the woven seat of the Shaker chair in the collection of Designmuseum Danmark
In 1942, when the cabinetmakers Rud. Rasmussem made a close copy of a Shaker rocking chair, the webbing for the seat, imitating the original, was woven by Lis Ahlmann but the chair did not go into production and, just two years later, when Hans Wegner designed a rather more free interpretation of the Shaker rocking chair to be made for FDB - the Danish Co-op - paper cord was used for the seat.
Webbing had been used as the support for traditional upholstery through the late 19th and early 20th century as the first layer that was stretched and fixed over the seat frame to support some form of padding that was then covered with fabric or leather.
Webbing was used on its own for the seats of some Danish chairs in the 1920s and 1930s - one good example being the chairs designed by Edvard Thomsen for the Søndermarken crematorium in 1927 - but as paper cord became popular in the 1940s, linen or canvas webbing became much less common.
Hans Wegner used webbing for the seat and back of the Pincer Chair from 1956 and the recliner JH613 (above) and the designer Finn Østergaard, who graduated from the Furniture Department of the School of Arts and Craft in 1975, produced a range of armchairs and high-backed chairs with woven webbing across the seat and back.
Generally, webbing works best with a square or a rectangular seat … it can be difficult to keep the tension even and webbing does stretch more than paper cord with use … and, certainly, webbing cannot be used with the complex joinery of many of the chairs designed by Hans Wegner whereas he could take cord across curved seat frames or around spindles or down through slots that were cut to take the cord around arm supports or the mortices and thin splats of chair backs.
Webbing was used more widely in other Scandinavian countries and by several prominent designers … so in Sweden, by Bruno Mathsson (below) and in Finland by Alvar Aalto.
The traditional Shaker webbing - unbleached and a deep cream or buff colour - looks good with Danish oak so it is a pity that it has not been used more often as an alternative to cord for more straightforward dining chairs.