HMP Wandsworth Quilt

HMP Wandsworth Quilt, exhibited in 2010. HMP Wandsworth Quilt, exhibited in 2010. Copyright Victoria and Albert Museum, acc no. T.27.2010.

The HMP Wandsworth quilt is a patchwork quilt commissioned by the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, in collaboration with the charity organisation, Fine Cell Work, as part of the Museum's exhibition about British quilting from 1700 until 2010. The exhibition was held in 2010.

The quilt (V&A acc. no. T.27.2010) was made by an all male group of prisoners in HMP Wandsworth. The design is based on the floor plan of Wandsworth Prison and some of the colours and textiles used are in the same colours and weaves as those used for the inmates’ uniforms. According to the information provided by the V&A Museum, the quilt is made up of a series of hexagons and each hexagon is designed and decorated by an inmate to represent some aspect of prison life.

In one hexagon, for example, a fingerprint is surrounded by borders of DNA representing contemporary methods of identification of criminals and the control of personal freedom. Other hexagons deal with subjects such as the probation board, the sub-culture of prison life, the tools associated with the stitcher, and so forth. The quilt is seen by some scholars as showing the continuing “appeal of the needle as a tool of both subversion and salvation.”

The above quote about embroidery and subversion is directly linked to a book republished by the V&A in honour of the exhibition. The book by Rozsika Parker is entitled The Subversive Stitch: Embroidery and the Making of the Feminine, London 1984.

V&A online catalogue (retrieved 14 May 2016).


Last modified on Monday, 03 October 2016 18:27