The use of rushes for the seating of chairs, settees, etc., is gradually gaining favor in the public taste, and although a large number of people are erroneously of opinion that this class of work is a modern idea, it is, in reality, an old style revived.
Morning-room suites and bedroom chairs are, perhaps, the most favored kinds of furniture upon which rushes are used, although occasional chairs are often found nowadays with this class of seat. The form or pattern of rushing appears to be made up of four sections, each of which, in the case of a square seat, appears to come to a point in the center, and in a rectangular shape, presents a pointed appearance in the two side sections, and a flat edge in the case of the front and back sections, although in reality the whole of the work is one piece, the divisional lines being formed in the process of weaving. The material used is of various kinds, the most common being ordinary rushes, which are greenish brown in color, and are very strong. In the more high classwork fancy grasses are often used, these being covered with a fine strand of color, which gives the work the appearance of having been seated with a fancy cord.
Success depends entirely upon the evenness and shape worked up, as the actual weaving is extremely simple. The legs of chairs to be rushed project from 1/4 to 1/2 in. from the level of the seat rails, and it is usual, although not absolutely necessary, to run a bead of polished 1/8-in. wood from leg to leg on the outside edge of the chair frame, such bead being run over the rush. This course, besides forming a pleasing finish to the outside edge of the seat, precludes the possibility of the rush shifting by constant use. Where the common rushes are used they should be steeped in water before being used as, being brittle, when dry they will not stand the amount of handling necessary unless so treated.
In Fig. 1 we have a diagram of a square seat frame, showing the method of weaving the rushes; and although, for purposes of illustration, the strands are represented as being loose, they are, of course, in actual practice kept close to the framework. Before entering into the details of the weaving, it will be well to mention that whenever the rushes run on the top of
the seat they have to be twisted into the form of rope, such twisting being done as the rush is brought to the surface. Although at first this operation may prove somewhat difficult to accomplish, as the worker gains dexterity with his fingers he will find it quite easy.
Where the chair frame has to be repaired or polished, this should be carried out before the rushing is done, but in polished work the final spiriting can be left with advantage until the seat is filled in.
The chair and rushes being ready, a start can now be made in the direction of the weaving, and during the working of the initial stages it will be well to make a careful study of Fig. 1. On the inside of rail A fix, by means of short clouts, the free end of apiece of rush; carry same under D, close to the leg, and bring up on the top of this rail; at this point the twisting has to be done, but as this process has already been mentioned further reference will not be necessary. Now run the material under rail A, bring out on top, and take it right across to the underneath of rail B, coming over the rail and thence to under B. The rush now comes over D, and right across to C, where the under-and-over process should be repeated, and the stuff taken round the left-hand side of B. From here we run to A, and back to C again, another long run being taken
to D; and the same process is continued from rail to rail until the whole of the seat is filled in. As the seat is covered the long strands are hidden from view, although, of course, part of them form a certain portion of the top surface. In Fig. 2 we give a copy of Fig. 1 with a quantity of rushing done.
In practice it will be found that chair seats are often more or less rectangular in shape, and that when the sides are filled in there is an open gap in the center of the seat, running from back to front which cannot be filled in according to foregoing instructions. At this point, which for convenience, we will presume is where the rush has come over D and is returned to the underneath of A, Fig. 1, a different form of weaving has to be brought into requisition. Ascertain the center of the long strands, and pass the rush over the rail A and right through the center of the seat; run it underneath to rail B, bring up to the top, continue to the center and take through to the underneath. Run it over A and thence through to the bottom, coming over the back and up to the surface again, continuing this process until the whole of the remaining open portion of the seat is filled in, see Fig.
2. It will be seen that we have now got the rushes from center of seat to back, and also from center to front. Were the seat composed of rush only, it would not be possible to work up any sort of shape in the sections; and in order to get over this difficulty, a small quantity of flock or, what is better, the "rugging" used by upholsterers, is packed between the layers of rush from time to time as the seat is filled in. In packing the seat up. care should be taken to obtain a good
" sweep," the highest point being in the center of the sections. Where joints have to be madein the material, they can be made either by tying the ends of the rush together, or by tucking between tightened strands; but if the latter course is adopted care should be taken to ensure their being securely fastened.
Where shaped seats are to be rushed, it will generally be found that they work up without any particular difficulty, and should the back get filled up before the front, work the rush a bit tighter on the back rail. The seats of armchairs and settees, although larger in size than those of standard chairs, are worked up in the same manner, although rather more " swell " can be allowed when inserting the stuffing material.
A very pretty and effective material for rushing is that known as Canary cane, which is imported into this country from Madeira. It is of the fashionable biscuit or yellowish ecru color, and looks remarkably effective in combination with a dark mahogany or ebonized framework. In working this cane, great care should be taken to see that it is made thoroughly pliable by soaking before it is used . Do not use the cane too thick, and see that the surface is not dirtied or damaged in working up. Fine manilla rope is another material which is utilized for rushing seats, and although, correctly speaking, this is not rushing, it forms a very good seat, but has to be thoroughly well packed between the surfaces with rugging, as there is not nearly so much resistance in this material. Where long lengths of stuff are used, it will be found much more convenient to wind it round a stick so as to do away with the pulling of the whole length through every time a turn is made.
There is another pattern of rushing which, although not very largely favored, is sometimes used, the surface of which, being made up of crossed strands of material, presents a chequered appearance. The seat having been freed of the old rush, run a series of fairly loose strands from side to side of the chair seat, taking them first over the top, and then underneath until the whole of the seat is filled in one way. In putting on these first strands it will be necessary to fix them at each end on the outside edge of the seat rails, otherwise they will get mixed up and be difficult to work. Keep the underneath rushes fairly tight, as it will not be necessary to lace these as much as those on top.
The next step is to put in another series of strands running from back to front of seat, and to do this we shall require the services of a wooden needle, which can be made from a piece of boxwood about 7x1/2x1/8 in. thick. Fig. 4 shows shape of needle. The second lot of rush will have to be laced as it is put in. Start from the front and, with the aid of the needle, thread the material over four of the loose strands, under the next four, and so on, until the back is reached. Now pull tight and work up to the side framing, and thread the rush through one or two of the under strands when bringing it back to the front from the underneath of seat. Four rows in all of rushing should be run in, and then another four running opposite to the last set; that is to say, where the rushes ran under strands, put them over and vice versa. Every time four strands are put in alter the lacing and so continue until the whole of the seat is filled in. Care should be taken in putting in the side-to-side strands that they are left loose enough to admit of lacing, as this process takes up a goodly quantity of rush, and if it is too tight it will break before the seat is finished, owing to over pulling.-" The Woodworker," London.