to come up with the ideas for the patches that go to make up the quilt The stitching has kept us busy and has given us confidence, friendship and a sense of achievement Because people have supported us, we have supported others (Written and stitched by the contributors to the quilt)
Gallery Label
Wandsworth Prison quilt Male inmates of HMP Wandsworth, London 2010 This quilt has been designed and made by the all-male quilting group of HMP Wandsworth. This V&A commissioned it in collaboration with Fine Cell Work, a registered charity that teaches needlework, embroidery, patchwork and quilting to inmates. The emphasis has been on creative expression and personal reflection, as well as community effort, centring on the act of bringing participants together to stitch. Each hexagon has been designed by an inmate and presents imagery from contemporary prison life -from probation boards to fingerprinting and DNA. Cotton and linen Acquired with the support of the Friends of the V&A V&A The finished product will be the work of many hands. We are working together, showing each other colours, commenting on each other's work. It gives you a purpose to relate to other people. It's difficult talking to strangers but if you can do it with a reason it helps. You can learn from other people and teach them something as well. You feel you've advanced your knowledge and experience. Wandsworth prisoner(20/03/2010)
Credit line
Acquired with the support of the Friends of the V&A
Object history
Historical significance: There is a longstanding association between creativity and confinement. Several quilts are now in public collections which serve as acts of remembrance, while also revealing the realities of war, internment and the prison cell. These include the Changi Quilts, made by the women and children interned in Singapore during the Second World War, and 'The Rajah Quilt'; the only known transportation quilt in a public collection. All testify to the way in which stitching has long performed an important function in situations of adversity, occupying the hand and the mind during long periods of incarceration, while also providing a skills base for those involved.
Historical context
The quilt has been created in collaboration with Fine Cell Work: a registered charity that teaches needlework to prison inmates. In 2010, the charity operated in around 27 prisons. The charity works to a philanthropic model set up by its founder, Lady Ann Tree. Volunteers work with small groups of inmates (around 11 or 12), teaching embroidery, patchwork and various other needlework skills. Each prisoner associated with the charity carries out his or her needlework while confined to his or her cell. In 2010, the charity ran two quilting groups, both in all-male prisons; HMP Bullingdon and HMP Wandsworth. This quilt has been designed and stitched by the inmates of HMP Wandsworth.
Summary
This quilt was created by the all-male quilting group of Wandsworth prison. It was commissioned by the V&A in collaboration with Fine Cell Work, a registered charity that teaches embroidery, patchwork and quilting to inmates. Hand pieced over paper, each hexagon has been designed by an inmate and presents an aspect of contemporary prison life. The design is based on the floor plan of Wandsworth Prison and some of the cottons and wools are the same colour and weave as those used for the inmates' uniforms.



The emphasis of the collaboration has been on creative expression, personal reflection and community, centred on the art of bringing the participants together to stitch. Many of the hexagons demonstrate a clear conversation with both the history of the British prison system and contemporary discourses on authority. In one, a fingerprint is surrounded by borders of DNA, suggesting issues relating to the identification of criminals and the control of personal freedom. Other hexagons directly engage with the action of the probation board, the intricate subculture of prison life and the tools of the stitcher. The diversity of these designs demonstrates the continuing appeal of the needle as a tool of both subversion and salvation.



Fine Cell Work responds to the philanthropic model set up by its founder, Lady Anne Tree. Volunteers work with small groups of inmates teaching embroidery, patchwork, quilting and various other needlework skills. Each prisoner involved with the charity carries out his or her needlework whilst confined to his or her cell.
Bibliographic References
  • Sue Prichard (ed.), Quilts, 1700-2010 : hidden histories, untold stories, London: V&A, 2010no. 62
  • Smith, Claire. Doing time : patchwork as a tool of of social rehabilitation in British prisons. V&A Online Journal. Autumn 2008, 1.
Collection
Accession Number
T.27-2010

About this object record

Explore the Collections contains over a million catalogue records, and over half a million images. It is a working database that includes information compiled over the life of the museum. Some of our records may contain offensive and discriminatory language, or reflect outdated ideas, practice and analysis. We are committed to addressing these issues, and to review and update our records accordingly.

You can write to us to suggest improvements to the record.

Suggest Feedback

record createdJuly 28, 2010
Record URL