old chair, new seat: folding chair edition.

April 7, 2021

Last spring, when the weather warmed but the virus still raged out of control and playgrounds and parks were closed, I dreamed of a folding lawn chair. We still lived in our old apartment, four flights up without a patch of outdoor space to call our own and so in the afternoons we’d walk the kids around the block to a stretch of wide sidewalk in front a shuttered school building. We’d bring colored chalk and balls and send up small blessings for a nearby spot to get out late-day wiggles. I scoured sidewalks for a cast-off folding chair to spruce up all summer, and put out a call on our local Buy Nothing Group, but it wasn’t until we moved in September that I found what I’d been searching for: a lightweight aluminum folding chair with nylon webbing that had started to fray.

My original plan was to recreate a basketweave seat out of cotton clothesline, but I found the weave to be too bulky to feel comfortable. After weaving one seat and not loving it, I tucked the chair into the closet for a few months and busied myself with other projects, but in February I pulled it out and tried again, this time using cotton twill tape and a new set of lawn chair clips. I followed the basic instructions from Lawnchair USA, pushing the metal clips through the cotton tape just like I would have the nylon. A few months later, it’s still holding up.

Here are the basic details in case you decide to go in for a lawn chair rescue as the weather warms up. Whatever you do, if you have an aluminum chair, hang on to it! Even if you don’t opt for a cotton monochrome look like I did, opportunities for repair (and lounging) are virtually endless.

Materials:

+ Folding Aluminum Chair Frame
Ideally, buy used! You can scout for one at thrift stores or tag sales or online at places like eBay or Etsy. Just keep in mind that if you plan to re-web as I have here, you’ll need a chair that has a bar across the front and top of the seat.

+ Lawnchair Clips (or screws and washers!)
My chair was made with clips that had gone rusty, so I recycled them and bought a shiny new set from Lawn Chair USA. If your chair uses screws and washers, the technique is very similar and the above video shows both methods. (Up in Maine, Julie O’Rourke recently re-webbed her little guy’s chair this way.)

+ Cotton Twill Tape
I used 3-inch cotton twill from the Ribbon Factory and stretched it as taut as I could to make it comfy.

That’s it! The twill tape is thin enough that I didn’t need to use an awl to get through the webbing, and so far anyway, it’s holding up beautifully. If you make your own, I’d love to see. Here’s to lawn chair weather and fixing things.

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4 Comments

  • Reply Ramona April 7, 2021 at 7:52 pm

    I love that it’s Earth friendly!

  • Reply Sarah April 8, 2021 at 11:00 am

    This type of ability to repair is exactly why I snagged a couple webbed lawn chairs from Goodwill (they’re in fine shape for now), and hauled home a curbside find of two aluminum framed chairs with bright yellow rubber (i think?) tube webbing. The yellow chairs have a more substantial shaped frame, but I’m so glad that I can replace the webbing whenever I feel like it. Thanks for the quick guide here! I’ll certainly save it for the future.

    1
  • Reply Anne-Lise April 12, 2021 at 7:29 am

    Love it!!

  • Reply Melissa April 12, 2021 at 12:47 pm

    Great work! When I was growing up these were the “nothing special” lawn chairs, but I would love a couple now. Remember the rocking chair version? So lightweight, and more comfortable (for me) than the camp chairs that are the norm now.

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