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
8 thoughts on “Tape, Tacks and Straw”
Having lived in New Orleans for about 11 years, I know that dried Spanish moss was a common material used in stuffing for such purposes as you describe. Whether the Shakers in Kentucky had access to Spanish moss or not, I don’t know. I do know it grows from the Gulf Coast to as far north as Virginia in areas with humidity.
Funny how all those old clothes shrink!
You have that too? great line “an old shirt that had shrunk while hanging in my closet.”
Pretty sure it is a problem with the closet itself, everything seems to shrink after it has been in there awhile!
A friend of mine blamed his wife for shrinking his clothes in the laundry. She then asked him to explain why it was only his clothes that seemed to shrink and everyone else’s fit just fine. I think he might have had the same closet issue.
Very nicely done.
Nice color choices too.
Thanks for an interesting post Will. I must admit that I didn’t know about stuffing bags before. Some good information.
I also loved the picture of the seat stuffing crew in action. Clearly the beagle is supervising.
Is there anything you need to do to treat the stuffing if using straw, etc.?
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