How Cross Stitching Can Save Lives

View a collaborative piece of cross stitch created by five incarcerated women and read about the positive effect it has had on their lives

By Carakana

Trainer in Action (2019/2019) by Brian KaneneOriginal Source: Carakana

The Carakana initiative and the role of cross stitching

Carakana is a social enterprise which facilitates the transfer and preservation of indigenous skills and cross stitching. This is achieved through the production of quality handmade items for sustainable livelihoods and wellbeing of vulnerable groups. This story outlines the role cross stitch has played in the lives of five incarcerated women

The Creation of Spots Vs Stripes: The Story Of A Mother's Love (2019/2019) by Brian KaneneOriginal Source: Carakana

What is cross stitching?

Cross stitch is a form of sewing and a popular form of counted-thread embroidery in which a stitch is made by crossing two threads in the form of an X. The stitches are of uniform size and appearance and form part of  intricately and skillfully produced sewn images or texts.

Cheetah- Hidden Treasure (2019/2019) by Christine, Bancy, Nthenya, Anne and EuniceCarakana

Quieting the mind and finding hope in cross stitch

Creating this work was an important step towards rehabilitation and transformation for each of the women involved. 

Cheetah- Hidden Treasure (2019) by Christine, Bancy, Nthenya, Anne and EuniceCarakana

A collaborative effort

This highly detailed and beautifully made work was produced by five incarcerated women who have been taught cross stitching as part of the Carakana initiative.

Cheetah- Hidden Treasure (2019/2019) by Christine, Bancy, Nthenya, Anne and EuniceCarakana

Personal reflections on cross stitching and Carakana

The story of this work continues below where we meet the creators and hear their first-hand accounts of how cross stitching has helped them.

Cheetah- Hidden Treasure (2019) by Christine, Bancy, Nthenya, Anne and EuniceCarakana

Talking, bonding and finding joy

As part of an interview, the creators of this work talk about their involvement at Carakana. Some claimed stitching had become an addiction for them while others just wanted to be out of their minds for a while via cross stitching.

The Creation of Spots Vs Stripes: The Story Of A Mother's Love (2019/2019) by Brian KaneneOriginal Source: Carakana

Christine's story

Christine, a 32-year-old serving life in prison,  spoke about how cross stitch helped her with the continued positive renewal of her mind.

Friendship In The Making (2019/2019) by Brian KaneneOriginal Source: Carakana

Nthenya's story

“I am the first born at home among four siblings and I gave birth to my only child while in high school. I am the breadwinner at home and with my earnings from cross stitching I am able to take care of family.''

United by a Needle and Thread (2018/2018) by Brian KaneneOriginal Source: Carakana

Bancy's story

''Working with a large team was good for my spirits. We got to bond, share and advise each other and this encouraged me to work hard at having good, beneficial friendships while in here. In the three weeks it took us to complete this piece, I was less stressed and was able to focus on schoolwork.’’

Cheetah- Hidden Treasure (2019/2019) by Christine, Bancy, Nthenya, Anne and EuniceCarakana

Choosing the right pattern

From the stories above we can see not only the positive effects of cross stitching but also the determination  these incarcerated women have to better themselves. It is apt then that the work they have chosen to create depicts a cheetah. The cheetah is a symbol of strength, resilience and perseverance, much like the women of Carakana.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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