I realise that this post is a little different to anything that I usually talk about, but when I recently wanted to restore an old damaged peacock chair there was very little information out there to give me any inspiration, so I thought I would write a few words about how I went about it.
For those here for the sewing, normal service will be resumed after this!
My love for Peacock Chairs started way back in the late 70’s. I was obsessed with the whole cane/rattan/wicker vibe at that time and one Christmas I received the most adorable peacock chair (which barely fit in my little shoe box of a bedroom), but I ADORED IT. It felt like a throne!
Fast forward 40ish years and one day as I was out on my walk, I noticed a dirty old peacock chair thrown on it’s side in a pile of what looked like rubbish at the end of someone’s driveway. Each time for several weeks if I took that route I would look at the chair and feel a little sad that it was left out in the rain with all the other rubbish. I mentioned it to my husband (as I had been on the hunt for a peacock chair for quite some time prior to this – but not one that needed anything doing to it), and he suggested that we could ask the home owner if they were looking to sell it. I hadn’t thought of a restoration project at that point. Of course when he said ‘we’, it was of course ‘him’ that contacted the house owner, and amazingly they said that we could just take it away, they didn’t want any money, as they didn’t want it any more!
Stunned by their generosity, we collected the chair and had the chance to take a look at it’s condition. Luckily enough it seemed fairly solid and stable, and apart from it being very dirty and having a little bit of damage here and there, it actually wasn’t too bad. It’s technically a princess chair size ( approx 112cm tall), which is ideal for smaller rooms/areas so this was perfect for the corner of our house that I had in mind for it.
Before anything it needed a really good clean. After giving it a drenching with the hose I set about giving it a really good scrub all over, inside and out, with a water and bleach mix (50/50) with a splash of washing up liquid for good measure. I couldn’t believe how well this cleaned it off, and after a final rinse it was left outside for the rest of the day to dry. That evening we brought it inside in the warm to completely dry, over the next couple of days.
It was now possible to give it a really thorough once over and decide what needed to be done to get this beauty looking like a peacock again.
Whilst the main area of concern visually was obviously the binding around the chair, the structure needed a little attention too. The chair legs were a little bit damaged and loose where they and been bound together at the bottom originally and just held in place on the base with one rusty nail. We made the bases of these legs more solid again by using a syringe filled with expoxy resin to bind the reeds together again into one solid mass, and when dry we were able to drill and screw these legs in place so that they felt nice and solid.
The reed binding was damaged pretty much around every part of the chair. It all needed to be stripped off, damaged or otherwise, and re-wrapped. After A LOT of internet searching I eventually discovered that the original buri binding cannot be bought and so I needed to find an alternative. As the original reed binding was very thin and flat I thought that some sort of raffia might do the trick, and look pretty cool too. I tried natural raffia but this of course varies in width and I couldn’t get a neat finish on it, and I tried raffia yarn but this didn’t look right either. I was open to any type of finish and tried all sorts of craft items that I had at home too, including natural twine string, t-shirt yarn, floral bias binding, macrame cord and knitting yarn. I wasn’t happy with any of it.
Finally I admitted defeat in that I couldn’t find anything a little bit cute and quirky to re-wrap my chair and came upon a lovely business called The Cane Store, where I was helpfully advised that I needed lapping or binding cane. They had two types .. a ‘half glossy lapping cane’ which has a glossy finish and comes from the outer skin of the cane, and a ‘centre cane lapping’ which comes from the centre of the cane and is more natural looking, does not have that gloss finish, and the edges are a little ‘hairy’. The width and depth of these strips were perfect (approx 5-6mm wide and 1mm thick), and I bought a 12′ strip of each so that I could try them both and compare.
I much preferred the natural look of the centre cane and this is what I went for. It is sold in weight and I had no idea how to guess how much I would need for the whole project. I went for 0.5kg which was £19.50 and I probably used half of it.
The cane becomes pliable after soaking in water, and I found that I really enjoyed the process of wrapping the chair. Whilst removing the old reed I could kind of see how they had folded/knotted it to attach new pieces. I tried to use this technique and think I managed it – it’s all still in place anyway! It’s a very time consuming job but pop on a podcast for company and you’re good to go.
Every few inches or so around the edges of the chair there is a small black design which I wanted to keep. It’s just two strips of black plastic which is woven in and out of the binding. It can be a bit slippery to weave into the binding so I just held mine in place with a small strip of masking tape as I worked the design into my wrapping.
At the joints you need to be a little bit creative with your wrapping to create a criss-cross pattern. I found at these areas it was also helpful to squeeze a little pva glue in too (which of course dries clear) just to hold things in place.
Once finished I wanted to add a little personal touch and a nod to my love of crochet. I purchased this cotton yarn in the colour Limestone, and crocheted a scallop border all around the edge of the chair. I love how it turned out. To do this I created a foundation row around the edge of the chair, and then used a simple crochet stitch like this one here, to add the scallop edge to that chain. I think I used approx 1.5 balls of this yarn. The chair is approx 112 cm tall for your info.
Finally I made a cushion by purchasing some upholstery foam and made a quick zipped cover for it using some natural coloured fabric that I had in my stash.
Ta dah! Hope you liked this different post from me, every now and again I like to mention other crafty things that I get up to.
Beautiful kitten modelling from Bella de la Flouff, our sweet little Scottish Fold kitty. I was terrified that she would want to pull this apart with her razor sharp nails, but she has barely shown any interest in it at all. Phew! Shame the same can’t be said for our sofa. #ruined
I’m not an expert (as you can probably tell) by any means, and I know it’s not perfect, but I wanted to share with you what I did in this situation, right or wrong. Please do leave a comment below if you have any other recommendations or tips for peacock chair restoration in the comments below, so that we can all benefit from more information. Thank you x
Take care and I’ll be back soon,
Kathy x @sew_dainty