Last summer I made some hammocks as gifts for friends. I made them based on a simple design I came up with a couple of summers ago. My first hammocks were made out of a painting drop cloth that was laying around, those hammocks have survived two summers of wear and tear . Painting drop cloths are made of a durable, raw-canvas type of material.
Frugal option: depending on how much weight it has to support, use a doubled over bed sheet (especially if it’s for small children). When using fabrics like cottons and synthetic blends (like bed sheets, or other used items that have sustained wear and tear) I would suggest making a hammock that can be easily removed from its anchors so as to avoid the daily weathering that would damage the fibers and decrease the strength.
Another option is using panel drapes found in thrift stores. They have neat patterns, they already have strong, finished seams all around. All you have to do is fold over the ends to make spots to run rope through.
The fabric shown here, was purchased at Fabricland. It is outdoor upholstery fabric: rot resistant, and UV resistant. This fabric is usually $24 a meter, but I found this stuff for half price in the sale section. The thread is also UV and rot resistant (my personal standards are lower, I’m happy with my drop-cloth hammocks, but for friends and family, I decided to take every precaution that would decrease the likelihood of seams ripping pre-maturely). The thread cost me an extra $5.
The design for this hammock is surprisingly simple. It is a banana-style sling. If I remember correctly, I only needed one meter of fabric per hammock.
1. Cut the fabric into a rectangle. Make it as wide as you like (I think mine are a meter wide). Leave a foot or more on each end above the head and below the foot of whoever intends to lay in it. Since I made mine for adults, I had my dad come and lay down on the fabric on the floor because he is 6′ tall, and folded the ends under so that he had another 1’6” extending beyond his head and feet.
Yes, I realize I am using metric and imperial measurements here, I’m sure you’ll figure it out!
2. Fold the sides up 1″, and sew two seams (straight stitch) up the length of the 1” fold. Do this to each side of your hammock (along the lengths that will run along the body). This will generate strength along the edges and reinforce the fabric, stopping it from fraying.
3. Treatment for the ends (where head and feet will go). Fold the fabric (similar to the edges) except make these areas wide enough to pass a rope through later. Mine were a little wider than the width of my hand once they were sewn. Here, I sewed 3, parallel, straight stitch seams about 1/4″ apart to secure the fold. 3 seams might be overkill but I like my stuff to hold up.
4. Take some rope and run it through each end. Tie your rope in a knot and there you have it. That’s pretty much it! The hammock is a rectangle of fabric, with rope loops running through each end.
5. If you are feeling generous, you can roll it up and wrap enough extra rope around it so whoever you are giving it to can make two anchors from which to secure it. I say generous, because rope can be expensive and you do want to use a rot and abrasion resistant rope (it will say so on the package). Cotton ropes and cheaper ropes will tear with very little hammock swinging. Bark is abrasive, so if there is one thing to expect to spend a little money on, it should be your rope.
To make the hammock removable:
Tie rope around a tree. Tie a secure knot in that rope.Tie another length of rope around the second tree and secure it with a knot. These ropes will not move, they are your “anchors”. Use a metal ‘S’ shaped hook (found at hardware stores, some department stores) or a carabiner (found in outdoor and sporting goods stores) to secure and remove the ends of your hammock. This way, you can take it down in bad weather and reduce the weathering it undergoes, and extend its life. You can keep the S-hook or carabiner attached to the hammock’s end loops until the next time you want to put it up.