You’ve probably seen the Beanbag Chair from T-shirts here. And you can always renew the seat cover of a chair with T-shirt fabric following the tutorial here (stay tuned for an actual T-shirt one soon!). But in this T-shirt rescue, I did a modern take on traditional chair caning (or, rather, weaving with a wicker-like material called “paper rush“). I was obviously inspired by the original pattern, but wanting to take it in a new direction!
On a rainy Sunday in May, Build It Green! NYC (@bignyc) drew all sorts if creative types to Gowanus, Brooklyn for Krrb’s (@krrbsale) second annual DIY Chair Workshop. Sponsored by Alabama Chanin (the sustainable, slow fashion outfit in Alabama, @alabamachanin), as part of #makeshift2013, Build It Green gathered up its collection of discarded and beat-up chairs for us to renew.
-Structurally sound old wooden chair
-Lots of 3-4″-wide T-shirt fabric scraps (cut horizontally across the T-shirt for maximum stretch)
1. Find a chair whose seat is crumbling (note the packing tape holding it together!), but has framework that is still in good shape.
2. Clip off the seat (and peel away all the tape). Use the prongs of the hammer to pry out any nails left in the bars of the seat. Set them aside and note, as you deconstruct the seat, how they were used in the original construction.
3. Cut the T-shirt scraps into 3″- to 4″-wide strips (as long as the scraps allow) and loop them together by cutting a small hole in each end and weaving one through the other (sort of like a cow hitch knot). Stretch the “yarn” out and wrap the end into a ball to make the weaving more manageable. (Though I found, to really make it workable, I wove a length, then added more, then wove, then added more — if the tail of yarn is too long, it does get cumbersome.)
4. Wrap one end of the yarn tightly around one of the bars of the chair seat. Use the nails you pulled out in step 2 (and the existing holes, if possible), and hammer them back in, securing the fabric in place. Starting in one corner, weave the yarn around two bars on a diagonal, crossing them in the middle in a sort of figure-eight. I went almost halfway across the seat, making sure to pull the yarn taut as I went, and then started a new length of T-shirt scrap yarn from the opposite corner.
5. Once I had tightly woven the yarn from the two opposite sides (leaving a gap in the middle), I started again at one of the open corners and “stitched” up the gap separating the two sections by cross-weaving into the sections. (I also had the brilliant idea of moving my chair onto one of the work tables so I could stretch out my back a little!)
6. Tie and then thread the ends of the weaving into the inside of the chair seat. There will be some rough edges where the scraps were pieced together — embrace the texture of it!
The workshop was amazingly fun. Amy Devers of A&E’s “Fix This Yard” was on hand to help out — she and Natalie reworked a whole bench (see Natalie at work on it below). I met Kay Gardiner (you knitters might recognize her from her popular books), who learned how to wield a power drill (see her in action below, too!) to refashion her chair. I met Stacey of Patternix knit design studio — who kindly helped me finish my chair after her woven knit creation was done. Many of the completed chairs are now available in an online silent auction on Krrb (we adopted mine!). So, go bid on your favorite! All proceeds support Build It Green NYC (New York City’s only non-profit retail outlet for salvaged and surplus building materials).
UPDATE 6/18/13: There’s a video!