Chair seating with cane, rush, willow or cord with Rachael South

Basketmaking, chair seating and willow work

Ref: SLW11195

Join waiting list

Course full - scroll down for other

About this course

Learn traditional chair seating techniques including handling materials, weaving and the finishing process. Bring a chair or stool to re-seat in one of the materials listed.

Course Description

Traditional chair seating, with either cane, rush, willow or cord, will be taught depending on projects brought. It is preferable that you bring your own chairs, but if this is not possible, stools for rushing and small practice frames for caning may be purchased at West Dean College, provided these are pre-ordered and the tutor is informed two weeks in advance (please email

The course aims to give a good grounding in whichever seating technique you choose, to explain the stages of this work and the methods of preparing and handling the materials. Beginners may complete one rush dining chair, or complete/partially complete one caned bedroom chair during the course, or reach a stage where they can easily finish at home. You will be given demonstrations and instructions for the final techniques if necessary.

Caning: the six-way standard method of caning will be taught unless you prefer to learn another pattern, for the purpose of matching with a set etc. As time permits, other patterns can be practised on sample frames, if desired.

Rushing: rush will be used to give the traditional English rush chair seat pattern unless the chair has been worked previously in another way. Continental patterns may be woven if appropriate.

Other seats: Danish cord, seagrass or willow can be used for seating provided that the tutor is contacted beforehand (please email

If you are bringing chairs to work on it is essential that the chair structure is in sound condition and you do the necessary preparatory work before the course – see below. Should you need to contact the tutor please email via the bookings office.

On the first evening we will assess the chairs or stools brought in by students and look at the materials we will be using over the weekend.


Arrival Day - this is the first date listed above

Courses start early evening. Residential students to arrive from 4pm, non-residential students to arrive by 6.45pm.

6.45pm: Welcome, followed by dinner (included).

8 - 9pm: First teaching session, attendance is essential.

Daily timetable

Classes 9.15 - 5pm, lunch is included.

From 6.30pm: Dinner (included for residential students).

Evening working - students may have access to workshops, but only with their tutor's permission and provided any health and safety guidelines are observed.

Last day

Classes 9.15am - 3pm, lunch is included.

Residential students are to vacate their rooms by 10am please.

(This timetable is for courses of more than one day in length. The tutor may make slight variations)

Course Materials


  • On this course the College will supply all of the materials for completing one seat in either cane, rush or willow, (and cord, providing it is requested well in advance – see below)

What students need to bring

  • If you are bringing your own chairs, the chair frame should be repaired, polished or painted before coming to the course, as this cannot be done easily after the cane or rush is woven in. The tutor can offer advise for the frame preparation on the course, but it is better to have this done before the course, as follows:
  • For caning: the old cane should be cleared from the frames by cutting the cane strands underneath, and knocking out the pegs from the underside. If it is found that some pegs have been glued in, they should be drilled out with a small hand drill, taking great care not to damage the wood. Cut the old cane sheet as close to the frame as possible and bring this to the course.
  • For rush seats: the old seat should be cut off carefully and brought to the course, in case it is an unusual pattern which is to be replaced. This should be done by cutting down just inside the seat frame and easing the seat downwards. This may reveal necessary repair to the frame.
  • To ensure the smooth running of the course, please contact the tutor as soon as possible if you have any queries and to let her know which materials you require so these can be ordered. Please email and include your name, course title, and course dates, ideally include a digital image of your seat.
  • Please bring as many of the following as you have available:
  • Cane chair seating:
  • Chair for caning
  • Stanley/similar sharp craft knife with a narrow blade, or a good penknife
  • Mallet or small hammer
  • Sponge/small piece of towelling
  • Notebook and pencil
  • Pair of scissors for cutting cane or side cutters
  • A clearer (if possible), i.e. punch with diameter smaller than the holes drilled in the chair (can be made by sawing off the end of a screwdriver or 3" nail)
  • Small stool (optional) for student's comfort whilst working
  • A cushion
  • Spectacles (if worn)
  • Rush seating:
  • Chair for re-seating
  • An old flannelette blanket/old bedspread/piece of sacking of a similar size, for wrapping up damp rushes
  • Scissors for cutting rush
  • J-cloth/flannel or piece of rag
  • Small stool (optional) for student's comfort whilst working
  • Small ball of soft string
  • A cushion
  • 1 or 2 spring clothes pegs
  • Stuffing stick, wooden spoon or wooden kitchen spatula
  • Please wear covered footwear in the workshop – this is an essential health and safety requirement.
  • For other types of cord chair I can advise individually on tools and equipment to bring.
  • N.B. Tools may also be borrowed from the tutor. Standard cane and rush is supplied for one seat of your choice.

Available to buy

  • Available from shop:
  • Contact the College Shop if you wish to order a stool for rushing or practice frame for caning, at least two weeks in advance – they can also advise the cost. Telephone 01243 818231


Rachael South

Rachael South was taught chair caning by her father who had also learned from his father. She has been teaching for eight years and has original woven furniture on display at the Museum of London and is a member of the Basketmakers Association and a Yeoman of the Worshipful Company of Basketmakers.


Residential option available. Find out accommodation costs and how to book here.

Courses of interest

Sign-up to be the first to know

Sign up to our Short Course enews to hear about new courses, late availability and get creative inspiration delivered straight to your inbox.