The manufacture of cane furniture in England may be said to be in its infancy, but it is a remarkably nourishing infant. Formerly it was impossible to get really good cane-work except that which was imported from Germany or Austria. The manufacture of this furniture in England began in this way. A certain man, who was then carrying on the business of a bookseller in the North, was asked by a relative where he could get a good cane chair for his billiard-room. The reply was that they were " made in Germany " and Austria alone. Purely for amusement, this man then designed a chair and had it made. Then a small business was started with a couple of men. At this time (1911) fifty men are employed.
As is the case with so many manufactured goods, it is now possible to get in the best quality article something cheaper than that which is produced abroad. This means that the trade should come wholly into the hands of our own countrymen ; for the best cane-work is undoubtedly the best choice in every sense.
There is no doubt that with fair treatment cane wears admirably. It has several very great advantages over wicker. First of all, it does not get out of shape in the same way. It does not creak, and it is infinitely more picturesque. No one could claim this qualification for anything in wicker. Lovely as the scarlet and yellow osier is in its natural state, growing on marshy ground, or even being carried heaped on a cart through a London street, as the writer recently saw it, when twisted into a chair and varnished it is far from pleasing to the critical eye.
This chair is a copy of the Dutch beach chair. On account of its shape, it serves admirably as a wind screen
Cane chairs are very different. Nothing could be more pleasing to the artistic sense than a few of them grouped on a grassy lawn. It is, of course, the natural coloured cane to which reference is being made. When this came into use a few years ago the public were rather slow to grasp its beauties. But taste improves. People were accustomed to the dead white of the bleached cane and complained that the natural colour looked dirty. The beautiful soft tones of this are now fully appreciated, as well as the way in which they harmonise with the surrounding greenery of a garden. There is also a rougher make of cane for special garden furniture that is well liked. This is made up into the most delightfully shaped chairs with projecting arms, high backs, or hoods especially planned to exclude draughts on a windy day, One of these chairs is an exact copy of the Dutch beach chair which is used at sea-coast places in Holland. This cane is particularly strong, and a chair made - one should, perhaps, say well made - of it will practically never wear out.
A cane lounge chair is ideal for garden use. It has an adjustable back, and it is more convenient if the leg-rest slides underneath. One excellent design of this character has little wings at the top somewhat like a grand father's chair. The cavity in one of the large arms for holding books and papers is also very delightful, while the other arm makes a convenient table, which is specially desirable in the garden on account of the risk of putting a book down on grass that may be damp. A chair of this kind in the best quality may be bought for £3 15s.
Then there are innumerable odd-shaped chairs with titles as poetical as their shapes are picturesque. These quaint titles form a delightful way of differentiating between the various types, and they generally convey some definite idea of their extreme comfort as, for instance, in "Traveller's Joy," "Guest's Welcome," "Sluggard's Lure."
The weaving also seems to allow for infinite variety, a fact which will be gathered from a glance at our illustrations. One of the secrets of success' in the making of these chairs depends on the way in which this weaving is carried out. Some workers stop abruptly at a side support, and then begin again. But it is essential to try to have the lines running round the back of the chair. The former method shows. a lack of taste in design. If all the lines fit nicely it gives an effect of restfulness that is c h a r a cteristic of good design. One great advantage of these chairs is that, because they are really artistic and of excellent workmanship, they are just as useful indoors as out of doors.
A cane tea-table is one of the nicest things possible. It is very strong, yet light to move about. Then, too, it needs no table-cover, which is a great convenience, as cups are far more apt to get upset in the garden, and in any case a tablecloth has an irritating fashion of blowing up at the corners in a wind.
A cane cake-stand also is both pretty and practical, as well as a little table-stool for odd cups and saucers. Then for damp days what could be better than a footstool of cane, for carpet-covered hassocks are totally unsuitable for the purpose. There is no doubt that anyone who has a garden may well consider the advisability of furnishing it with cane.