Wednesday 27 June 2012

So why you can't use ready woven cane panels in an old hand woven chair?

"I'll have some of the cane panelling, it'll be a lot easier to do won't it? My chair is so old it's not worth spending the time or money on hand weaving it, I'll just put a few patches in.....or push the ends of the panel down the holes and glue them in, keep it looking okay for a bit longer, it'll be fine I reckon"

No....... no it won't. Please don't even try.

Why not? Well a hundred and one reasons, but I'll try and put the main ones in order.

Reason 1. Hand woven cane gets its strength from each single strand being woven back and forth across the chair frame stitching up and down through the holes. No glue is needed and eventually when the holes are dry plugged with centre cane you've got a strong but flexible seat. Machine woven panels are not fitted into holes, they need to be stretched into a rout or groove around the frame perimeter which is then lined with glue and a centre cane filet is hammered in over the top to fill the groove. It's strong and can't pull out when it's fitted like this. The two attachment methods are very different.

Reason 2. Pre-woven panelling more than likely won't fit hand drilled frame holes. Machine woven panels are just that - machine woven, they are more accurately spaced than any hand woven chair could ever be. The Victorians, Edwardians etc. didn't always use a ruler when they drilled the holes around the perimeter of a cane chair seat, they often had a template set up by the designer or manufacturer that would create the gauge and design of weave that they wanted that would fit well with their desired overall effect.

Reason 3. If by luck you did manage to get a pre-woven panel to fit into hand drilled holes, then what's to stop it from pulling out the minute someone sits on it? Nothing. I've seen chairs where this has been done and the only thing that was holding the cane in place was a bit of glue on the hole plugging pegs. Now bearing in mind how glossy cane is, it's not going to hold in place for long like that before it goes baggy or worse still gives way leaving the poor soul who sat on it wedged into an open seat frame - not a good thing to happen.

Reason 4. If you're trying to patch an old panel with bits of pre-woven, then the new cane will stick out like a sore thumb. New cane is creamy beige, old cane gets darker with time, so unless you're prepared to do a lot of careful colour matching, forget it. Old cane has usually broken because it's come to the end of its life, it's dried out, become brittle. There's nothing that can be done about this apart from replacement and if you start to try and weave wonderfully supple new cane through the old stuff, you will find the breaks in the old stuff spreading further and further into the panel making more and more work for you.

So what's the answer? Well some would advocate adapting the hand woven chair to take panelling by filling the holes and putting in a rout instead. Sounds great, except that doing this will take about half of the structural wood out of the frame in a crucial spot. You see, seats that are intended to have panelling fitted have the groove cut at least 3/4" away from the edge of a good chunky frame, the holes for hand weaving are generally much closer to the inner edge of a much finer more delicate frame, so if you rout a groove between them....crack....potentially the inner bit of wood can break off. Great Aunt Mildred could find herself once again wedged into an empty seat frame, but this time with some painfully located splinters!

It's up to you, but if you'll take my advice don't waste your precious time trying to "cheat" it really is a false economy. If you love your chair, then have a go at re-weaving it by hand with a cane seat kit or similar, or ask a professional. If neither of these things are possible just now, put the chair in a dry attic, shed, garage....wherever until you can do the repair, or sell it to someone who wants a project or is keen to breathe new life into something beautiful.

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Saturday 23 June 2012

Garden gherkin and a post box

We've had a lot of work to do over the past few weeks. Most of it has been rush work of one sort or another, quite a few Magistretti Carimate seats and various handsome antique armchairs. It is satisfying to see them all lined up when they're finished waiting to go home and ready for another few decades of service.

But I still have to find some time to do a bit of exploring, some experimentation. I had a deadline to come up with a few design ideas for a local magazine, so it gave me a brilliant reason to spend time making a few things that we needed. First was a post box. We couldn't bring ourselves to make a letterbox hole in our new front door, we liked it better without one, so the only option was to buy a post box. I looked around at loads, but couldn't find anything that would be just right, so I made one and here it is.

Not necessarily everyone's cup of tea I know, but it's made out of outdoor quality synthetic materials and is big enough to take the largest of envelopes. I was chuffed when the postman used it the first morning after I put it in place!

The second thing we needed was a protective cover for our herb "bag". The local family of sparrows have taken a real shine to our plants especially the chard, they were coming in like little vultures and eating the lot even though it was right under the kitchen window - little beggars!

So I built a "garden gherkin" as a framework to cover with bird mesh.

It works a treat.

Sunday 17 June 2012

Holton Lee Summer Fair

The first thing we did yesterday morning was to look out of the window.....were the weather men right, or please just this once, would they have got it wrong? No such luck, this time they were dead right. The wind was blowing a hooley, trees bending almost sideways under the force, patio furniture all over the garden. Oooh no, not again. We'd already heard on the local news that there had been flooding on the road leading to Holton Lee, and trees down all over the place in Dorset, all in all not a good start to a Summer Fair!

We set off at 10am. All along the dual carriageway the horsebox was swaying like a ship at sea, now and again a huge gust of wind would push us into the grass verge, or worse still, towards the middle of the road - not a good omen. We arrived late, thanks to the heavy traffic as much as the weather and it quickly became obvious that an awful lot of people had decided that staying at home was the best option on such a rotten day.

Yet again we had to say thank goodness for Bernard. Our trusty old truck is the best wind break in the world. We stood in the shelter of his bulk all day and managed to rush seat two chairs without any problems, but for everyone around us sadly it was carnage. Every so often the wind would blow a gale, the stallholders were hanging onto the frames of their canopies - literally - hoping that the wind would drop soon, but it didn't. By the end of the day no less than five canopies were wrecked, mangled heaps. It was so saddening. One couple had parked their car behind the stand and tied their canopy to it. Eventually the canopy frame was so distorted that they had to take it down, revealing two massive dents in the wing and door of their car where the wind had bashed the legs against it with huge force.......There were several standholders left sitting out in the elements with no shelter. I forgot to take the camera, but here's a photo, (not great quality) taken with our ancient phone.

Bleak - almost midsummer and everyone is wearing a coat - it was such a shame. The fair itself was really well attended by the supporters of this lovely place and the ring events, music, activities and facilities were great. The children had a fab time trying on police uniforms and hats courtesy of the local police represented by a lovely lady officer who was parked next to us. She had such patience with the kids, giving them guided tours of the police van and handing out pictures to colour in.

So who'd be an event organiser? No matter how hard you try or how carefully you plan, you can't predict the weather.

Saturday 9 June 2012

The final day of Dorset Art Weeks

Today would have been our last day at Stewarts Garden Centre taking part in the open studios event organised by Dorset Art Weeks but unfortunately when we arrived, there was no space for us to park. We tried a couple of options, but it soon became clear that there wasn't really anywhere for us to go, so we had to come home. Officially tomorrow is the last day of the event, but we know already that the weather is due to be really awful and as we are working outside, it just can't be done in howling wind and rain. So by way of a round up, here's a few photos I took during the two weeks to give you a flavour of some of the hidden talent in Dorset.

This is the work of Tricia Warman. The most beautiful combinations of hand sewn and woven textiles you could ever see. Such careful, delicate work from a lovely lady.

This is the pottery of Fiona Kelly. I bought one of these soap dishes as a gift for my Mum complete with handmade lavender goats milk visitor soap. Lovely! The fishes are a theme in Fiona's work, they all seem to have their own personality. Once glazed and fired the pots look like this:

So it will be another two years before the next Dorset Art Weeks, will we be part of it then I wonder? A lot can change in that time, it will be interesting to see what happens....! Meanwhile next Saturday we will be demonstrating our work at Holton Lee near Poole for the day.