Weaving a Shaker Seat

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With terms like "warp" and "weft" you know this isn't a typical woodworking technique. But there's nothing hard about weaving with "tape."


• 1/2"-long Upholstery Tacks

• Needle Nose Pliers

• Needle & thread or 5-minute epoxy (to splice the tape together)

eaving a seat isn't your typical woodworking technique. And frankly, I was a little bit nervous. But after weaving the prototype for the rocking chair (see page 2), I realized that there's not much to it. And now having also woven the rocker and both footstools, I'd have to say that Shaker-style weaving is downright easy. It doesn't require a lot of tools, materials, or a lot of time. So once your rocking chair or footstool has a few coats of finish, you can jump right in.

Of course, the best part is how great the project looks when you're done. Interesting color combinations can make a simple project striking. Or for a look thaf s more subdued, you can weave a project all in one color.

NEW TERMS. When weaving for the first time, there are a few new terms you'll have to get used to. For starters, the cotton webbing is called "tape," but if s not sticky. Plus, the tape has a different name depending on which direction you're working. I better explain.

Hie first piece of tape you work with is called the "warp," see Fig. 1. This isn't anything to avoid, as in woodworking. The "warp" is the long piece of tape thaf s wrapped around the front and back rails of a project (or the top and bottom rails, as on the rocker's backrest). The other piece of tape is called the "weft" (or sometimes, the "woof). This long piece is woven through the warp from left to right.

GETTING STARTED. Now that you're familiar with the terms I'll be using, it's time to get started. The first thing to do is to get all the materials together. There are really only three things you need: cotton tape, a piece of l"-thick foam pad, and a handful of upholstery tacks. Note: There are several sources for the cotton tape and foam pad, refer to page 35 for a list.

ESTIMATING THE TAPE LENGTH. To figure out how much tape is needed, you have to keep two things in mind: First, each seat or backrest will have two layers — the tape is woven around both the top and bottom (or front and back) of the chair. (The 1" foam pad ends up between these two layers.) The second thing to keep in mind is that ifs better to end up with too much rather than too little tape. (When ordering the tape, you can ask for help. All you need are the dimensions of your chair.)

To estimate the amount of tape needed, first measure one complete row wrapping a string completely around the rails, see Fig. 2. Then multiply this measurement by the number of rows you'll end up with (I also add a few extra rows for waste — just to be safe). The number of rows will depend on the width of the tape. Most tape is l"-wide, which makes the math easy. But 5/8M-wide tape is available too.

The measurement you just arrived at is just for the warp piece of tape. Now you can follow the same procedure to estimate the weft piece.


Use string to measure one complete row first:

Use string to measure one complete row second:

Multiply length of string by number of rows


Multiply length of string by number of rows

Wrapping the Warp

When you have the weaving supplies in hand and the project has had several coats of finish applied to it, you can begin weaving the seat.

As I mentioned, the first piece of tape is called the "warp." It's one long piece that's wrapped around the top and bottom backrest rails of the chair, see photos below. (For the seat or the footstool, the warp covers the front and back rails, refer to page 21.)

Shop Note: If you're using two colors for your chair, it's best to use the darker color for the warp. This edge on the seat gets much more wear than the sides, so the darker color will "hide" the dirt better.

SECURING THE TAPE. To begin wrapping the warp, the first thing to do is anchor it to the frame. I did this with a couple '/¿¡"-long upholstery tacks.

The tape should end up hidden as much as possible. So I tacked it to the inside edge of the backrest post on the side (not the rail on top or bottom) , see Step 1. Though it isn't critical where you tack the tape, I like to tack it near the end. This way when hammering the tack in place, the rail has a little more support than if you were to tack it in the middle.

Now you can begin wrapping the tape around the rails, starting from the back, see Step 2. Starting this way allows the tape to run straight up and down in front, which is what you want This means the rows in back will angle just slightly, but that's okay — you

1 Working from the back side of the chair, use an upholstery tack to secure the end of the tape along the bottom, inside edge of the side rail.

want to put your best face forward.

About half way across the rails, I inserted the foam pad, see Step 4. This pad actually distributes some of the weight to the back layer of tape so all the weight isn't on the front layer.

While wrapping the warp, the one thing to avoid is pulling the tape too tight. It shouldn't sag, but if the tape is tight now, you'll have a harder time weaving the next layer — the weft.

2 Now wrap the tape around the top and bottom rails, positioning the tape edge-to-edge. Make sure the tape in front is perfectly vertical.

Shaker Chair Tape Weaving Ideas

3 With half the tape wrapped, clamp it to a rail, see Step 4. Cut a foam pad to fit inside the rails with a Vi" gap around each edge.

4 With the tape still clamped, feed the foam between the two layers of tape. Continue to wrap the warp until you reach the opposite side rail.

5 After the last row is completed in front, wrap the tape around to the back and up to the top of the side rail. Tack it In place and trim the excess.

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  • Sebhat Zula
    How to tack shaker tape to wooden rail?
    10 months ago

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