before and after

before & after: woven-back chair makeover

by Kate Pruitt

I’ve tackled a few chair renovations, but I’ll be honest: caning intimidates me. I’m eagerly awaiting the day that Amanda covers caning in Upholstery Basics, but until then, I’m steering clear. I love this chair renovation from Haley Beham; she’s found an inventive way to mimic the original caning back by weaving strips of cotton and securing them with a neat border of upholstery tacks. The soft white color looks great against the gray she’s chosen for the frame, and the contrast between the fabric cushion and the textural woven back is beautiful. The next time I see a caned chair that needs fixing, I am definitely going to consider this alternative. Awesome job, Haley! — Kate

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Time: 12 hours

Cost: $100

Basic Steps: I had to remove all the existing caning from the back of the chair and the sides under the arm rests. The easiest way I found to do this was by cutting as much off to get it out of the way and then taking pliers and pulling it out from the chair as much as possible. I also used scissors for the parts that would not come out and cut as close to the chair as I could. I then spent a lot of time sanding where the caning used to be to get those edges nice and smooth. I used the grittiest sand paper Home Depot had on hand, and I went through a lot of it!

After the chair was sanded, I primed it. I first put on a layer of latex-based primer, but a lot of color was coming through, so I went back to Home Depot and purchased a spray-on oil-based primer. I found that Zinsser BIN worked well. I then painted the chair using Valspar’s Almost Charcoal (4008-2B) paint with a satin finish. I put on four layers, sanding between each layer with a fine sandpaper to help make it smooth. After the fourth coat, I put a layer of polyurethane on it to seal it.

After everything had dried, I began the cotton webbing. I used almost 20 yards of webbing for the back, which is a lot more than I thought I would need and was surprised it actually took that much. I did the verticals first. When I got to the curved part at the top of the chair, I used one continuous piece from the bottom of the chair up to the curve. I folded the piece over and ran it along the horizontal to the other side and then folded it down for the vertical. I repeated that for the rest of the curve and then started the horizontals. I used the nailhead trim to secure the webbing in place, and on the bottom I stapled it since it wouldn’t be seen. For the cushion, I used the existing piece of plywood and cut foam to match. I then covered it in cotton batting and finally in the fabric. I ordered the fabric — Anna Maria Horner Innocent Crush Loves Me Loves Me Not Golden — from fabric.com.

For people trying to tackle a similar project, my biggest piece of advice is patience with the nailhead trim. I think I bent about 25 of the nailheads, mostly at the end of the project because I was so close and anxious to be finished. I had held onto this chair for three years, and it was almost done, but the more anxious I got, the more nailheads I bent. Patience is key! I also spent a lot of time sanding before I primed the chair and in between each coat. This is a step that I would love to skip, but it really helps the overall finish of the chair to have a smooth and polished look. — Haley

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