Simple Danish ‘planflet’ weaving produces eyecatching results.
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Danish paper cord is three-ply, twisted paper, a strong material that Hans Wegner used on his now-classic CH25 lounge chair – a piece that inspired my chair. In the last issue (June 2017, #232), I showed you how to make the frame and hardware; here, I go step by step through weaving the “planflet” (flat-weave) pattern for the seat and back – it’s a simple pattern, and easy for even a weaving novice.
Before I begin, here’s an overview. Weaving is done in two directions. The first is the “warp,” which in this case consists of double strands of cord that stretch from the front to the back rails. These are spaced apart along each rail by four or five wraps of cord around each respective rail. The second is the “weave,” which fills in the pattern. It consists of double strands of cord that travel from side to side while alternating over and under the “warp.”
I should mention that weaving is like the proverbial cat: there’s more than one way to skin it. I can think of at least four ways I’ve gone about achieving this same pattern over the years, but this is the simplest. (It is not, however, the most efficient – so after you’ve gained some experience, try other approaches!)
Let’s start with the seat. To allow free access all around the frame for weaving, I cantilever it over the workbench edge while securing the legs to the benchtop with a light-duty ratchet strap. Because the legs are curved, it’s helpful to place a block of wood underneath to orient the frame at a nice working level. I use a packing blanket as a pad between them.
Just as in the frame build, patterns guide the way for weaving. Danish paper cord is an oddball in the measurement world. It is thicker than 1⁄8” but not quite 9⁄64“. It doesn’t have an exact metric equivalent, either. Because a typical woven rail would have well more than 100 widths of cord, even 1⁄100” per cord variation in the layout can put you considerably off.
That said, I’ve included patterns that will help you get the warp layout right on for this build. To make a nice durable template, print them out, adhere them to posterboard with spray adhesive, apply clear packing tape over the patterns and cut them out.
The warp cords that extend from the front rail to the back rail are hooked around L-shaped nails located on the inside of the rail.
Place the Front Seat Rail Warp Pattern against the inside of the rail and, with an awl, prick the center of each nail location. Now drill a 1⁄16” pilot hole for each nail. Drive the nails in partway, leaving about 3⁄8” out on the back rail and 1⁄4” out on the front rail. These can be driven in farther as needed once the seat is woven.
You’ll need a 10-pound spool of cord to complete this project (see Supplies). Spool off about 60′ to work with. I measure this by taking the cord in one hand and stretching my arms apart while holding the other end. For me, this length is approximately 6′ (equal to my height), so I do that 10 times. It’s a simple way of approximating cord length. This cord amount is helpful especially when doing the weaving portion, so that your knots will land in the right location without much waste – but more on that later.
The first step of the warp pattern is to wrap the cord around each rail. There’s no cord going from one rail to the other at this point; that comes in the next step. To get the proper spacing, use the warp pattern; the shaded areas are where the cord is to land. Place the pattern on the rail and with a pencil mark off where these shaded areas start and stop to use as a guide.
In the front corner where you begin, place a small tack to hook your cord around for securing it to the frame. See the “Tack it” photo above. Then wrap the cord over about 1″ to 11⁄2” of the loose end to hold the cord in place.
Wrap the cord around the rail five times (pull it taut, but don’t strain it) and space over approximately two cords’ width; the cord nail should land right between the space you leave (allowing room for two cords’ width to land there later). Notice in the photos above that the cord angles over to the next space just under the nail. Wrap around the rail five more times. Repeat, but wrapping only four times each as you move across from here – until you reach the last two wraps. There, you’ll again wrap five times.
Continue the cord under and up to the back rail as shown at top right. Wrap five times through the slot, then space over two cord’s widths. The next wrap will again be a total of five, however, only three of those passes go through the slot; the remaining two wrap around the entire rail. Continue on with the same pattern to match the front rail (four passes from here until you reach the other end).
Once you’ve reached the opposite side you are ready to begin the second phase of the warp. Place a cord nail near the inside corner of the slot as shown above. Loop the cord under the nail and over to the adjacent nail, then bring the cord up and back through the slot. Bring it over the top of the rail and toward the front rail. This begins the second phase of the warp pattern.
With the cord coming over the top of the rail, align it so that it falls into the gaps from phase 1. At the corresponding gap on the front rail, bring it over and wrap under to the inside. Loop the cord over the nail and bring it back under and to the front. Continue over the top of the rail, falling in the remaining gap and continue to the back rail. Likewise, align the cord in the same remaining space on the back rail and bring the cord through the slot. Loop the cord back over the nail directly below the gap as before, then bring it over to the adjacent nail to the left but go over the top of this nail and down.
Now repeat. Bring the cord back around the rear rail in the gap, over the top of the rail and to the front. Wrap around the front rail, hook on the nail and return to the rear rail. Land the cord in the remaining gap while wrapping around the rail, hook onto the nail and carry it over to the adjacent nail to the left. And keep repeating until you reach the other side.
You might notice that the cord now returns via the route it came, over and over. Therefore, you can just pull a loop of cord from the rear rail to the front rail’s nail instead of carrying the entire bundle of cord through the process. In fact, when you add more cord just work directly from the spool if you prefer. Either way works just fine.
When you reach the opposite slot, catch the nail just below it and go up and in through the slot rather than down to the underside of the rail. Complete the route to the front rail as before, but when returning come back through the slot and hook the cord on the nail directly below the slot.
In order to secure the end of the cord, place a cord nail in the corner along the same line as the other nails. Just get it started a little ways in. Now extend the cord over to this nail and note its distance.
Tie a knot in the cord at this point. Hook the nail through two of the cord plies and drive the nail in farther to tension the cord securely.
Get Your Weave On
To complete the seat, you’ll weave a double strand of cord from left to right. This double strand will wrap around the weaving bars on either side of the seat as you go from side to side.
Measure off about 12 arm lengths of cord (or 72′). Bring both ends together and double it over so that there is a loop at one end. Take the loop and bring it over one of the weaving bars. Draw the two loose ends through this loop so that it is now tied around the bar.
Bring the looped cord up and around the side of the frame and over to the top of the seat. Begin by going under the first set of warp strands then alternate over and under as you weave your way to the other side. Go down around the side of the frame and wrap around the weaving bar. Now bring it back around the side of the frame and to the top of the seat. This time, go over the first set of warp strands then alternate over and under them until you reach the opposite side.
Repeat this process until you reach the back of the seat. Weave through the slot near the back of the seat with the same pattern, then finish by tying off on a cord nail under the seat (similar to how you finished the warp).
To finish off the seat, connect the two weaving bars with a wire (see Supplies). This wire keeps even tension on the cord across the seat, and allows it to have a bit of “spring.” Use a clamp to pull the bars slightly toward one another while attaching the wire. (If you don’t have a suitable clamp for this, then put the wire on before weaving.)
Now for the (Back) Rest
The backrest is woven on both the front and back. This makes the chair look “finished” from all directions. You’ll notice a change to the pattern on the backside that creates a vertical “strip” on one side. It brings a bit of interest to the pattern, but it also has a practical purpose, as you’ll soon find out. In Danish furniture, function is part of the form and there is no exception here.
You won’t need a row of cord nails for this part – so to begin, lay out the warp spacing on the upper and lower rails with the pattern. Start by wrapping the lower rail on the left side (when viewed from the back) opposite the slot. Place a U-shaped nail (a 1⁄2” electrician’s “cable staple” works perfectly) in this corner and hook the cord through it. (Go ahead and loosely insert a staple in the top right corner as well – you’ll need it later.) Wrap over the loose end to hold it in place.
Wrap the backrest rails as you did the seat, and shift or angle over the cord on the top side of the rail, which is the interior side. As with the seat, the first two sections get five wraps. The remainder center sections get four wraps each until you reach the opposite side, then another two passes with five wraps. Once you reach the weaving slot at the opposite side, wrap only the front portion of the slot.
When you reach the opposite side, place a cord nail on the inside of the frame. Hook the cord around this nail and carry it up then over the top rail to start the warp wrap.
Because there are no cord nails on the backrest, you’ll combine both the wrapping of the upper rail with the strands of cord that will need to extend from the top to bottom rails. Start wrapping the top rail with five wraps. On the fifth wrap, extend the cord all the way down to the bottom rail and land in the gap you left between the cord sections, then go back around the front and to the top. Make sure you are not crossing over any cord on the bottom rail.
Do one more wrap like this to completely fill the gap. Once you return to the top rail, wrap five more times just around the top rail, then two more times down to the bottom rail, again filling in the gap in the bottom rail’s cord. You know this drill by now: The remaining sections get four wraps until you reach the opposite side, then it’s two passes of five.
The trickiest part of this pattern is the weaving slot. But all that’s happening here is that instead of just having a section of four wraps dividing the long double-warp stands on the backside, those four wraps travel from the top to the bottom rail. Thus, it will look like eight strands of cord in a row going from the top to bottom.
While that’s happening on the backside, the front side of the slot will continue the regular pattern of just four wraps divided by two double-strand sections on either side as usual. It sounds more confusing than it is; just take it one step at a time and study the photos closely.
Complete the warp pattern to the opposite side. Place a cord nail on the inside of the frame. Loop your cord around it and return to the opposite end of the rail to start the weaving portion.
Just two knots will serve for the “planflet” pattern used for this chair: a square knot for tying a single length of cord; and a double-cord knot that biases the loose ends of the knot to one side while leaving the opposite side relatively smooth. Take advantage of this when orienting your knots, especially while weaving the backrest.
The backrest is woven with a doubled-over length of cord, just like the seat. However, the backrest is woven in one direction. The cord weaves from right to left as it spirals around the backrest frame from top to bottom. It starts at the top back right inside corner, and runs to the lower left back inside corner.
Weave from right to left as you did the seat, except continue around the side and to the front. Continue the over/under pattern onto the front and back around the opposite side. When the cord continues onto the back again, stagger it down to start under the previous row.
As you weave down the backrest, you’ll notice that the wide vertical band of cord wants to bunch together. To prevent this, there’s a small pattern change: On the 16th row down (and the 32nd and 48th rows), rather than simply going over all eight vertical cords, weave over two, under four, and over two. On the next row, do the reverse: under two, over four, and under two. The next row picks back up the regular pattern, going over all eight cords.
The last row is the back of the seat, and ends on the bottom left corner, where you placed the cable staple earlier. Thread the two loose ends of the cord through this staple and pull through the front to tension it. Slide a row of the cord apart and use a nail set to drive in the staple to secure the cord. Cut off any excess cord on the opposite side and tuck the loose ends back inside.
All that’s left to do now is assemble the seat and backrest frames, find a sunny spot with a good book, and you’re done. Congratulations and enjoy! PWM
Caleb is a toolmaker and furniture maker in Greenville, S.C.
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