Chair weaving is easy and fun. Caned chairs, with their beautifully interwoven seats and backs, have become a very popular item today. Learn to repair cane.
Caned chairs, with their beautifully interwoven seats and backs, have become a very popular item today. Although many people avoid buying caned chairs because they fear expensive repairs if the cane becomes worn enough to break, caning the chairs yourself is a simple and inexpensive matter. In fact, today many caned chair seats can be replaced with pre-woven webbing. To check for this convenience look to see if the seat has a continuous groove around the opening. If it does, you can use the pre-woven webbing. But if the chair has holes and no groves as most of the older or antique seats do, it will need to be rewoven with strand cane.
When making repairs with pre-woven webbing, the webbing is held in the groove with a taped strip or what is called a spline. You will need to soak the webbing and spline in warm water until it is pliable before you begin. When the webbing is ready, squeeze white glue into the groove in your chair and then force the webbing into the groove with half of a wooden clothes pin. Next, using a mallet, drive the spline into the groove and your chair is repaired. Be sure to preserve the webbing with a good quality tung oil sealant.
In a situation where it is necessary to reweave a cane seat you will need to purchase the cane. Be sure when doing this that you select the width of strand cane that will best fit the holes in your chair frame. The average seat will take approximately 250 feet of cane. When you purchase the cane it will come with the appropriate binder, which is a broader strand that is used to form a border around the seat. When you are weaving your own cane you will need to soak it in warm water for about 15 minutes before you begin. All the weaving should be done while the cane is still wet and pliable. Once the cane has dried it will shrink which is what causes the tension in the seat.
Begin by cleaning out the holes in the chair using an awl to get down inside them thoroughly. Starting at the front center hole, push a strand of cane up through the hole leaving about 4 inches hanging down below. Use a caning peg to wedge the cane into place. If you do not have caning pegs you can also use a golf peg, which will work equally as well. Take the strand, shiny side up and pass it across the seat. Continue down through the center back hole and up through the hole to the left of it. Repeat this step as you continue threading the cane in parallel rows. Be sure to keep the tension uniform but loose enough to depress the strands to between 1\2 and 3\4 inches. On a chair that has a seat that is wider in the front than it is in the back you will need to skip some holes at the corners to keep the rows parallel. Each time you come to the end of a strand, simply trim it off leaving about four inches hanging under the seat. Each time you come to the end of a completed strand or start a new one you should tie it off by winding it twice around the cane running between the holes on the bottom side and pulling it tight.
After you have completed the left side of the seat, simply unplug the end of the first strand and do the right side following the same pattern. Over the tops of the front to back strands you should thread a set of canes from side to side. Next, add a second set of front to back strands over the others and weave a set of strands from side to side making sure they pass under the bottom rows of strands and over the top rows. This is done in a weaving fashion. Then go to any corner of the seat and weave a set of strands diagonally. Be sure to pass them under the front to back strands and over the side to side strands. Continue by adding a second set of diagonal strands at right angles to the first making sure you pass them over the front to back strands and under the side to side strands.
Measure and cut the binder a little longer than the circumference of the seat, then peg down one end in the center back hole. Be sure you draw it tight over the holes in the frame. Then stitch it down by knotting the end of a strand of cane and threading it up through the fourth hole from the peg until the knot catches. When you are sure the knot has caught, stretch the strand over the binder and down through the same hole. Take your awl and separate the strands in the hole just enough to accept stitching. Repeat the stitching steps until you have gone completely around the seat. Each time you come to a peg, simply remove it and continue stitching past it. Be sure you trim all the loose ends as you go. To even out the pattern you will need to push a peg though all the octagon shaped openings in the caned seat. Trim or singe off any frayed areas in the cane using very sharp scissors or the moving flame from a match. Be sure you do this while the cane is still wet. If the cane does not match the cane on your other chairs you can stain it to match. When everything is completely dry, treat both sides of the seat with tung oil sealant.
Most cane and caning supplies can be purchase from or ordered by local craft shops. If you have a problem finding the cane or caning supplies check with area furniture stores to see if they can help you. Since caning is time consuming and somewhat tedious work you will need to find an area the is comfortable to work in and has plenty of space.