What is wicker?

Wicker 101

Wicker is not, as some may think, an actual plant from which certain furniture is made. It's actually the term for any piece of woven furniture.

Creating a piece of wicker furniture uses many techniques that are also used in basketry [source: Miller and Widess]. The weaves are made up of spokes, or vertical supports, and weavers, which are the horizontal strands. In order to be shaped or made pliable, reed, one of the most common materials used in wicker furniture, must be soaked in warm water. The thickness of the material will dictate how long it needs to soak before it can be used to create the weave pattern for a particular piece [source: Saunders].

Due to the individual nature and age of wicker craftsmanship, there have been a variety of weave variations used to create unique patterns. The most standard weave is the simple over-and-under, which is similar to weaving a rug. This technique consists of going over one spoke and under the next. Along the edges, the weave is likely to change to a form of braiding intertwining two to four pieces at a time [source: Gonyea].

Caning, which generally refers to weaving seats and backs only, incorporates different types of weaves. These weaves can range from a simple open weave leaving large stop-sign shaped openings throughout the piece to an intricate snowflake weave that predominately uses hexagon-shapes [source: Miller and Widess].

Using combinations of weaves, intricate patterns are produced to form the piece. Some wicker patterns are so detailed that actual images are created out of the weaving such as flags, hearts and even guitars [source: Saunders, Olsson and Saunders].

The actual materials used to create these pieces of woven furniture are diverse. Let's take a closer look at the two different types of wicker furniture.