I have 4 ladder-backed chairs that need recaning, however, I do not have the time. I was thinking of replacing the caning with some kind of wood and then using a fabric over the wood. I will paint these chairs to look primitive and distressed. Any other suggestions and if the wood works what kind of wood? Home Depot is close by. Thanks.
You can buy a several large rolls of natural colored raffia at any craft store & use this easy-to-work-with & very pliable natural raffia to "weave" back & forth across your chair. The raffia can be either left natural or spray-painted or even stained. If it were me I'd leave it natural if the chair is natural or stain or paint it to match the color the chair already is. Also, Raffia is really inexpensive so that's a bonus!
To make the seat sturdier you can cut a piece of 1/4 inch or thicker masonite with a jig saw (make a pattern out of old Christmas wrap or cardboard). This masonite will need to fit in-between (or under) the woven raffia & you don't want to see it when the chair is done, so first paint it a color that will match the finished piece because after the raffia is woven over it you won't be able to get to it to paint it! Then just tack the masonite down with braids & weave the raffia back over it... The trick is to try to keep the raffia as tight as you can when you weave it. Most basket weavers like to first soak their weaving supplies in water for a bit before using them to weave with. It may help you to put your raffia in a the sink or in a dishpan of warm water for 5 or 10 minutes then it may be easier to weave with but if you don't want to hassle with the whole wet mess, it won't matter much if you are using raffia because it's so easy to weave with even when dry anyway! But if it were me, I'd first soak the raffia because I think you'll end up with a nicer look. Also, when you tie knots, make sure you totally wet the knots THEN tie them, that way they'll stay tied! (you can also add a bit of Elmers glue mixed with water to make sure any knots stay tied & that your raffia stays where you want it to go. Use 1 part white glue to about 3 parts water. But where ever the glue is, stain might not soak in, but paint will still work).
Remember, your weaving doesn't have to look perfect. Just try to get the chairs looking as similar as you can to each other. You could do something like 5 or 6 rows up, then 5 or 6 rows of raffia down then up & down and do this vertically then copy the same design horizontally. Also have a few flat thumb tacks or upholstery tacks around. You may need them to use underneath the chairs to hold the raffia in place.
* Make sure you buy REAL raffia & not PAPER raffia because the paper raffia just won't hold up.
** If you want a totally different look, you could go with upholstery tacks holding up strips of leather. You can either by leather from a place like Tandy Leather Company or buy several old coats or old belts at the thrift store. You can even buy fake leather at a fabric store & this stuff looks pretty nice put isn't as durable. If you use real leather be sure to first wet it before applying it to the chair. This way it will shrink up a bit when it dries.
---> DO YOURSELF A FAVOR: Before you start taking these chairs apart & painting them, make sure they aren't antiques or collectibles because some of the cained & woven chairs are worth a pretty penny & you'd kick yourself in the rear if you later found out you ruined something that was worth a small fortune!
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