Issue 10 T.O.C. – Michael Updegraff – “The Rhythm of Weaving Cattail Rush Seats”

This post is part of a blog series revealing the table of contents of upcoming Issue Ten. As is our custom, we’ll be discussing one article per weekday in order to give you a taste of what is come. 

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Michael Updegraff – “The Rhythm of Weaving Cattail Rush Seats”

When it comes to sustainable and useful natural materials, it’s hard to beat the common cattail. Long used in traditional handcraft, it was the go-to choice for weaving comfortable chair seats for many centuries before the invention of factory-produced paper rush and other industrial products. But author Michael Updegraff believes it’s time for cattail rush to make a comeback.

He begins knee-deep in a pond, harvesting a sizable bundle of this prolific and endlessly regenerating raw material. After drying and sorting, Updegraff shows us how to prepare an old chair for re-weaving. He unpacks the simple tool kit of the seat weaver – most of these tools you probably already own or can easily make. Then it’s time to get to work. The meditative rhythm of working around the chair frame, incorporating new leaves and squaring up trapezoidal corners, might seem like a daunting practice at first, but it’s really very simple. With clear photography, thorough descriptions, and useful tips for the trickier parts of the technique, you will feel confident to tackle a traditional twisted cattail rush seat. 

Making the case for the use of this material from historic, ecological, and aesthetic perspectives, Updegraff weaves a strong argument for the return of the humble cattail to modern chairmaking, and invites his readers to give the process a try.

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