THE CANING PROCESS is, like most crafts, a combination of simple movements and materials that requires attention to detail. A caned chair seat can be thick and rough, as when lengths of rush are wrapped around a seat frame. Or it can be woven in a complicated pattern, as found on bentwood rockers and Breuer chairs. Often material dictates design. Fine cane fibers would be wasted in a wrapped rush-type seat, while some rope-like rush fibers would make an intricate design feel like a pile of pebbles. Pre-woven sheet caning, available by the yard, offers convenience.
Cane is the skin of the rattan stalk, supple but strong, perfect for caning techniques. Rattan (the inside of the stalk) and bamboo strips are also used, as are rushes--cattails or pampas grass. A chair must have holes around the edge of the seat for hand caning (chairs with a small trench around the seat edge require sheet caning). The caner starts at the middle hole in the front and winds cane strips through the holes, over and over, from one side to the other. This is repeated for the back and sides, at which time the pattern starts to take shape. After the diagonals are complete, the holes are covered up with an attractive stitch.