Expert Tips for Using Cane Webbing, the Hot DIY Material You’re Seeing Everywhere

published Apr 26, 2021
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Mid-century console half-covered by cane webbing

If there’s one item that seems to be everywhere these days, it’s cane webbing. This natural, woven material is currently on the face of remodeled dressers, the backs of stylish chairs, and the surfaces of trendy headboards, popping up in minimalist and maximalist designs alike. Cane webbing is the type of old-school detail that happens to suddenly feel fresh, and perhaps the reason behind this trend is simple: It has the capacity to make furnishings look sophisticated yet comfortable, the perfect pairing.

Now that the weather is heating up, it’s the perfect moment to actually give this look a try. After all, cane webbing embodies the feel of a laid-back getaway, even if you’re only going as far as your living area. 

The best part about cane webbing — other than its ability to brighten up any corner of a room — is that it’s especially worthwhile for those who don’t have an outdoor space. Its breezy material can accommodate any level of DIY experience, too, whether you’re using it to adorn a tray for post-work snacks or placing it on the front of a console for TV storage. So, what do you need to know about cane webbing to get started? Here are five DIYers with the answer to that and your other burning cane questions.

What is cane webbing, and what can you use it for?

Like its name describes, cane webbing is a woven material within the wicker family that has traditionally been used to repair the seats of chairs. These days, cane webbing can be integrated into almost any project as a design element, from side tables and armoires to pendants and vases. 

DIYer Stephanie Donica, who has worked with cane webbing on multiple projects, says, “I just love the look of it. My personal style is inspired by mid-century and bohemian design, so caning and other natural elements fit in perfectly. It’s also very on-trend right now.” She has used cane webbing on larger pieces but never wastes the leftovers — Donica has even used scraps for napkin holders.

Credit: redrowludlow

How do you get started using cane webbing?

The secret some DIYers don’t know is that cane webbing needs to soak before it’s malleable enough to work with, otherwise it’s too stiff and brittle to use. Donica lets the material sit for 15 to 20 minutes in warm water before she starts a project. If it’s still stiff after that, then she lets it soak a bit longer—but not too long, otherwise the cane webbing might turn gray.

“It tightens a bit as it dries,” Donica says. “That can be helpful when doing projects, so that it doesn’t sag or look too loose.”

As you cut into the material, remember that you’ll need an adhesive to keep the edges clean. “The webbing frays easily when cut, so it needs to be glued or secured to something. For example, I put a thin line of clear glue around the outer edges of my cane napkin rings to hold them together and prevent them from fraying,” Donica says.

Tiana Walter, interior designer and DIY blogger, secures her edges with staples. (She recently redid some IKEA Tarva dressers with cane webbing, chronicling her process along the way.) Walter also advises people to pay attention to whether they are working with the “finished” or “unfinished” side of cane webbing, as they are easy to mix up. Making sure the finished side is facing outwards will give your project the pro look you’re after.

OK, but where do I get it?

There are plenty of outposts that sell cane webbing — including Amazon, where Donica shops — for a range of prices. Walter purchases hers through a Southern California store, Frank’s Cane and Rush Supply, which also ships orders. She recommends the site because of its wide selection. Recently, she paid $40 for a panel that’s 18 inches wide and 5 feet long.

Davin Jaime, Hawaii-based custom furniture designer and founder of The Splinter Concept, used to get his materials at WoodCraft (where you can also conveniently buy this Chair Caning Kit), but he now buys his products directly from Asia. “I love working with cane webbing because it brings a whole new texture to my projects, and I also find that it brings flashbacks of an older time period,” he says. He recommends DIYers check Online Fabric Store and Etsy to purchase the material as well.

And lastly, DIYer Jessica Howard purchased her cane from Seat Weaving Supplies and used it to make a DIY radiator cover with a bold-yet-classic twist. In other words, the shopping options for cane webbing equal its versatility in projects. 

Credit: redrowludlow

Can I paint or stain cane webbing?

Your cane webbing project may not absorb paint and stain as well as wood or other more porous materials, but it can still be done. “I would probably stay away from paint if it will be used on a chair, as the cane material is slightly elastic and paint may chip more easily than it would on other surfaces,” Donica says. “Staining doesn’t typically work too well, either, as caning has a bit of a glossy finish on the top, unlike wood.” 

If you’re set on using a color rather than keeping it in a natural state, it’s possible to shop for pre-dyed cane. And if you want to attempt a stain, Jaime recommends Minwax Wood Stains. He says the secret is to stain the cane webbing after you soak the material but before you install it.

What other tricks can I try?

Besides stapling the cane in place, Jaime taught himself to install cane webbing through a “dado and spline” technique. “It’s where you make a channel in the furniture and pound the cane and spline in like a screen window. That’s how I do most of my projects, from headboards to drawer fronts,” he says.

To do this, Jaime uses a piece of wood and sets the depth of his saw so it doesn’t go completely through it, but rather makes a channel for a dado. “I cut my pieces to be like a picture frame so that all the dadoes and corners match up,” he explains. “Then I take my cane, lay it flat, and push it into the channels. I put glue on it and then put in the spline.” After it dries, the piece is ready to be admired.

You can also take a step back and try a much more beginner-friendly approach: glue. For projects where you want the look of cane but don’t care if there’s a backing, you can glue the edges of the material to the face of your project (for example, drawer fronts). Gluing or nailing trim to frame the outside helps hide the rough edges of the cane material. This method can be achieved with zero power tools but still plays up the breezy, vintagey feel of cane.