I recently purchased a No. 5 Mt. Lebanon Shaker rocker that was in need of a new seat and back. I have done a few woven-tape seats in the past; it is pretty easy work and kind of fun. One thing that I had not tried previously was a proper stuffing bag that is sandwiched between the tape layers. The modern solution is to use a piece of foam. This is quite alright and works perfectly. Just something about putting a piece of foam in a 120+-year-old chair seems wrong.
On my last trip to Hancock Shaker Village I measured and photographed two of the chair stuffing bags preserved in its collection. One was stuffed with straw, the other had two layers of old quilt inside. Stuffing bags have been documented with wood shavings, horsehair and cotton stuffing. Another thing that was cool is they were made of scrap fabric that was machine-stitched together. Some of the pieces had traces of hand stitching that had been cut loose. These were probably remnants of old clothing.
Making the bag is pretty simple. The main part is the size of the inside of the seat frame with an extra 4″ tacked to the edges that glue to the seat rungs. I used some cheap cotton muslin and an old shirt that had shrunk while hanging in my closet.
After sewing the perimeter of three sides, the bag was stuffed full of straw and then the fourth side was sewn shut.
A thin skim of hide glue holds the bags in place. The seat weave goes over the bags. When complete, the bags are completely hidden.
— Will Myers