before and afterDIY

Before & After: A Broken Cane Seat Gets A Colorful, Yarny Fix

by Maxwell Tielman



I can’t tell you how many broken cane-seat chairs I’ve seen thrown out onto the curb in Brooklyn, but I can say that it’s a lot. I’m always tempted to scoop them up and bring them back to my apartment, but I know that in all likelihood, they will just collect dust as I wait to take them to be re-caned. This seems to be the issue with cane furniture and why, once it becomes too warped or develops holes, people opt to simply toss it on the streets rather than repair it. This is why, when this chair re-caning project by interior decorator Joëlle Fabbri ended up in my inbox, I was beyond thrilled. Using just three different colors of yarn (supplies that barely exceed $10), Joëlle was able to create a fix that is not just easy and functional, but actually attractive. I just wish I had known about this awesome technique when I found a sad, broken Breuer chair on the sidewalk a few years back. Alas! Check out all of the photos plus Joëlle’s tips after the jump! —Max

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Above image: The chair in its “before” state—the caning was severely sagging and was torn at the edges. No good!

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  • Ooo! I’d love to see a more detailed how-to. My parents have several beautiful old cane chairs that are in sad states of disrepair. It would be cool to fix them up as a gift!

  • At first glance this is a pretty cool idea. The more I look at it, the more I fall in love with it! Imagine the possibilities!

  • This explanation makes no sense. I would love to know how to do this too but It is incredibly unclear how exactly to achieve this. Not to mention it is really hard to read in the first place. Beautiful results but this is a really frustrating post.

  • This is fantastic! I would also love to see how the underside of the chair looks (where the yarn is attached via staples, etc) and I would interested to know what type of yarn you used. Incredibly cool and inventive!!

  • This is beautifully conceived and done! My mother, (nearly 92 and still going strong!) has pulled the broken caning out of the sides of her matching chairs. I’ll have to see if I can find the holes and do something like this for her. Lord knows, she has plenty of yarn in the house!
    What, exactly, is ‘school yarn’? I would think it’s a cotton, sturdy but fairly thin from the picture.

  • It is beautiful for sure! But I can’t imagine that yarn is strong enough to hold anyone that isn’t ‘dainty’. It would be nice for a chair off on the side maybe that you don’t use alot.

    • Jennifer— that was my first thought, as well, but Joëlle assured us that it is strong enough to sit in. Caning, after all, isn’t that strong on its own, either, but gains strength when woven with numerous pieces. I imagine it’s the same with the yarn!

  • I agree with the other readers – cool project, but we need more directions. Also wondering if yarn is strong enough not to break, or should the chairs be treated as decorative only?

  • I don’t think I’d attempt this project armed only with these directions, but I do enjoy the photo.

  • This is not a How-To or DYI, it is a Before & After, so the instructions do not need to make sense. And let’s not say things that may cause the poster hurt feelings. This would be easy enough to figure out if you study the weaving of the old caning that you take off of the chair. Otherwise the internet is an excellent resource. Great job, Joëlle!!

  • I did the same thing, but used thin climbing rope from REI. It looks like she used embroidery floss, though lots of strands. I would suppose she stapled one end of the thread and then weaved it similar to caning. Just take a long look at the photos to figure out the pattern.

  • OMG – I have a petite rocker that’s been in my attic for years. It has a sagging cane seat!
    You better believe when I get home tonight I’m pulling it downstairs to start working on it.
    Caning has always intimidated me, but this I’m going to try!

  • So creative! I have several chairs with broken caning, and it’s very expensive to replace. It would be so cute to do a whole dining room set in different colors!

  • sorry leaving directions is not my strenght (especially in english), actually i didn’t had much clue what i was doing, just went for it and tried to copy the old caning, as you can see i made a mistake with the order but i didn’t wanted to go back again when i realized it. Don’t use very long strings the yarn felts easily. It is surprisingly strong, i wasn’t sure that it will hold when i started, but already after the 3rd string it was strong enough to seat lightly and with 6 strings no problem, it is in every day use and i have 5 flatmates who are mostly bike messengers that don’t pay much attention.

  • Pick up a copy of “The Caner’s Handbook” or “The Complete Guide to Chair Caning” at your local library. You’ll learn all you need from the step-by-step photographs and text.

    This is a cool project. There are some pretty strong yarns out there now – think Kevlar! Also, since you’re using multiple strands, you could use several strands of 4ply waxed linen thread.

    Cane (the skin of the rattan palm) is a very strong fiber by itself. Certainly the weave, and especially the diagonals, add tremendous strength to the seat. If you take care of the cane seat, it should last 60 or more years.

  • And I’m off to do it… I have the most beautiful, antique chairs that have been in my husband’s family for more than a century. They are in for a treat !

  • This is great. I’d love to see a photo of the underneath so I could understand a bit better how you did it.

  • I’d adore to go to a better how-to. My own moms and dads possess several gorgeous previous walking cane seats which might be throughout unfortunate expresses involving disrepair. It could be trendy to fix them upwards like a reward!

  • This is a really fun idea for a non-traditional look. I also have one of these sitting in my basement, but I would prefer to replace the original caning. I have seen somewhere that you can buy the already woven caning in sheets along with directions, but I don’t know how hard it is to attach the caning properly. I wonder if anyone else has tried this?

  • When I initially commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and
    now each time a comment is added I get several e-mails with the same
    comment. Is there any way you can remove me from that service?

    Many thanks!

  • Wow. What a GREAT idea to use different materials in the weave! The 2012 embargo placed on all Rattan raw materials by the Indonesian Government has created a major shortage of all cane and reed. This idea may be my breakthrough to a beautiful, and quirky chair…. Cheers!

  • So glad you posted this! I just received two chairs today that are in need of some re-caning. I too have been wanting to keep with the original cane instead of boarding and covering with fabric. I have been researching and wasn’t sure if I was going to cushion the chairs?? I may just be getting tender fingers after all. Thanks so, soo much for sharing!