Hammocks are one of the most comfortable ways to sleep - suspended between two trees, gazing at the sky - there isn't much better. Not all hammocks have to be made of rope; for a quick and easy hammock follow the steps listed below, and you'll be swinging from the trees in no time!
You will need...
- A sewing machine
- A rectangle of material
- An hour or so of free time (more if you're unfamiliar with sewing machines)
- Patience (for the sewing machine)
Drag out the sewing machine, wipe off the dust and the cobwebs, and if you're not lucky enough to know how to use one, pray that there's an instruction book. If there isn't one, pray there's someone around who can show you how to use it. Smiling nicely at a 'grandma' figure may be appropriate.
The material you use will depend on what you want the hammock for. If you want to take it hiking, then a light-weight material such as rip-stop nylon1 is recommended, if your hammock is going to be stationary then a heavier material can be used, such as canvas. Factors to take into consideration when selecting your material are breathability and comfort - you don't want to get all sticky and sweaty in a pvc-coated material, nor would you want to snooze on a hessian hammock2 - shop around and find what's best for your purposes.
The size of your hammock depends on the people who will be using it - if it's being made for a child, then it won't need to be as big as if it were for a full-grown adult. About 70cm longer than the tallest user is a good size - much shorter and you'll get caught up in the narrowing ends.
The width depends on whether you'd like to be able to see out of it or not - if it's a hammock you will be sleeping in overnight, then you'll want it a bit wider than normal so you can roll around and not fear falling out. Minimum width would be about 1m, a maximum would be 1.5m.
When selecting the colour of your fabric, remember that darker colours retain heat and lighter colours reflect heat - it has been suggested that insects are attracted to the heat of the darker fabric.
You will need enough cotton to hem all four sides of your material, as well as sewing three times over both of the shorter ends.
Choose a colour which compliments your fabric colour!
You will need two shorter pieces of rope, about 60cm or so, and two longer pieces - 2m each is heaps. Don't use nylon rope, it's far too slippery to be strong enough.
The shorter pieces will be used to gather the ends together, and the longer pieces will be used to string you hammock up. It is important that all your pieces of rope will be able to hold the amount of weight you put on the hammock.
- You need to hem your fabric, to stop the edges from fraying away. The best way to do this is roll both of the longer edges in about 1cm twice, so that there are no ratty edges showing. Pin every 15cm or so, or however often you need to in order to prevent it from unrolling.
Sew down both of the edges, remembering to take the pins out as you go.
- Fold the two shorter edges in once3, pin them if you feel it's necessary, and sew them down.
There should now be a 1cm hem all around your piece of material.
Fold the two shorter ends in about 10cm, and pin down. Sew along these ends three times to ensure they'll be strong enough to hold weight.
Thread each of the shorter pieces of rope through the loops you've created at the ends of your hammock (it may be easiest to tie them to the longer pieces and thread the longer piece through first, scrunching and gathering the end as you go).
Tie them off in a non-slip knot, such as a double fisherman’s bend or a bowline - this rope will not need to be untied, so make it as tight as possible.
Attach the two longer pieces of rope to your hammock, using a knot which is strong and also easily untied - it will be much easier to pack up your hammock without two metres of rope hanging off each end!
If you have any material left over, it may be a good idea to make a bag to store your hammock in - just fold it in half and sew the side and bottom together, fold down the top inch and sew along the base of it (to create a loop to feed some rope through), then turn it inside out.
If you're going to be sleeping out in the rain, take a piece of bungie cord4 and a tarpaulin with you - string the bungie cord from end to end of your hammock, drape the tarp over and peg it down and out from the hammock (some short peices of rope may be useful here), and you'll be snug and dry. Use bungie cord rather than rope, as the distance between the two ends of your hammock will change once you sit in it.
For a cover which is a little less claustrophobic, take two tarps; use one in the way described above over the foot end of the hammock, and cover the head end with the second tarp, but only peg down one side - prop the other out as an awning, using a stick to hold it upright.
If you do make a bag, you can sew it onto the side of your hammock to use as a pocket.
Because you're sleeping off the ground, there's more chance for air to circulate around you. To prevent yourself from getting too cold, cover your hammock in a blanket before you get in it, or use a foam mat. A sleeping bag by itself generally won't be enough, as you flatten the stuffing by sleeping on it, rendering it fairly ineffectual.
Hanging Your Hammock
When you hang your hammock, take care to situate it safely - somewhere with no dead tree branches looming above your head is ideal. Check the ground underneath as well, you don't want to fall off in the middle of the night and land on an ant's nest! Make sure the tree or upright you tie it to is strong enough to withstand the weight you are putting on it, and make sure your rope will not slip down. Generally, the tighter you tie it around the support, the less likely you are to slip.
If you are going to be leaving the hammock hanging for a long period of time, take steps to prevent ringbarking trees by slotting sticks between your rope and the tree. Ringbarking can be fatal to trees - the rope effectively strangles the tree, which cuts off nutrients from the upper branches and results in the eventual death of the tree.
Enjoy the comfort of your hammock, and savour the thought that you created it from nothing!