How to rush chairs without looking like we've rushed.
June 13, 2010 2:09 PM   Subscribe

We are putting new woven fibre rush chair seats on our kitchen chairs. Any hints on how to do the weaving so that it doesn't look crappy??

We have a collection of mismatched flea market chairs with woven rush seats. It's finally time to fix them. My husband and I have done two chairs already. They are good enough to sit on, but before we start chair number 3, are there any tips to getting the rush tighter, straighter and flatter? We have several badly illustrated instructional pamphlets and are basically copying the way that the chairs were done previously. Our second chair came out better than the first one, but it's still not right. We've tried pulling it as tightly as possible and clamping as we go. We're wetting the rush. How do we get the rush to lay like it did on the original seats and less like this?
posted by artychoke to Home & Garden (3 answers total)
I have never done rush seats, but I have woven baskets, and would guess that you'll get better as you go along. One thing you might try (if you haven't already) is to use some sort of pliers to pull the rush with until it lays even and firm next to the row ahead of it. The spousal unit uses lasing pliers when he's making shoes--they're designed to brace against the last as the cobbler stretches the leather over it--kind of the same concept as the fiber rush/seats.

I would also guess that you can't just wrap the rush and pull tight and expect it to fall into place; I'm guessing you'll need to smooth each wrap into place with your fingers as you go while keeping tension on it (maybe with some kind of tool like lasting pliers). It might even help to nudge the (tightly-pulled) rush into place as close as possible to the previous row with . . . maybe an awl? Kind of poke it a little bit under the new wrap and roll it closer?

With baskets, there's a fine balance between maintaining a firm hand and using tools when needed, and roughing up the materials. I would guess the same applies here. The way you find out what is too much is to irretrievably screw up some of the materials, curse loudly, tear it all out and try again.

Also, I imagine you've read everything available online, but if you haven't, there may be some valuable tips buried in all that. For instance, here's one person's take on wet/dry rush weaving. Sounds like s/he's woven some rush seats in his/her time. The pdf about the fourth or fifth down looked pretty interesting, too.

I wish I could be more help; maybe someone who's a past master at the art of rush seat weaving will come along and give you some great tips. It was looking pretty sparse here answer-wise, though!
posted by miss patrish at 10:10 PM on June 13, 2010

Thanks for the tips! I'll look at the sparseness of answers as reassuring - see, no one else know how to do it well either, right?

irretrievably screw up some of the materials, curse loudly, tear it all out and try again
Hey! That's already how I sew and knit!
posted by artychoke at 10:54 PM on June 13, 2010

I don't know if this applies to the US too, but here in Europe there are a lot of blind or heavily sight-impaired people who do this kind of weaving. It is quite amazing to watch them, and the results (at least, those I've seen so far) are superb. You also have the satisfaction of having done a good deed. Unless you really seriously want to do it yourselves, you might like to check with a local society for the blind if they have any activity like that. Or you might want to compromise by ordering just one and watching their technique.
posted by aqsakal at 12:47 AM on June 14, 2010

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