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Friday, July 15, 2011

Caning chairs--lost art

I am so cheap that I refuse to pay a craftsman to cane chairs. That is parsimony at its No sirree, I took a class and learned to cane to save money.  It turned out that the teacher was a manager of the grocery store I frequented. He taught at a nearby junior college. Actually, he taught classes all over the northern part of the state. I still have my tools for the class, a bent butter knife, hammer, stakes the men carved for me, and tacks.

(Okay, so it is not really cane. It is oak or ash splints that I have, about 1/2 inch wide. Okay, it is seat weaving, not caning.)

My first chair seat/bottom to weave was on a straight back chair. I had two identical, ancient, straight-back chairs. I cannibalized one to make two complete chairs.  I caned the chair bottom in one class, less that three hours. The teacher complimented me on my tight bottom. A saggy bottom will never be tight.

This site has the pattern I use. Scroll down and look at the pattern below Weaving a Square or Rectangular Seat.

Back to the first bottom. That night, I got up to go to the bathroom. I never opened my eyes back then, just staggering along in the night. When I could not manage after several tries to get my panties down and could not feel my hands, I looked to see where my hands had gone. My hands were there, just frozen. At that point in time, I decided that I would never, ever cane another chair. Of course, I did.

 An elderly friend had this rocker with a "busted-out" seat and intact back. I offered to cane it--free labor if someone paid for the cane. Her son brought it to me. Ha! He would not even help me clean the caning from the chair. His elderly mother said she would pay for the cane just to have a comfortable seat. She had been putting a board across the seat.

The rocker is over 100 years old, according to its structure. Last year,  $60 invested in ash splints.  Plus, it will take many hours of my time spread over weeks because I cannot work very long on this difficult task. When younger, this would be a one- or two-day job. This task presents me with several problems--financial and physical and moral.

Moral dilemma
I refuse to allow her family to use me like they have in the past. Last week she said, "Honey, just sell the chair because I can never afford to pay you for the materials. It's yours." That breaks my heart. She is eighty-years old and used this to sit and watch birds. However, she has the safety net that I do not have. Should I allow a whole family who supports one another (sort of) to take advantage of me, depending on my compassion for the grandmother and selflessness in offering to cane her chair for free?

I can sell the cane for $60 and give her back the chair. She still will not be able to get it caned. I can go ahead and cane the chair and give it back to and make like a doormat. Or, I can cane the chair and hound them to pay for it. Or, I can cane the chair and get $150 for it.  Oh, it needs sanding and painting! Notice the ragged caning on the seat, plus the cane stuck between the two elements of the upright portion of the chair back. Plus the cane is difficult to get off the chair.

I want her to have her chair. But, I want my costs reimbursed....huge dilemma for me. If I could afford the $60, I would not be torn.

Your turn
Has anyone taken up this almost lost art? Did anyone learn to cane because the price was so high to pay someone?


  1. No and no. But I want to learn to basket weave in general. I have an antique Victorian wicker chair that is developing a hole in the seat that I want to have repaired or better yet repair myself. I just don't know where to begin. Its an antique so it will loose its value if I replace the seat. Dilemma.
    I loved the tight bottom comment! LOL!
    Your problem. Ask the son for the materials fee and tell him you really want to do it but can't start until that fee is paid. Tell him you know how much his mother loved that chair and that she is telling you to sell it. How terrible it would feel to you if you listened to her. Shame the hell out of him!

  2. If you repair to original condition, just restore as such, you will help it retain value. If you replace the whole seat, yes, it loses value. was the seat put through the holes or put in as one piece, like an already woven piece. If you go to the link, you can see. Ask me or send photo to email address if you cannot tell.

    Yeah, changing feet in the best talent.

    I have asked, cannot shame him. He gets real hard toward her and me. I dated him and would not marry him. I may just try to shame the whole family and get a bit from each. Grandson finally paid to have her yard and his mother's yard mowed each month. Grandson pays for her cell. Grandson does not answer my calls. If I have to fix it and carry it over there, they are going to end up paying me for delivery...75 miles. Long story


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