Upcycling with eco-friendly rattan or cane | the ReFab Diaries
Happy 2020 fab friends! It's a new decade and I've decided to revive this tired little blog. Kicking things off with a round-up of simple ways to use rattan (or cane) to make and upcycle everything from lamps to Easter decor. 


I've always loved pretty much anything made of rattan - perhaps growing up in the southern hemisphere has something to do with that? In the past, I've shared some ideas for repurposing wicker plate holders, and when I made over my cane-backed, regency chairs, I showed you guys my process

What I'm sharing today is simpler, decidedly Scandinavian, and more craft than upcycling. Why? Because rattan, like bamboo, is a truly eco-friendly material!

First things first: do you know the difference between wicker, rattan and cane? I didn't. I honestly thought they were just regional synonyms. Then I did a little research and, if you're curious, here's the difference:





Rattan refers to a plant and the material harvested from it. It grows like a tree but eventually vines back down and snakes around the ground. It's native to tropical regions across the world and, like bamboo, it's prized for being both extremely durability and light weight. It's also one of the fastest growing natural materials, regenerating every 5-7 years. Processing involves debarking, sanding and polishing it to the glossy surface you typically see.






Wicker actually refers to a style of weave, not the material. A range of material, like rattan, cane, seagrass, bamboo and willow, all lend themselves to this weaving technique that dates as far back as 3,000 BC - tombs have been found with wicker baskets, boxes, chairs and other furniture types.





The most delicate of materials, cane is a part of the rattan plant. It's harvested by peeling off the skin of the vine. While delicate, cane has a very low porosity rate, meaning it can repel liquids. This makes it an inexpensive, eco-friendly alternative to plastic, metal and hardwood furniture.


Who knew? I was particularly surprised to find out about the naturally low porosity of this material. I always thought that it was only because of how it was painted or varnished that it was able to repel liquid so well! Anyway, here are some fun ways to play with this lovely material: 





One of three Easter table decor ideas from Monster Circus (see below), this little egg cup has my heart. Does anyone in the world still use egg cups? I grew up dipping toast "soldiers" in soft boiled eggs... I don't know if kids still do that.




Another super-simple idea for DIY for Easter decor




And if you aren't into egg-themed decorating, then here's the third offering from Monster Circus.  Just looking at these makes me think of sunshine and beach umbrellas.





It doesn't get much simpler than this, but simple pillar candles somehow gain a layer of warmth with a ring of rattan. Full DIY here.





As you spring clean - and consider whether or not the things you own spark joy - consider organizing what you love using DIY rattan containers... versus buying more of them. Full DIY here.




Do you own an old lamp that could use a little spring refresh? How about upcycling a tired old shade with fresh cane? Instructions at Joli Place.





This post wouldn't be complete with a DIY clock or two, right? Instructions here





Love everything about this rattan jewelry organizer idea from Curbly. The frame? It's an embroidery hoop, of course!






And in case you're wondering what to do with that wicker basket that doesn't actually hold anything ... here's your answer! Turn it into a simple, embroidered basket clock. Head to Fall For DIY for instructions. 





Have you noticed how many times I've mentioned Spring? As winter in Chicago drags on, I start to wonder if the world will ever be green again. Thank god for indoor plants - I do sometimes think that they help keep me sane. And perhaps a couple of them need new rattan planters! Instructions here.



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  1. Good inspiration thanks! It makes things look lovely and fresh.

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