Wicker is an old term which refers to the use of pliable twigs, originally the twigs of trees such as willow, which were woven or shaped into forms useful for furniture or basketry. Since the mid-nineteenth century, the recognition that the core of the rattan vine could be used for this purpose and thereafter the widespread manufacturing of furniture made from strands of rattan, the term "wicker," has come to be used primarily to refer to furniture made from that material. This modern version of wicker furniture is characterized by panels of rattan strands woven on a loom, attached to rattan poles which have been shaped to form the structure of chairs of various designs, and which are decorated by strands of rattan bent and fastened into curlicues. While usually painted, these items are also often stained and coated with a clear finish.
The early twentieth century saw the widespread addition of a second material used to create woven furniture items. seagrass, whether twisted or braided, could also be woven in sheets, either on a loom or by hand, and formed onto rattan or wooden frames to create wicker furniture.
Numerous issues arise which require the efforts of an experienced hand to repair and recreate sections of damaged wicker. We want to illustrate for you on this page what can be done when there is a need to replace entire panels of woven material on wicker furniture. We have a separate page focused on repairs to wicker furniture.
Most would consider patio furniture disposable. When it is worn out, it is time for the dump. Patio furniture is made inexpensively in many parts of the world and so can be replaced at relatively low cost. We had a customer who had experienced the comfort of the size and shape of a particular chair and couldn't find that in anything he looked at to replace it. So, he brought it to us to reweave. The chair was originally made with a paper wicker formed on a loom. We say all over this website that the customer determines the path we take on the work we do on their furniture. We do advise, however, and sometimes persuasively enough that the customer follows our advice. We always advise that natural materials be preferred to paper or plastic for weaving–they hold up much longer, look better (opinion), and offer more possibilities for finishing. However, paper and plastic can be made into sizes and shapes that are not available other than to the manufacturer ordering them. We could not exactly reproduce the pattern of this chair with the materials available. Also, weaving this from very similar strand sizes would have significantly increased the cost. The compromise here was to create a pattern for the new weave that would be reminiscent of the old. His ultimate concern was comfort, not design. We used flat reed for the weaving to further lower the cost.
One of the reasons cattail and seagrass are widely used as natural materials in woven furniture is that unlike most other leafy materials, even when dry, they will not deteriorate quickly. They both can be twisted and roped and stretched tight and stressed during use and nevertheless remain durable for a long time. Eventually they do deteriorate and loose their strength. This rocker had seen about a half century of use and was unable to serve the next generation of grandchildren. Repairing the missing sections was not an option. There were too many, but more so than that, the remaining seagrass was so weak that virtually the slightest pressure would cause new breaks. It was all or nothing time. Here is a photo journal of our progress through this project.
It should be obvious, this is the rocker as it came to us.
The rockers themselves are wood, the rest of the frame of this chair is formed from rattan,–bent, nailed and strapped together.
The outer frame was wrapped with seagrass. The seat was formed with strands of rattan over which seagrass was woven.
After the seat was completed the rattan poles for the arms were put in position.
We love the visual display of the profusion of rattan strands. It looks exuberant. "Wow, I'm actually being put back together for another child to enjoy!" You can see the progress, weaving progressing up the arm.
Making progress up the back. The white stripe is rattan woven through the seagrass.
The original decoration on the back is completed. The arms are being formed.
The skirt is the last thing to do. The braiding secures the ends of the rattan poles and creates a very nice finished look.
The original sheet of woven material was pinched into the metal frame. We started out creating a rattan frame we could weave onto. Rattan horizontals, flat reed woven through.
The top of this hamper was worn and strands had broken. Not only did we reweave the top, we replaced some broken strands elsewhere and later finished the new materials to blend.
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