In Which I Put My Demons To Rest and Upholster a Queen Ann Footstool


The last time my “crafty” gene reared its head was in my tile painting phase. The spoils of this prolific era can be seen throughout my house and hidden away in drawers: two tables, a teapot, a random actual tile painting, plates, a tray and many, many, many, many coasters. They can be seen in other people’s houses, too, as you really can have too many coasters. However, I occasionally rummage around in hidden cupboards and find even more than I thought I’d started with. I can only assume they are mating.

Despite this, I have never been particularly good at making things.  I used to pity my poor daughters when things had to be made for school occasions: the Easter bonnet parade and the debacle with the Welsh cakes stand out. Although, if I may say so, I thought I excelled myself with the cat outfit. I was obviously “in the zone” the day I created that.

Whilst living abroad I volunteered to help out at the international school my daughters attended,  “but don’t give me cooking,” I remember saying.

So what they did was they ignored that, and put me in a classroom with 8 children under 6 with a variety of first languages, none of them English. Then they gave me chocolate to melt, chocolate sprinkles and flour.

What fun we had. By the time we’d finished, we had quite a lot of chocolate “mice”, with chocolate and sprinkles on the actual “mice”, but also chocolate and sprinkles smeared over the tables, the floor, the children, and, oh yes, the wall. And me.

I was never given cooking again..

When I was about 11 I made a lovely waistcoat in a sewing lesson at school. But I didn’t. All I can remember was looking so hopeless that my friend took it away from me to help; she then passed it onto someone else who passed it onto someone else and so on and so forth, in a sort of mini-production line. By the time it got back to me it was finished. It was a nice waistcoat, but nothing to do with me.

All these years later I felt I had something to prove in the sewing area.. So I decided to go on a workshop to learn how to upholster a foot stool. I had some vague idea of re-upholstering all the chairs in my dining room. I don’t think I’ll actually be doing that now, given what I learned on Saturday, but I have now got a lovely Queen Ann Footstool.

I booked myself onto a workshop at Make Do and Mend in Chelmsford with a little trepidation, frankly, due to my history.

But I can honestly say that as soon as I’d finished I wanted to make another one! There were six of us in the group, bonding over bourbons, tea, and power tools. For there was absolutely no sewing involved. Not at all. Just glue, staple guns, hammers and drills.

Oh, the fun of getting glue on your hands and waiting for it to dry and peel it off in little balls like you did when you were a child, sticking your material to your footstool with an air-powered staple gun that made a loud  noise when you did it, hammering the staples in and wanting to sing Whistle While you Work, and finally, and most fun, drilling the legs on.

I swept out of there, filled with a massive sense of achievement, ready to fill my house with little knick knacks made with my very own hands – and if I get carried away again, other people’s houses – with a list of possible workshops I could go on.  There was a pottery mug making class going on next to us, where they got to throw clay and stuff, and a row of tantalising sewing machines by the wall, where I could indulge my need for more scatter cushions.

As I write I am admiring my Queen Ann Footstool and have a tremendous sense of well-being. But it’s woken up my “crafty” gene again, and I’m worried where it will end this time.



Copyright Chris Penhall 2013





About chrispenhall

Mother, writer, radio person. Lover of sun and flipflops. Doesn't like snow.
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