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Seatweaving FAQ–Ask the Chair Caning Expert

Need help with your chair caning project? Have questions about a chair seat weaving technique or pattern?

Checking the tension on hand cane seat

Checking hand cane tension

Then you’ve come to the right place for answers to just about all your chair seat weaving needs!

Here on the Seatweaving FAQ page Cathryn’s gathered some of the most frequently asked questions about chair caning and other seatweaving techniques.

You get the benefit of her help and advice accumulated through 40+ years experience in the chair caning/seat weaving repair business. Enjoy!


Here are several topics covered below to whet your appetite:

  1. How can I learn chair caning?
  2. What instruction books should I get?
  3. I have a hand-woven chair seat with drilled holes in the frame, but the back has no holes?
  4. Can I change a spline cane seat to a hole-to-hole?
  5. How do I fix a sagging cane chair seat?
  6. How do I remove mold or mildew from the cane seat?
  7. How do I tell the difference between a paper rush seat and a natural rush seat?
  8. How do I clean a rush seat?
  9. Where can I buy materials, instruction books and tools to weave chair seats myself?
  10. Is there an online chair caning guild or forum I can join?

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1.) QUESTION: What’s the best way to learn how to cane chairs myself?

Answer: In my opinion, the best way to learn any type of seat weaving, caning included, is to take a class from an expert.

Cathryn's chair caning class

Teaching yourself through examining old chairs and learning how-to cane chairs from books and articles is also a good way.

That’s how I started, but it’s more difficult, takes more time, and you don’t get the benefit of the mentor’s years of experience.

Try to find a class through community education classes, basketry workshops, conventions or guilds, woodworking shops, and the Internet. Check out my teaching schedule to see if I will be in your area sometime soon, or you can email me and arrange a class and I’ll come to you!

Be sure to also check the Folk Schools, Workshops, Conventions resource links page for a very extensive listing of classes offered across the country through different venues.

I also have many, many chair caning tips videos on The Wicker Woman YouTube Channel that will help you learn all the “tricks of the trade” and improve your product.

Watch these helpful chair caning videos right here on my site or check them out on YouTube along with all my other videos on chair caning, bulrush and cattail leaf seat weaving, antler basketweaving and more!


2.) QUESTION: What book should I get to teach myself how to weave a variety of seat patterns?

Answer: The listings below are my recommendations featuring excellent, excellent chair seatweaving books that should be a staple in the personal reference library of everyone that does chair seat weaving! Read WickerWoman’s Amazon Book Reviews!

The Craft of Chair Seat Weaving by George Sterns Chair Seating by Johnson, Barratt, Butcher The Caner's Handbook by Jim Widess Cane and Rushwork by Yvonne Rees

Cathryn’s chair caning and wicker repair business advice appears in several arts & craft books, periodicals and on the Internet as a chair caning and wicker authority.

These fine authors either featured Cathryn’s work or requested her craft and marketing expertise in the following books. Request these books at your local library or purchase online.

  • HOMEMADE MONEY-STARTING SMART! and HOMEMADE MONEY-BRINGING IN THE BUCKS! by Barbara Brabec, 2005
  • YELLOW PAGES, by Ralph & Terry Kovel, 2005
  • THE BEST HOME BUSINESSES FOR PEOPLE 50+ by Paul and Sarah Edwards, 2004
  • SIX STEPS TO FREE PUBLICITY, by Marcia Yudkin, 2003
  • 101 BEST HOME-BASED BUSINESSES FOR WOMEN , by Priscilla Y. Huff, 2002
  • HANDMADE FOR PROFIT! by Barbara Brabec,2002.
  • PRICING GUIDELINES FOR YOUR ARTS & CRAFTS , by Sylvia Landman, 2000
  • SMALL TOWN MINNESOTA FROM A to Z , by Tony Andersen, 2000
  • SPLINT WOVEN BASKETRY by Robin Dougherty, 1999
  • KOVEL’S GUIDE to SELLING, BUYING, and FIXING YOUR ANTIQUES and COLLECTIBLES, by Ralph & Terry Kovel, 1995

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double sided blind cane

3.) QUESTION: Regular looking cane chairs with holes drilled in the frame I know, what about chairs where the holes are only drilled part way in and not through?

Answer: This type of chair caning goes by a few different names; French Caning, Blind Caning and Continental Caning. It is done using regular sized cane, woven in the traditional 7-step method design, but the holes drilled in the framework do not go all the way through.

This difficult and rather delicate weave is usually reserved for use in the backs or under arms of chairs rather than in the seats, because it’s a lighter more fragile weave and not strong enough for heavy use needed in the seats.

Since the holes do not go through the frame, each length of cane must be cut to the exact length needed, then woven and fixed in the holes with a plastic peg and a small spot of glue until set. Usually only one step at a time is woven so that the glue can set, making this a very tedious job indeed. Leave this one to the experts!

For instructions to do the weaving yourself, check for the book, “Chair Seating” by Johnson, Barratt and Butcher. It is by far the greatest caning instruction book and has the most thorough coverage of all types of chair seating. It’s the best buy for your money, no matter what the cost!


Spline Cane Seat and Hole-to-Hole Cane

4.) QUESTION: Can I change a spline cane chair to one with drilled holes?

Answer: Yes, it can be done, but I really don’t recommend you change the way the chair was originally made for a couple of reasons. First would be that you might damage and weaken the chair seat frame, and second, you will destroy any antique value of the chair by altering it in this way.

You would be far better off to ask family members if they have a chair that needs to be rewoven in the hole-to-hole method or traditional caning method, or buy one from an antique dealer or at a flea market.

Same answer would apply if you wanted to change a hole-to-hole cane chair to a spline chair with the groove. Can it be done? Yes, but not a good idea.

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cane webbing chair seat

5.) QUESTION: How do I fix a sagging cane chair seat?

Answer: Cane is the skin or bark of the rattan palm and actually does not require much in the way of maintenance. A light spray coat of Scott’s Liquid Gold Furniture Polish or using lemon oil will help to keep the cane flexible and will add luster to the cane seat.

To fix the sagging cane seat: once or twice a year, you can turn the chair upside-down and lay a warm, wet cloth on the wrong side of the cane seat, but not on the wooden framework. Let the cloth dry overnight, and as the cane dries it will shrink up tight, firming up the seat.

Don’t allow anyone to sit on the seat until the cane is completely dry, otherwise it will stretch out of shape again! Keep in mind that this treatment will only work for about the first five years after the seat has been newly woven and will not work at all if several strands are broken.

See the chair cane care tip sheet in the How-to Articles section for more hints and tips on caring for your cane furniture.


6.) QUESTION: How do I remove mold and mildew from my cane seat chairs?

Answer: Mold and mildew on cane seats can present quite a problem and removal is not always easy, or permanent. First of all, try to avoid this situation by maintaining an even humidity level with a room humidifier in the room where the cane furniture is used and or stored.

If you have high humidity, consider using a dehumidifier to protect your furniture and maintain your own comfort level. Storing cane or wicker furniture in a damp or high humidity basement or outside on a porch is just asking for trouble.

On a warm, sunny, and windy day take your chair outside and clean the cane using a soft scrub brush and a strong solution of bleach in soapy water. Take care not to damage the wooden framework with water, but if it too has mold or mildew on it, scrub it with a cloth dampened in the bleach solution to remove the mold.

Rinse the cane seat well, and leave out in the shade to dry thoroughly. And don’t allow anyone to sit on the furniture until it has dried for several days. If after this treatment, you still see little black specks of mold, you might try applying full-strength bleach to each spot, using a small artists’ paintbrush or a cotton swab.

Here again, be sure to rinse and dry well. Sometimes, the black mold spots cannot be removed no matter what you do, but will not be visible on the bottom side of the cane seat, at least.

Sometimes if you insist on keeping and using your cane chairs and rockers outside on your porch, you can apply a coat of spar or marine varnish to the cane (top and bottom). This will help to repel the mold, but it may also cause the cane to become dried out and brittle.

There’s also the problem with the varnish not adhering well to the smooth, natural glossy finish of the cane, so it might eventually “pop” off, wear off or flake off.

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7.) QUESTION: How do I tell paper fibre rush seats from natural cattail or bulrush?

Answer: Turn the chair over and look at the bottom of the seat. Twisted paper fibre or paper rush is made in one continuous strand, so the weaving is smooth on the bottom with possibly an occasional knot or two.

bottom paper rush youth chair 1976

Bottom of paper rush youth high chair 1976.

And each strand will be uniformly the same size in diameter, there are no variations with thin and fat areas of the strands like there are on the natural hand-twisted rush. The paper fibre strands can also be unraveled since it is twisted paper to begin with.

hand-twisted-bulrush-bottom

Hand-twisted bulrush seat bottom

Typically the strands of cattail leaves or bulrush ends are joined in the corners, so the butt ends usually hang down about a 1/4″ at the “X” on the underside of the seat.

The cattail leaves and bulrush look similar to a grass material and are twisted together using several strands to get the rope-like appearance. And like a dried grass, they will crack, crumble and break when unraveled.


8.) QUESTION: How do I care for paper fibre rush seats on my dining room chairs?

Answer: Since these are made from the same paper fibre material that was used in a great deal of wicker furniture manufactured after 1904, the cleaning treatments are the same for both paper wicker furniture and paper rush seats.
paper rush seat care
Vacuum frequently, use a damp cloth to clean stubborn dirt, and a slightly wet toothbrush to get into tight corners. Do not hose down or immerse in water, but instead use a warm wet cloth to wipe up spills as soon as they occur.

Paper fibre rush seats are usually protected by coats of varnish or shellac, which helps to prevent damages with spills and also acts as a glue, keeping the strands together. Sometimes these seats to be refreshed by applying a new coat of varnish, which can be done about every five years or sooner, if necessary.

Natural bulrush or natural hand-twisted cattail rush seats, on the other hand, are usually treated with a boiled linseed oil and turpentine mixture or shellac after the weaving is completed, but before the seat dries out.

Then sometimes, at least with more modern rush seats, a coat or two of varnish, shellac or polyurethane is added for protection against spills and also to act as a glue to hold the strands in place. So to clean a natural rush seat, just use a warm wet cloth to wipe up spills.

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Cane and Basket Supplies Directory

9.) QUESTION: Where can I buy seatweaving and chair caning materials, instruction books and tools?

Answer: I do not sell materials to the public, with the exception of the students enrolled in my classes. So you can go to the special page I set up Cane & Basket Weaving Supplies and click on any of the over 40 cane and basket suppliers listed there.

All these advertisers have websites and do mail order and will be happy to assist you in any way possible. Be sure and tell them you found their ad on WickerWoman.com !


10.) QUESTION: I live out in the country and feel really isolated doing my weaving by myself, is there an online group or forum I can join to feel more connected?

Answer : So glad you asked that question! And yes, there is a discussion group you can join, right here on the Internet.

We’ve been an online forum since 2004, so visit us anytime for help with questions of any kind or just plain chatting with like-minded weavers! Seatweaving & Chair Caning Forum–The Caner’s Community Hub!™

Lose the link? Find it again in the footer navigation on every page of WickerWoman.com or better yet, click on the link below or subscribe to get the Daily Updates using the form below! (But you’ll still need to Register in order to participate in the conversations.)

Seatweaving & Chair Caning Forum — Whether you are a beginning chair seat weaver or a seasoned professional, join others in the fields of chair seating and wicker repair to discuss these nearly lost arts. Have questions about a technique? Need to get help on a business problem? Contribute whatever you can by either posting or answering questions. You can also just plain “lurk” and learn if you wish!

 

You can also join the only chair caning guild in North America, The SeatWeavers’ Guild, Inc.® , organized in July of 2007 in Nelsonville, Ohio.

Visit the website and consider becoming a member of this great chair caning guild today. Make a point to set aside the date on your events calendar for our Annual Gathering meeting and workshop in August.

Cathryn is a proud Founding Member and Past President (2007-2011) of The SeatWeavers’ Guild®


Disclaimer: This page was written by Cathryn Peters based on her own personal experiences and knowledge about the antique wicker and chair caning furniture industry acquired over the last 40 years of providing chair caning and wicker restoration services. Viewers may follow these directions using their own best judgment and no liability concerning your results is assumed by The Wicker Woman® or Cathryn Peters .

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Thank you for your kind support of this information resource website!

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