Cane seating is enjoying a moment–and then some. This durable material derived from the outer skin of rattan trees dates back to Egyptian times with similar chair seat weaving techniques still experienced today.
Originally popularized by Thonet’s 19th-century Bistrot Chair. Cane weaves still linger in modern spaces from Manhattan wait rooms to coworking communities. Let’s take a look at innovative patterns that are giving this classic design new life.
1. Sculptural Weaving
The artistry of woven seating is a timeless design element within any interior. In addition to a traditional herringbone twill or basketweave seat weaving pattern, many chair caners use a more artistic. Sculptural weave that creates texture and visual interest. The sculptural weave can be done on the back and/or sides of the chair as well as the seat base.
Hand caning is done using the peeled outer skin of rattan which naturally grows around Southeast Asia. The peel is cut into strips of uniform width and depth, referred to as the “peel.” These strips are then processed into thin strands that form the material used to weave seats and backs. It’s also used as a binding cane for wrapping the arms and legs of chairs.
Once woven, the cane is then inserted into holes drilled into the wooden chair frame. This is known as hole-to-hole hand caning. Traditional hole chair caning repair is the most common and durable of all hand caning chair repair patterns, producing a unique series of octagonal holes. This technique has endured for centuries and is still in use today.
Machine-woven cane is often referred to as pressed cane webbing and mechanized chair caning repair. It’s a process where a sheet of cane is inserted into a routed groove in the chair frame and held in place by water-soluble glue. There are several types of machine-woven cane including herringbone twill, basketweave, Carolina weave, and fan/diamond weave.
2. Geometric Weaving
Many of us have seen woven chair seats at our parents or grandparents’ houses, flea markets, and home furniture stores. Yet, we often confuse the different types of weaving patterns and materials by lumping them together under the term “wicker” or “caning.”
Originally, cane (the outer skin or bark of the rattan palm) was woven to create strong chairs, settees, and rockers. It was a very time-consuming process, even once industrialization enabled it to be done on a large scale.
Today, caned furniture is often found at antique stores and online retailers. Some styles are more modern than others, but the basic technique remains the same. Using a spline machine, pre-woven cane panels are held in a groove around the seat frame opening and secured with a reed spline.
The spline is then cut into strips and weaved together by hand to form a sturdy seat or back. This weaving style is known as wide binding cane, twill, or diamond pattern chair caning repair and can be used on chairs. Settees and rockers with a traditional chair back or the fancy curlicues of wicker backs.
Paper fiber rush is similar to cane but a bit simpler to work with. The strands are not as strong and they do not need to be soaked in water to soften or mellow them. However, the material is quite fragile and requires careful handling. It can be woven in a variety of designs but is best suited to ladder back or trapezoid (wider in the front than the back) chair frames.
3. Textural Weaving
Although many modern homes feature sleek, minimalist designs, a few woven chair seat details can add some much-needed texture and interest. Woven cane chairs are especially effective in ultra-modern rooms, as their woven textures are the perfect bridge between two opposing design styles.
In the Victorian era, furniture makers used a wide binding cane for seats and backs on chairs, settees, and rockers. Wide binding cane is very closely woven, so it doesn’t detract from the fancy curlicues and embellishments that often decorate wicker furniture from this period. Wide binding cane is also very sturdy, and it requires little or no soaking.
In the 1930s, Hans Wegner adapted Chinese tradesmen’s paper cord seating for his Cesca chair. His design paired the natural, caned quality of the seat with tubular steel for the base. It was the first chair in MoMA’s collection to combine traditional and innovative elements.
4. Colorful Weaving
There are a few types of chair seat weavings woven with colored cane, but not the ones that are commonly known as “wicker” and “caning.” The words wicker and caning are terms used to describe the style or pattern of a woven chair seat, not the material itself. The strands of cane used in chair seats are taken from the shiny skin or inner bark of the rattan palm (genus Calamus Rotan). There has been no machine invented that could do the weaving for these seats or apply it to furniture.
Historically, there have been several different types of hand-caning patterns and materials used to weave chair seats. A few of them are still in use today, including herringbone twill and basketweave. Others are less common, such as wide-binding cane and cotton shaker tape.
Throughout the world, chair caning repair has been used to weave everything from baskets to furniture. Traditionally, it is done by a skilled expert and is expensive because of the time and materials involved in the process. However, with new techniques and innovative materials, the cost has come down significantly.
Moreover, the variety of colors and styles available to the caned furniture maker is expanding. These options allow homeowners to choose cane chairs that match their décor.
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