I did an upholstery course!!


Sometimes I wish I could just write without bringing myself into it but this is one of those times I need to; I’ve been sick for a year and a half now and I am still learning how to make this work.

I spent last weekend doing a workshop at the Ministry of Upholstery in Manchester. It was a deep-buttoned footstool course and I was there because I had got it for my Mum for her 60th. I didn’t think I had any interest in upholstery myself but I booked myself onto the course because it was such an event, a celebration.

To be honest, I booked this whole thing in the spring when I had a bit more life (and confidence) in me but as the heat started to take its toll on my POTS, I wondered what I’d done. I felt confident I could get there but I didn’t think I would be able to stay or make it through the day. Like, I hadn’t been to Manchester since getting sick, and I hadn’t done anything for a whole day without a break never mind 2 days back to back on the week of a heatwave. But I couldn’t not go. I wanted to be there.

In a panic, I called the organisation two days before the course to ask some questions about access, something I haven’t had to do yet because I haven’t been anywhere to even need to. What was the stair situation? Could I eat and drink? How warm did the space get? Did I need to stand up for a long time to make the stool or could I sit down? The person on the phone gave me more information than I even thought to ask and I started to feel like it would be doable, maybe. Then they told me that the man running the course has MS and honestly, I suddenly felt at peace. I thought of visiting events with Zarina and hearing her (only occasionally) say that she was glad she wasn’t the only poc in the room. Not to conflate all of these identities, just to say that in that moment learning that someone else — the course leader no less — was disabled there genuinely relaxed and motivated me. And that was just the beginning.

I wanted to write this quick post just to thank Anthony Devine and the rest of the Ministry of Upholstery for accommodating me so well. I had a chair, they’d set up a fan right next to my table for me, and Anthony kept using my footstool as an example for the rest of the group — I don’t even know if this last bit was super intentional but it saved me a lot of energy over the course of the two days and I was grateful. It’s hard not to feel like a diva when you need to ask for these things but when everything is provided and thought of, when the moment feels so inclusive that you don’t have to think about your body for a moment, it’s lovely. It meant I could be there both days, it meant I could enjoy myself, and it also gave me the confidence to want to do more activities like that now that I know how good and comfortable it can be.

Also, I made a fucking deep-buttoned footstool and it’s GOOD and I’m obsessed with it. And I could make another one now that I know how to do it. It was so fun! I hadn’t heard about the Ministry of Upholstery before — really wish we had one in Liverpool. It’s a big workshop that makes products and fabrics, runs plenty of courses, rents out studio space for upholsterers, and also provides access to facilities at a day rate for individuals. Honestly, if TWP gets a mega book deal, I’m taking some £££ to go back and make my own couch. I don’t know how I’d get it home but that’s a problem for future me.

I hope you feel the same whiplash from anxiety to joy in this text that I did over that weekend. Now please enjoy pictures of my amazing creation:

gab is holding up a deep buttoned footstool that is teal with lots of different coloured buttons, and it matches her face mask

gab holds the stool at a different angle now so you can see the wooden legs

taken from the top of the stairs, you can see the whole workshop with lots of tables and machines for making upholstery and a decal on the wall that says hashtag join the ministry