When I was little, I was jealous of both the Lost Boys and the Swiss Family Robinson. Ah, tree house living: now that was the life for me. Every day would be an adventure! Even though I now realize that the lost boys really just wanted their mamas, I’m still drawn to places and design with that kind of wild in them.
This handmade hammock that I just finished making has the best of both worlds: baby gets the summer camp feel and gets to be close to mama, too.
The inspiration for this hammock came after I made my first hammock, which I blogged about here, following a tutorial I found online at Life On the Roof. I liked it, but I wasn’t in love; it seemed like baby would grow out of it rather quickly. And wasn’t there some way I could make it a little airier, more open?
I must have fallen asleep dreaming about hammocks, because one morning I awoke pre-dawn with an epiphany. A few days later my design became reality.
The best part is, you don’t have to be jealous. I’m going to teach you how to make it!
There are basically three stages in making this hammock. The first stage is to make the frame, the second is making and attaching the fabric sheet, and the third part is the rope work. Therefore, you will need some basic building, sewing, and knotting skills.
Stage One- Making the Frame
1. Assemble your materials. You can buy all of these things at your run-of-the-mill big box hardware store. You will need:
- 1 1/8″ diameter oak dowel rods, 36″ long x 4 ($5.98 ea.)
- 1/4″ diameter braided rope, 50′ length ($8.78)
- 5/16″ diameter lag screw eye hooks, 4″ long x2 ($0.62 ea.)
- 7/16″ diameter carabiner “spring snap” ($3.79)
- 1/4″ diameter hex bolts, 2 1/5″ long x 4 ($0.20 ea.)
- 1/4″ diameter nuts x 4 ($0.14 ea.)
- 1/4″ diameter washers x 4 ($0.12 ea.)
Your total hardware costs will be $39.57, plus tax.
Tools you will need are:
- measuring tape
- drill with 1/4″ and 5/16″ drill bits
- circular saw
- ratcheting wrench with 1/4″ socket
- tongue and groove pliers (really, almost any pliers will do)
- safety glasses
Here is a picture of the materials:
Gather your materials.
There is only one eye hook in the picture as I originally thought I would only need one. There are also screws in the picture instead of bolts, but I ended up replacing them and using bolts instead, so there wouldn’t be any pointy ends protruding from the hammock. Bolts are flat on the bottom.
These are bolts.
Now that your materials and tools are gathered, let’s get started! This comes together pretty quickly.
2. Mark and cut your oak dowels. You will need two dowels that are 34″ long, and two dowels that are 24″ long. Sand the ends.
Dowels cut to length
3. Mark 1 1/4″ from each end of the dowel rods, and drill the holes for your bolts with ,a 1/4″ diameter drill bit. The drill holes must line up, which can be a little tricky. Just start the holes of the bottom rods, and then line up the top rods over them and drill both rods at the same time, to make sure the holes are going at the same angle. You can use the scrap pieces of rod left over from cutting to practice.
After drilling, sand around the holes quickly with a piece of sandpaper.
4. Using the wrench, insert the bolts to form a rectangle. Make sure the short rods are on top.
Using the wrench
5. Turn your frame over. Add a washer and a nut to each bolt. Use the wrench to tighten the bolts. Before you tighten the bolts, you may notice that you can shift the frame to change the angles of the corners. Since we want them to be 90 degrees, use your square or the edges of the table to make sure that you have a true rectangle.
6. The frame is done! Put it aside for now.
Now it’s time to switch gears.
Stage Two- Sewing the Fabric Sheet
1. Assemble Your tools and materials. You will need
- 2 1/2 yards of plain fabric that is strong and breathable. It is also important that the fabric look nice/ the same on both the inside and the outside. I used an off-white linen-look fabric. The fabric must be at least 42″ wide. If it is a lot wider, you will be able to buy less yardage (take a look at the rectangles you need to cut and calculate based on the width you are buying.)
- 1/3 yard of accent fabric. I used a brown apple-tree fabric. The fabric must also be at least 42″ wide.
- Sewing machine
- Measuring tape
Fabric varies a lot by cost, but assuming you buy fabric at $6/yd, you will spend $17.00, plus tax.
Make sure you wash your fabric before sewing. There may be shrinkage!
2. Cut your fabrics. Here is what you will need to cut:
- A large rectangle of plain fabric measuring 52″ by 34″.
- Two skinny rectangles of the same plain fabric, each measuring 52″ by 3″.
- Lots and lots of small rectangles for the fabric ties. Cut strips of fabric 2″ wide. It is easiest to simply cut a lot of 2″ inch strips, sewing really long ties, and then cut them to length. Each fabric tie will end up being 8-9″ long.”You will need 56 fabric ties in all. (In my pictures, the hammock has some plain fabric ties and some using the accent fabric. However, after I finished the hammock, I thought the hammock would look better with all plain ties, so that is what these directions are for.)
- Two rectangles of accent fabric, 5-6″ wide and 34″ long.
Cutting the fabric
3. Take one skinny rectangle of your plain fabric, turn over the raw edge on one long side, and hem. You want the front to look nice, but it doesn’t matter what the back looks like. At this point, you only need to do one edge.
Turn over and sew down
Repeat for the other skinny rectangle of plain fabric.
4. Now, take one skinny rectangle and line up the unhemmed edge with the unhemmed edge of your large rectangle of plain fabric. What we are doing is creating a double thickness of plain fabric at the top of our hammock, so that the ties have a sturdy anchor when we sew them down. We aren’t sewing the top edge yet, though. Attach the skinny rectangle to the big one by sewing on the bottom side. You will be making another line of stitching right next to the one already there, making it look like you used a double needle.
pinned down, before sewing
Repeat for the other skinny rectangle, on the other side.
5. Now we have a place to put our ties, but first we have to make them! To make your ties, take your strips of 2 inch wide fabric and fold each long side to the middle, then in half again. Stitch down. You can use an iron to help keep it in place. Confused? Take a look at the third and fourth pictures of this Hanging Pocket Tutorial over at Always Expect Moore. Basically, you are creating “unbiased tape”- bias tape not cut on the bias.
A few of the many fabric ties you will make
Cut your ties so that you have 56 ties, each 8-9 inches long.
6. So, where are we putting these 56 ties? Right now, we have places to put them on the long ends of our big rectangle, underneath the flap that we have made by sewing on our skinny rectangles. We will be putting the ties in groups of two all along the edge. You will be using 16 ties on each long side.
To mark the placement of the ties, first find the midpoint of the long edge of your big rectangle. You will not be sewing any ties to the midpoint. Measure and mark 3 1/2 inches to the left of the midpoint, and 3 1/2 inches to the right. You should have two marks, 7 inches apart. You will be sewing ties at these marks. Continue to measure and mark every seven inches until you have made 8 marks per side.
Arrange your 16 ties (per side) so that they are in groups of two, right next to each other, at each mark. Pin the ties down. The ties you have left over are for the short sides, which you will do later.
Then, fold the top edges of the large fabric and the small rectangle of fabric to the inside so that the raw edges are on the inside, and you cannot see them from either side of your sheet. Basically, you are creating a nice, neat sandwich with your ties in it.
Seven inches on center, in groups of two
7. Hem the top edge and take out the pins.
Technically, the ties are sewn down, but they aren’t very sturdy yet.
8. Go forwards and backwards, angling as you go, until each set of ties is nice and sewn down.
Don’t worry if it doesn’t look perfect. It takes some practice to sew backwards on a sewing machine.
You can make this zig zag using a regular sewing machine.
Repeat for the other long side of your fabric sheet.
9. Now it’s time to work on the short sides. Basically, everything that you just did for the long sides, you’re going to do for the short sides to. This time, though, you’ll have to make the corners of the accent fabric match up to the big piece of fabric, too.
This is what the front side of your short sides will look like.
And this is the back side
Don’t forget to zig-zag sew the ties down, too.
10. Now you have created your sheet! The whole thing looks something like this:
It doesn’t look like that much work, does it? We know better.
Ta-da! That probably feels like a big accomplishment. I know it took me a long time to do this part!
Stage Three- Tying the Knots and Putting it all Together
1. It’s very satisfying to tie the sheet onto the frame. I did the long sides first, and then the short sides.
Tied on all sides
I used a simple double knot like you would use to tie your shoes to do this part.
2. Now you will need to get out your rope (see materials list from stage one). You will need to make 4 small loops of rope, each using 32 inches of rope. If you are using thicker or thinner rope, you may need a different amount. I made the loops using double fisherman’s knots, which you can learn how to make by following this link. Once you have your four loops, check to make sure they are the same size, and adjust as necessary. One loop will go on each corner. Untie the corner ties so you can see what you are doing, then place the rope.
Double fisherman’s knot
Pull the top part of the loop through the bottom. Then retie the ties and wiggle the loop so you can’t see the knot anymore. Repeat for the other three corners.
A loop at each corner with the knot underneath
3. We will be using the double fisherman’s knot to make 2 more loops, but this time the loops need to be made on the hammock. Cut two pieces of rope, each 45 inches long. (If you have problems with the rope fraying at the end, you can use a lighter to burn and melt the rope at the ends, stopping the unraveling.) Pass one rope through two of the rope loops that you have just made on one end, and the other rope through the two loops at the other end. Tie your knots. We are creating the triangles that you see below in this picture:
The two bottom triangles are made with double fisherman’s knots.
4. Now we just need one more piece of rope before we can attach the carabiner. Measure and cut a piece of rope 78 inches long. I used a double figure eight knot on each end, plus a back up knot on top of each one.
5. I must admit that I already knew how to do the knots above, but I needed to learn a new knot to create a sturdy loop in the middle of my rope. I learned how to do the butterfly knot. It took me a couple of times to figure out that I needed to fold the top of the eight down away from me, instead of towards me, and a little bit of practice to be able to do it without looking at the directions, but its nice to have another knot in my bag of tricks.
Now we have one point of attachment.
Now you can attach your carabiner to the loop you just made in middle of the rope.
6. Your hammock is done and ready to hang! You’ll need to put your eye hook in the ceiling first. Drill a hole into your joist, and then twist in the hook. I used pliers to give myself some leverage. Protect your hook with a piece of cloth so it doesn’t get scratched up by the pliers while you are working. You can use two eye hooks and a piece of rope if your joist isn’t placed exactly where you would like your hammock to hang from, like I did.
Hang and tie a rope from your hook to your desired height. I used figure eight knots again, as they are very strong. Clip on your carabiner to the bottom loop, adjust ropes to make the hammock level, and… ta-da! Admire your handiwork. Beautiful, isn’t it?
ready for occupancy
Just for fun, I put the entire Harry Potter series in the hammock, plus a couple of other books, to see how the hammock would hold up with about 20 pounds of weight in it.
Better than the closet under the stairs
Putting the books in the hammock reminds me that in the future, I may turn this into a hanging bassinet, instead of just a hammock, by adding a bassinet mattress. To do that, I will buy a bassinet mattress, make a pillowcase for it, and then sew the pillowcase to the underside of the hammock. Please do not place a mattress loose on the inside of the hammock. This creates a gap by the sides of the mattress, and hammocks designed that way have been known to cause infant suffocation. A mattress will make the bed a lot warmer, but please be safe about your design.
I feel pleased with the end result. It’s sturdy, and I think we can get a lot of use out of it before baby grows out of it. Was it worth the work, and about $60, to make? Yes! I’d have to pay about twice that to buy something similar. More importantly, though, with the bed in our room being so high, and the space being so small, we have very specific requirements about what could fit. A bassinet or even a co-sleeper that we could buy on the market just wouldn’t work. We thought about co-sleeping in our own bed, but it’s only a full sized mattress. The hammock gives the baby space, and it is within arm’s reach, which gives me peace of mind.
I love waking up and seeing the hammock in the morning, all ready for baby!