My mom found these solid, lovely shaker style stools on Craigslist for an amazingly low price… because the seats were white, and very dirty. She tried hosing them down to clean the seats, but to no avail! The next time I visited, she said, “Claire, I have a project for you!” And it was a project- an involved, finger achingly long project. But oh so satisfying. And the results were totally worth it.
Basically, I unwove the seats and re-wove them with new, clean, green shaker tape.
I ordered new shaker tape from this website, which was about $35/chair. A chair maker friend recommended I buy 20 yds of 1 inch tape.
He also said, in an email, “They are woven in shaker tape which is woven cotton cloth you can buy for $30 a chair. It’s a simple over under pattern. Do the warp first just wrapping it back to front starting at the back left and then when you start the weft, you do like a wrap around the back rail and go onto the side rail and work your way to the front going back and forth till you get to the front. Then I use these things surgeons use for sewing sutures that look like long needle nose pliers. You pull the tape along and tuck it in when you are done. If it’s a trapezoid and not square, you can weave a row on the sides going to the back from the front and tuck it in. Also, a cushion can be woven in midway. I make an envelope and fill it with shavings from the chair I’ve made. It is firm. You can also write a letter to the future about yourself or whatever. I do this.”
This website also had extremely helpful directions.
I used needle nose pliers to pull out the staples holding the shaker tape in place, making drawings to document how it was put together as I took them apart. It turned out that there was a piece of foam in the middle of all the weaving, so I put it back in place as I rewove the new seat.
I measured out new lengths of shaker tape against the old, un-woven tape. Finally, I carefully rewove the seats with the new tape, putting the cushion back in place between the two layers. I rewove both the top of the seat and its underside to make sure the seat would stay tightly woven for years to come. My dad had some tiny tacks that I used in place of the original upholstery staples to hold the ends of the tape. It took me a few weeks of evenings to finish all three stools.
Every time I come home I love to sit on these stools. I’m really proud of how they turned out. I will certainly be enjoying them when I visit my parents for Thanksgiving this week.
For anyone interested in more on chair-making, my friend doesn’t have a website, but another chair maker he likes has a blog here.