Seat Weaving Demystified

This weeks guest blogger is David Johnson of Sidecar Furniture.   An accomplished craftsman, David is also a member of LA Box Collective, a select group of professional Los Angeles based furniture makers, committed to environmentally conscious design and production.

I’m just fascinated by woven chair seats.  Years ago I got this book, The Caner’s Handbook, and started working my way through all of the patterns.  To make a long story short, I eventually worked for the author of that book, Jim Widess, at his shop in Berkeley, The Caning Shop.  I helped them with repairing chair frames and they taught me new weaving patterns.

Now a big part of my business is repairing chairs with woven seats and I sometimes struggle with communicating with clients about their chairs because the terms used for weaving patterns and materials are obscure.  Most people refer to any woven seat as caned and this often leads to confusion so I’m here to clear the air on some of the more common weaving patterns and materials.

Cane is the outer bark of rattan.  It is cut into strips in different widths that have confusing names like carriage, common, fine fine, etc.  The most common weave is a seven-step pattern that creates octagon shapes across the seat.  Seats that have been hand woven have holes around the perimeter and if you look under the seat you can see how the cane is looped and tied on. If the seat has a groove around the edge instead of holes the seat is of prewoven cane webbing which is a much easier repair to do.  It’s a subtle difference but I think the hand woven seats look better.  A hand caned seat is one of my favorite patterns and I have plans to incorporate it into some of my new work soon.

Rush seats have cord that runs parallel to the side rails of the chair with the intersection of the weave going from the leg to the middle of the seat.  I know that sounds confusing, look at the picture of the Hans Wegner chair I did a couple of weeks ago.  Originally rush seats were woven with twisted cattail leaves, which is slow and hard work and the seats aren’t long lasting.  Now most chairs are woven with paper fiber rush that is incredibly strong but still has an authentic rustic look.

Danish cord, another favorite of mine, is also made of paper fiber but is wound tightly and then three of these strands are wound together to make the cord.  Obviously, it’s found on Danish Modern furniture (and my own) and woven in a simple under over pattern to make a very strong seat with a clean modern look.  If you have cats beware!  They love to sharpen their claws on it!

I fix a lot of chairs and I really enjoy bringing life back to a broken and unused piece.  After all, vintage furniture is the greenest way to decorate a home.  My specialty is repairing chairs with woven seats and I hope that after reading this you will no longer refer to any woven seat as caned!

2 Responses to “Seat Weaving Demystified”

  1. Morgan G Says:

    These are really stunning. I’m surprised by the woven seat’s versatility. The first photo is what I am most familiar with, but the second and third seats have such distinctive styles. Nice work!

  2. Cathryn Peters Says:

    Wonderful work there David on the seatweaving restoration you’ve done as well as weaving on your newly created furniture!

    I’d like to extend my invitation to you and all your counterparts in the furniture industry, to join the first and only chair seating guild in America, The SeatWeavers’ Guild, Inc.

    We are a national organization with our own website, Facebook Page presence, a chair caning forum and also hold annual Gatherings with annual member’s meeting. This year will be our 4th Gathering and it will be held in Noblesville, Indiana on July 29-30, 2011. Please join our organization and help promote this nearly lost art of chair caning and other seat weaving!

    TSWG President, The Wicker Woman–Cathryn Peters

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