upholstering a broken cane-backed chair…

by | Oct 25, 2016 | All Things Home, Artistic Endeavors, Before and Afters, Furniture Makeovers, Tutorials, upholstery | 48 comments

…because you know you wanted to do that at some point in time, right?  Top Google search -“How do I upholster a broken cane-backed chair?”  Well, here is your answer!

So, the chair itself isn’t broken, but the cane back is.  It’s actually missing entirely, but that qualifies as broken in my book.


I bought this chair quite a while ago and Kriste commandeered it from the stash to use as her desk chair.  Well, our stash is very thin and my back was killing me perched on a stool all day, so I commandeered the chair from her.  Clearly I need to go desk chair shopping if we have two people who need to sit and only one proper desk chair.

So, I’ll do that.

Until then, I needed to take a break from sitting at a desk, so I decided to deal with the gaping whole in the back.  Upholstering it is the easiest way to do that.

I started by stapling a piece of fabric to the wood frame that will be visible from the back…


This just makes the upholstery look nice from the back.


This is a small opening, but I added a couple of pieces of upholstery webbing for support.


And then a bit of cotton batting for some cushiness….


…and finally the fabric.  Since I didn’t need very much fabric, I was able to use remnants of an antique grain sack for the front and the back.  I stapled it in place and then trimmed the excess.


I shared a few weeks ago that Sebastian was scared of the compressor and staple gun.  I was even a little hesitant to use it, but I decided that if he’s going to hang with me at the studio, he should probably get used to it and learn that it’s just a noisy thing that won’t hurt him.

At first, he scurried to the door like last time.  I kept looking over at him and he kept inching his way closer to me.  It was really pretty comical, because I wouldn’t see him move, but I would just see that he was closer.


…until he was right near me again.


He’s soooo brave.

I finished off the chair by gluing on some braided jute trim, just because it was simple.


And there it is!


If you’re new to upholstery, a project like this one would be perfect for you.  It is simple, doesn’t take very much time or materials, and will give you confidence to tackle other projects.


  1. Vida

    Wow! That is a beautiful chair! Thank you for sharing this tutorial.

  2. Bridey

    I have a set of vintage chairs that mysteriously have the back missing like this, though the openings are a little bigger. (Five bucks a pop, thank you very much, on clearance at a So Cal Salvation Army from $45 each) I only stopped long enough to make sure they weren’t going to collapse when I sat on them before yanking off the labels and running to the register to pay for them. I now know how to restore them. Thanks!!

  3. Donna

    I just love that chair….I have a convertible high chair, that my granddaughter put her foot through the caning in the seat, I just may upholster the seat…as always, an entertaining, educational, enjoyable posts! Have a great day Marian!!!

  4. Veva Knutson

    You make it look so easy! Any suggestions on type, brand of staple gun to use?

    • marian

      I use a porter cable pneumatic upholstery staple gun.

  5. jacqueline pankuck

    Gorgeous!…Could I do that to a seat with more webbing? Or do I need to have a piece of wood cut. I’ve been avoiding having wood cut since it’s an odd shape.

  6. Renie Gile

    Looks wonderful! And absolutely perfect for you!!!

  7. Terri

    Our rescue, Bentley is also afraid of the staple gun/air compressor also and we also decided to just go ahead with the hope that he will also adjust. Love the chair!

  8. Becky

    What kind of glue do you use for the webbing. The chair looks amazing.

    • Becky

      I’m sorry, I meant, what kind of glue was used for the jute trim?

      • marian

        It was hot glue.

  9. Karen

    Ooooh I have a family chair like this that has a missing seat! Inspired to revive it with some grain sack and a staple gun!

  10. Amanda Dawdy

    I am in love with that east lake desk/piano chair. If you ever feel the need to part with it, please consider me 🙂

  11. Carla

    I’m really proud of Sebastian. That is quite a compliment Marian. The chair is lovely.

  12. Barbara

    Love it. I may not can the seats of two chair that are calling my name. Do you do the same process for seats that you did for the back?? And oh tell Kristie I see the “hand” model made it off her desk and into the display cabinet!!

  13. julie

    Very cool that he is getting used to the sounds…it is really hard sometimes like with thunder, and fireworks etc. Good job ! Love the chair, and a simple and fun fix.

  14. Jelena

    That’s such a pretty chair! And the upholstery made it even prettier.

  15. Cassie

    The chair is gorgeous, but I can’t get over that drafting table. I’m obsessed with it. I want to drive to the studio all the way from AZ and convince you go sell it to me.

  16. Gavin

    You ought to have used fabric with your initials on so everyone would know it’s your chair !

    We love it ?

  17. Gilda Stigliano


  18. Rebecca K

    What a refreshing chair back! Love that you used what was on hand, what was simple and your result is wonderful. It has a certain charm! And now who gets the chair?

  19. Cheryl Jamieson

    Very sweet. Do you sell the braided jute trim that you use?

  20. Patty C

    Yet another example of Marian Magic! This is beautiful! AND I have to say, seeing Sebastian is your pictures makes me smile every time! He is such a handsome boy. We lost out Aussie to cancer 3 years ago and have not been ready to open our hearts to a new pup, but seeing photos of Sebastian and hearing this story is tugging at those heart strings. Think I’m getting ready. Our home has felt the same emptiness I felt when we sent out daughter off to college – like something integral to our wholeness is missing.

    Love your blog Marian!

  21. Cindy L Smith

    Marion, I always admire your work. Love how you refreshed this chair. I have a question, would you do the same process on the seat of a chair? I have an antique chair that once had cane on the seat. Now there is just an open space and I’m not sure how to replace the seat like you did for the back of your chair. I don’t want to re-cane it. It’s such a cute chair I just want to be able to put it back into use. Do you have any advice for me? Thanks so much. And by the way, your art work is BEAUTIFUL. Never question yourself. Everyone has their own special creative ability and yours is wonderul.

  22. Jenn

    How would you handle a broken caned seat?

    • Paula

      You can purchase caning by the yard. A good option if you want the caning to remain, but do not want to learn the caning process (not easy).

  23. Rose

    I have a mid century chair that had ugly orange velvet on the seat & back and broken caning on the sides under the arms. I did the same method as you, but used black suede with silver upholstery tacks and painted the frame a dark grey. Glad to see I did it the right way! I was going to include a photo but doesn’t look like I have that option ?

  24. Joanne

    Thanks for inspiring us as always! I love that you used the antique grain sack scrap for something you will use all the time. Not only will it save your back, but it will make you smile every time you sit in the chair because you enjoy it’s beauty. You are very good at thinking “out of the box” and teaching us something that we may not think about or think of to do.

    I look forward to seeing what kind of a find you will come up for Kriste!

  25. Cheryl

    You do make it look simple! I love it and the chair!

  26. Mary

    WOW!! That looks just GREAT!!! And so does Sebastian! He just wanted to be close to you so he knew he was safe. He’s so sweet and BRAVE!!

  27. SueSchneid22

    I just love your new dog, Sebastian. He is adorable and looks so sweet. I might have to come up and buy some paint and supplies just so I can visit him!


    • marian

      You should! 🙂

  28. Jill

    Hope you enjoy the desk chair as much as I enjoy mine. Happy hunting for the next one!

  29. Naomi S.

    Very nice! I was going to ask the same question as a couple of your other readers about how to deal with a chair with a missing caned seat. It seems like I would have to put something solid like plywood on the seat and then upholster that. Or upholster it before fastening it to the chair. I can’t visualize exactly how it would go together. I have an old family heirloom chair without caning in the seat and would like to be able to use it before my clutter-clearing daughter makes me get rid of it! (Bless her little heart!)

  30. deb

    Yes, my question is the same as Becky’s. What glue did you use for the jute trim, please? It looks very nice. Sebastian is precious and such a brave boy…I hate the sound of those myself. Dogs have extremely sensitive ears so it might have hurt a little too.

    • marian

      I used hot glue.

  31. Kimberly

    Wonderful job on this gorgeous old chair, Marian! It turned out just lovely!

    Not sure if anyone else up-thread commented on this, so I’ll add a note here to be a bit careful when sitting in those old 4-legged desk chair as they can tip easily. Ask me how I know LOL! There’s a reason new desk chairs have 5 and sometimes even six legs, it’s for stability/non-tip purposes.

    The chair compliments your gorgeous old wooden drafting table so nicely!

    • marian

      Yes! We knew that. Fortunately, I’m not a “chair tipper” in general, so i think I’ll be okay. 🙂

  32. Annabelle

    I Love your Sebastian, he is such a beautiful boy!

    The chair with the vintage drafting table, an absolutely perfect match! Nice work and thanks for the tutorial .

  33. the uncommon pearl

    This is darling! I love the dark wood contrast with the grain sack. Thanks for the tutorial. This does look like a good first upholstery project.
    Our dog does the same. All we have to do is simply get out the tools and she goes to the farthest place in the house. It’s been years of DIYING and she still hasnt gotten use to it. ?

  34. Sari Delagneau

    Oh my goodness, I love it! What a quick, simple fix for a beautiful chair. Thank you for sharing the step-by-step process. 🙂

  35. Marjan Van horen

    Love it ! I did my dining room chairs some time ago and all that is left to do is glue some braid around the backs, but for the life of me I can’t find glue to do this with. Wat do you use?

  36. Lynne

    That CHAIR. Look at all of those beautiful Eastlake markings. Swooning here in NH!

  37. Natalie in Ohio

    Be still my heart… that vintage desk chair is stunning! It was a gorgeous piece before you worked your magic, and now it’s even more so!

    Love it ~ and your drafting table/desk Marian!

    And as always… a joy to see your sweet Sebastian in your posts! 🙂

  38. Cathryn

    Nice job on the upholstery, looks great! But I would have replaced the missing sheet cane in the back and taken off the plywood seat and done that in the proper cane webbing too. But I’m kinda a purist and caning is my business! I have several free tutorials on removing and installing cane webbing or sheet cane, as well as one on hole-to-hole or hand caning. http://www.WickerWoman.com/install-cane-webbing

  39. Martha

    As always, a great post! I have a beautiful, old wicker chair with the same problem. The seat has been repaired & is very sturdy but the back… do you have any suggestions for my chair? The wicker is wrapped around a round wooden piece & I’m not sure there’s enough of a frame to attach the webbing.


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Marian Parsons - Miss Mustard Seed

I’m Marian, aka Miss Mustard Seed, a wife, mother, paint enthusiast, lover of all things home and an entrepreneur, author, artist, designer, freelance writer & photographer.  READ MORE to learn more about me, my blog and my business…


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