Cane Weaving - Preparing, Tools & Patterns
White pulp cane is the core of the natural cane or rattan palm which grows in Malaya and other eastern countries.
It is round (unless split for working) and of the same thickness all the way along.
It is sold in hanks, and different sizes are obtainable from your craft store.
If buying a prepared plywood base for cane work or re-caning a chair with split cane, it is important to buy the correct size to go through the existing holes.
Cane is an excellent fiber with which to work, as it is both firm and flexible when damp.
When dry, it tightens and remains firm yet flexible.
Long lasting, articles made of cane should not be allowed to become very dried out, (for example in a centrally heated room) or they will tend to split. They should be wiped over with a damp cloth, once every 3 or 4 weeks. Be careful, however, not to sit on a damp cane seat or you will find it will sag.
Cane may be varnished, painted or simply left in its natural state.
Many useful articles can be made from cane, ranging from baskets, potholders, lampshades and workbaskets to chair seats and stools of split cane.
All cane weaving (as for baskets, shades, etc.) is done on the same principle.
Long pieces of cane are woven in and out of thicker pieces called 'stakes' or 'ribs'.
The shape of cane articles can be altered either by pulling or bending the cane while working so that a shape is formed, or by controlling the tightness of the weave.
To Prepare Cane for Working
Cut the cane into convenient lengths, but never more than 3 yards or it may tangle or become dirty.
Soak it in cold water for about half an hour to make it pliable.
The cane you intend to use for ribs or stakes should be really pliable, while the thinner cane used to weave the body need not be soaked so long, especially if it is split cane.
When it is taken out of the water it should be wiped dry and worked between the fingers to make it supple and ready for use.
When it is worked straight you are ready to begin.
Hang the lengths of cane on a hook or peg and lay a damp cloth over the strips to keep them really flexible and to protect them against dirt.
In working, especially on a large object, the cane may become too dry before the work is finished.
In this case it must be dampened again with a wet cloth.
There are various tools which are essential to the art of cane making, Figure 1 shows some of them:
- Sharp Knife (A)
- Peg (B)
- Pair of round-nosed pliers
- Two Bodkins (C)
- Rapping iron to tap down the wave on heavy cane work
- Cane seat weaver (D)
Note: A blunted chisel will do instead of the rapping iron, just wind a piece of tape around the end to protect the cane.
Some Common Patterns
Experienced cane workers may make all kinds of articles in complicated and improvised designs.
However, starting off, it is best to follow simple patterns until you are skilled.
Here are some common patterns.
This is the simplest weave and is merely weaving over and under, as shown in Figure 2.
Weaving generally is done from left to right.
When the end of one cane is reached, it is left behind the upright ribs on the inside of the work, pointing towards the right.
The new cane is started behind the same rib, lying on top of the end of the old cane, and thus weaving is continued.
A loop is made of a long piece of cane and the loop is placed over one of the ribs.
The two canes are then woven in and out, crossing over each other between ribs as shown in Figure 3.
This is a more complicated version of randing, just to give variation.
Two or four pieces of cane may be used at once in the weaving as shown in Figure 4.
Take first weave from behind first rib and bring it around in front of the second and third ribs to behind the fourth rib.
Then take it over the fifth and sixth ribs and so on.
Take the second weave from behind the second rib, in front of the third and fourth ribs, and so on as seen in Figure 5.
These are set into regular holes in a wooden base, with one end inserted into the hole and bent over underneath to form a foot.
This makes the ribs stand up and as the cane dries it is fixed in position.
If there is an even number of ribs, the weave will be regular, passing behind and in front of the same ribs in each round.
If the number of ribs is uneven, the weave will be irregular.
To Finish Off
The most common method is to make a braided edge as shown in Figure 6.
Take cane one and pass it behind two, in front of three and four and finish it behind five, leaving a 'tail' of about 1½ inch.
Cane two goes behind three, over four and five and finishes behind six.
Continue until the entire top is completed.
Split Cane Work
It is sometimes necessary to renew the split cane work on chairs or stools, or you may wish to buy a frame bored and ready for caning.
Following are directions for caning an oblong stool and a bentwood chair and general working instructions for split cane.
Split Cane Stool
What You Will Need
- Prepared stool frame with holes through which to pass cane
- Split cane of correct size for holes
- Beading Cane
- Pegs, Knife
This stool frame was a new one, but if yours is old, start by stripping and polishing the wood.
Soak the split cane for half an hour and, if you do not wish to use a weaver, sharpen the ends of each piece to make threading easier.
Dry and straighten the cane after soaking.
Observe the following general instructions for working on the seat.
How to Weave the Cane
- Start midway along the long edge of the stool and work on the top of the frame and from the center holes outwards.
- Push a piece of cane down through the center back hole (that is the side of the frame farthest away from you) and leave about 1 inch hanging down underneath.
- Wedge it in position with a peg.
- Bring the main piece of cane across to the hole directly opposite at the front (or nearest edge) of the frame and thread it through.
- Pull it taunt and peg the second hole also.
- Take the cane under the frame to the hole next to it, thread it up through the hole and take the cane back to the hole opposite at the back.
- Each time, peg the cane firmly in place, leaving the first peg in, but moving on subsequent ones.
- Make sure the cane does not become twisted, and when one length is finished join in another by threading the end twice over a strand between two of the holes at the back.
- Pull tight.
- Completely finish caning from back to front, then repeat from side to side, letting the second row of cane lie over the first. Figure 1 shows how it will look.
- Next put in a third and a fourth row of cane, from front to back and from side to side, working in the same holes but this time weaving the second rows as shown in Figure 2.
This is the basic framework and you are now ready to add the diagonal weaving.
- Work from two opposite corners and finish at the two holes at either side of the other two corners.
- Do one half first, weaving the cane under and over the points where the first two lots of cane cross.
- Adjacent diagonals should not go over and under at the same point, but should be in opposition as shown in Figure 3.
- Finally put in the last diagonal canes from the remaining opposite corners.
- When you come to an intersection, make sure to go over it if the existing diagonal goes under it, and vice versa as in Figure 4.
Edging the Cane Panel
In order to neaten and strengthen the edge of the seat, it is necessary to edge it as shown in Figure 5.
You will need some beading cane and a piece of fine cane for this.
- Point the beading cane and push the end down a corner hole.
- Bend it down along the edge of the seat and insert a piece of fine cane into the next hole.
- Pass this over the beading cane to hold it in position, pull taut and take under the frame to the next hole.
- Again bring the fine cane up, pass it over the beading cane and down again.
- Repeat all around the chair, starting at each corner with a fresh piece of beading cane.
- When the cane has dried, trim off and neaten loose ends underneath the chair with a sharp knife.
Note: Figure 6 shows an alternative weaving pattern you may like to try rather than the more usual one given above.
Split Cane Chair Seat & Back
It is often possible to buy an old bentwood chair of an attractive shape in which the cane work has split or sagged.
Although cane is by no means inexpensive to buy, the chair itself may be worth the money and work you put into it.
Either way, you will end up with a pretty piece of furniture as your reward.
You Will Need:
- Bentwood chair with holes pierced for caning
- Split cane of correct size for holes
- Pegs - Knife - Awl
First strip and re-varnish or paint the old frame, removing any vestiges of cane which may be in the holes with an awl.
Follow the general caning instructions above to renovate the circular back and seat.
Bearing in mind that you will only be able to take the cane to the points shown in Figure 1 and not all the way across the curve from top to bottom and side to side.
Finish with an edging as instructed.
An alternative idea for a caning pattern is given in Figure 2.
You may not wish to have the cane showing on the back side of the chair frame back rest.
In this case, cut out grooves between the holes into which to sink the cane, and when it is dry, fill with plastic wood, sand and polish.
I hope you have enjoyed these easy instructions for the basic caning.
Once you get the hang of it, I'm sure you will find many patterns to delight your personal tastes.
Thanks for stopping by & Happy Crafting!
Questions & Answers
© 2012 Dawn