Why Is It Called Wicker?

why is it called wicker

Wicker furniture has been around for a long time. Many people like to use it inside and outside their homes. This is because wicker can be used in different ways and lasts a long time. But what does the word “wicker” even mean? Where does this name come from?

We’ll look at where wicker furniture started and what it’s made of. This will help explain what “wicker” refers to and how it got its name. We’ll learn about the history and uncover the meaning behind the word. By the end, you’ll have a better understanding of why we call woven furniture “wicker”.

Key Takeaways

  • Wicker refers to a weaving technique used to create furniture out of pliable materials like rattan, cane, and vine.
  • The word “wicker” comes from the Old English “wicke” or “wice,” meaning pliable twigs or osiers used for basket making.
  • Rattan, a climbing plant native to Southeast Asia, is one of the most common materials used in wicker weaving and gives the furniture its well-known look and texture.

What is Wicker?

Wicker refers to a type of woven furniture constructed using pliable plant fibers. The defining characteristic of wicker is that it is created through a specific weaving technique that binds flexible, string-like materials into intricate patterns. Three primary materials used in wicker weaving include:

RattanA climbing vine native to Southeast Asia. Its dried inner cane becomes very pliable for weaving.
CaneRefers specifically to rattan cane once removed from the outer casing of the rattan vine.
VineVarious climbing vines that hold their shape when woven but remain flexible, such as willow.

Rattan is one of the most predominant wicker materials due to its suitable properties. It grows similar to bamboo, coiling around tree trunks and branches. Once harvested and dried, the rattan cane stripped from the vine takes on a desirable bendable quality ideal for weaving.

The History and Origins of the Term “Wicker”

The word “wicker” originated from an Old English word meaning pliable plant fibers that were easy to weave. Specifically, it comes from “wicke” or “wice,” referring to flexible willow shoots and twigs known as osiers. Basket weavers commonly used these materials in ancient times.

In the past, skilled artisans wove together bending plant stems, roots, and vines into versatile containers. They did this through a process called basketry. This craft spread worldwide and was even used to make furniture, according to archeologists studying Egyptian artifacts.

By the 1800s, basket weavers had started applying their skills to furniture construction. They wove pliable materials like rattan, cane, and willow into chairs, tables, and other household pieces. This evolved into a whole new technique for designing both practical and decorative furniture from natural fibers.

The same basic idea of interlacing flexible strands that was used for centuries of basketry survived in the name “wicker.” It describes the woven construction process that braids plant materials into all kinds of furnishings we still enjoy today.

History of Wicker Furniture in America

Wicker took off in popularity thanks to Cyrus Wakefield in the 1850s. Wakefield was formerly a grocer from Massachusetts. He traveled to Southeast Asia and discovered lacquered rattan chairs. They were sturdy, lightweight, and water-resistant.

Seeing the potential, Wakefield imported the chairs. He started the famous Wakefield Rattan Company in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Through testing, Wakefield perfected mass manufacturing rattan furniture affordably.

Other companies like Heywood Brothers also made rattan pieces. This allowed wicker furnishings to fill front porches and yards across America in the late 1800s.

The wicker worked well outside and looked nice too. This cemented its appeal. Furniture woven from natural rattan became commonly called “wicker”. This name stuck around even today. Wakefield helped Wicker take off as the favored outdoor furnishing material of its time.

The Material Used in the Wicker Weaving

Rattan as previously mentioned remains one of the premier materials for wicker construction due to several favorable properties. Once stripped from the vines, rattan cane is très pliable yet retains its shape once woven into furniture. This allows it to be crafted into intricate patterns and designs without becoming misshapen.

A few key points about rattan cane:

  • It grows very quickly, similar to bamboo, and can be harvested sustainably without killing the parent vine.
  • Various diameters of cane may be used, from thin strands to thicker ropes, depending on the desired density and style of weaving.
  • Rattan requires no curing once cut and will remain workable for months if kept dry and out of direct sunlight.

Other plant matter occasionally used includes indigenous canes and vines. Willow wicker made from supple willow branches produces a fine-grained basketry effect. Cane forms a sturdier alternative to thin rattan and holds color well when dyed. Reeds create coarse yet water-resistant furniture when woven tightly.

No matter the material, their true craft lies in how they are interlaced using the distinctive wicker weaving process. A proper understanding of this technique further highlights how the term became synonymous with this unique style.

Weaving Process

The craft of wicker weaving is simply yet ingeniously effective. Various widths and textures are attainable depending on the materials and styling techniques employed. At its most basic:

Rattan, cane, or other strips of natural fibers are cut to even lengths and then repeatedly crossed or re-crossed between each other in patterns. These overlaying strands become tightly packed and interlaced into a strong yet breathable structure.

A simple set could illustrate the movement:

  • Take one strand and pass it over the first stationary strip
  • Bring it underneath the next and up over
  • And so forth, crossing back and forth

When multiple weavers work in unison, entire chair seats, basketry, or other furniture can quickly take shape through this interweaving practice. Plaited or twined weaving may also be used for its distinctive appearance and varying density.

This fundamental process underpins the construction of wicker furniture across history. Its utilitarian origins gave rise to refined designs still crafted today using rattan or modern synthetic materials that mimic the authentic look and hand.

Popularity of Wicker Furniture

Several key factors have contributed to wicker furniture’s widespread popularity over generations:

  • Durability – When taken care of properly, it remains very sturdy outdoors through all weather conditions year-round.
  • Breathability – Its intertwining design allows air to circulate, keeping things cool and comfortable even on hot humid days.
  • Low maintenance – Just clean regularly and broken strands are easy to replace, requiring less upkeep than solid wood.
  • Affordability – Now you can find synthetic options at different price points, making it more affordable than pricier materials.
  • Design – Its style suits curves and open looks, letting scenery shine through attractively inside and outside.
  • Practicality – Lightweight yet long-lasting, even when wet it dries fast without changing over time like some materials.
  • Appearance – With a soft natural feel, it provides a relaxed style that stays fashionable each season at home and beyond.

Combined, these virtues help explain why wicker furniture remains an enduring classic that continues to grace homes, patios, and balconies around the world today.

Uses of Wicker

Wicker furniture fills a variety of indoor and outdoor functions due to its versatile nature:


  • Living rooms for their casual aesthetic
  • Dining rooms paired with wicker chairs or tabletops
  • Bedrooms for comfortable wicker headboards or footstools
  • Offices to provide a lightweight seating option


  • Porches and verandas with wicker sectionals or armchairs
  • Patios for seating ensembles and loungers
  • Gardens with wicker planters or accent tables
  • Greenspaces like parks furnished with durable wicker benches

Its breathable yet weather-resistant construction makes it particularly well-suited for poolside usage. Wicker with all-weather wicking fibers or powder-coated aluminum frames can withstand direct sun exposure year-round in temperate climates.

Whether furnishing an intimate bistro setup or a spacious event venue, wicker lends itself to creating comfortable and stylish environments both inside the home and out.

Difference Between Rattan and Wicker

While often used interchangeably, rattan and wicker each have distinct definitions:

  • Rattan refers to the climbing vine plant itself as well as products directly made from rattan cane like containers, baskets, or solid rattan furniture without additional weaving.
  • Wicker is a general term used to describe any furniture or items crafted through the specific weaving technique described earlier. This process interlaces pliable materials—most commonly rattan cane—into a woven structure.

So in essence:

  • All wicker furniture contains rattan cane or another woven material.
  • But not all rattan furniture is considered wicker, as solid (non-woven) rattan pieces exist too.

The difference lies in the production method—wicker furniture undergoes further construction through weaving, while rattan pieces may simply be formed or carved from rattan cane without additional steps. This subtle distinction ensures both terms maintain appropriate definitions.

Modern Wicker Furniture

While natural rattan and cane endure as the most iconic wicker materials, advancements in synthetic fibers have expanded design possibilities in recent decades:

  • Polyester and resin wicker – Closely mimicking the feel of rattan yet more weather-resistant and requiring no maintenance.
  • Aluminum wicker – Creates a lightweight frame for interwoven synthetic or natural strands. Protects against rust/corrosion.
  • All-weather wicker – Infused with technologies like SmartFiber to keep hosted wicking and retaining strength when wet.
  • Cord wicker – Thick nylon or polyester cords are tightly braided for boldly textured seating.
  • Ratanlook wicker – Polyethylene creations boast the authentic look of rattan without the natural limitations.

These newfangled materials have breathed fresh life into classic styles while satisfying consumer demand for low-cost, easily cleaned furnishings suitable even for high-traffic commercial spaces. The soul remains honest rattan for purists yet modern fibers ensure wicker culture continues evolving dynamically.

Final Thoughts

Now you understand the long history behind Wicker furniture and why it has remained so popular through generations. If you need new pieces for your patio or yard, consider choosing one.

It offers durability, lasting for years when used outdoors. It also looks great, providing a natural style. Plus it’s comfortable and breathable on sunny days.

Today you can find options made from rattan or modern materials. This gives choices at different price points. No matter which type you pick, it’s sure to enhance any outdoor space.

Summer is here, so go check out your local store now! Upgrade your porch or garden with a new lounge chair, table, or sectional. It will serve you for seasons just as generations of homeowners have enjoyed for centuries. The craftsmanship lives on today.

So if you want furniture that mixes practicality with classic good looks, wicker is the way to go. Take a look and see how you can boost relaxation and host areas outside. Enjoy your new purchases all summer long!