The Sleep Quilt book cover
Embroidered sleep quilt with The Scream theme
Embroidered sleep quilt with Land of Nod theme.
Photos © Heini Schneebeli

The Sleep Quilt

A collaboration between bestselling author Tracy Chevalier and prison charity ‘Fine Cell Work’
This stunningly illustrated book features 80 colour photographs.
Published by Pallas Athene Books

The Sleep Quilt is unlike any other quilt. Commissioned by Tracy Chevalier from ‘Fine Cell Work’, it is entirely stitched and quilted by prisoners in the UK. Each of the 63 squares explores what sleep means for them. A moment of escape for some, for others a dark return to all they most regret in life, sleep has a great significance in jail that is only strengthened by the difficulty of finding it in the relentlessly noisy, hot and cramped environment. By turns poignant, witty, light-hearted and tragic, The Sleep Quilt shines a light on lives that few outside can imagine.

The challenge

An unusual book about a strikingly beautiful quilt. However, the media took some time to grasp the main message, probably due to the book’s format – in addition to displaying the prisoners’ ‘work of art’ the many quotes from the inmates, and the professionals looking after them, convey what life in prison means – this important theme wasn’t immediately obvious.

The solution

Work very closely with ‘Fine Cell Work’ to understand better the ‘quilting’ world and the corresponding media. Find some topics of interest to the general media such as ‘life in prison’, and ‘why creating the artefacts boosts the prisoners’ self-respect’. In addition, target some lifestyle media with a specific interest in quilting. For example, ‘Woman’s Weekly’ (ABC controlled circ. 267K+) will run a big feature early in the New Year.

The result

All the leading quilting publications have covered the book/ interviewed Tracy/ and a selection has even published some features about the charity and its refined products. All the main religious publications have reviewed the book: Church Times (circ. 65K); The Methodist Recorder (circ. 20K) and The Tablet (circ. 20K) – this review is forthcoming. Tracy was interviewed at length by the culture section of the Guardian online newspaper (ABC controlled circ. 37 Million MUVs). All her local media, with a big readership, have interviewed her. Lastly, several influential bloggers such as Flossieteacakes, Margaret Ramsay, Gillian Cooper, and Margaret Cooter also featured the book. More coverage will appear in the New Year.