Weave a Splint Reed Chair Seat

Write the next chapter in your favorite chair’s story by restoring the seat using time-honored techniques.

Every chair has a story. My favorite chair enthusiast, Benno Forman, said that “chairs are documents, and caners are historians that preserve centuries of designs and techniques.” Whether you’re restoring a family heirloom or rejuvenating a flea market find, chair seat weaving is a meditative process with a fun and functional end result.

Photo by Brandy Clements

Project Overview

Chair-weaving materials and patterns vary widely. For this project, you’ll use splint reed from the rattan palm — a tropical climbing tree. Reed is the inner pith of the tree that’s been processed into 1⁄2-inch strips. It’s a common material to replace wooden splints, which are more cumbersome to use and harder to source. Splint reed is available in many sizes, as well as raw and dyed colors.

You’ll be weaving what caners call a herringbone twill pattern for this project. Splint weaving employs a warp-weft process: The warp is the reed that’s wrapped around the front and back rails, which creates the base for weaving, and the weft is the reed that’s woven over and under the warp strands and wrapped around the side rails. Because these terms can be confusing, I’ll call the warp “the warp” and the weft “the weaver.”

You’ll need a chair with four round rails in good condition. Most side chairs require two coils of 1/2-inch splint reed. The overall process will take a couple of days. Plan on weaving the first day, which will take 4 to 6 hours, and sealing the seat on the second day, which will take about an hour.


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