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How to Make Woven Rope Hammocks, the Main Bed

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Written by Aupoet   

Woven rope hammocks are great way to spend those lazy summer afternoons, relaxing under some large shady tree. This article describes how to make the main body of a rope hammock using cording. This is only one part of the rope hammock, the main bed. Finished hammocks of this size, some 4 to 5 ft. across and 10 to 13 ft long are great two person hammocks.


1. This hammock is made using a similar method as the pawley's hammock which is well known for its strength and comfort. It is necessary to buy 300 yards of 5/16 inch thick, #40, polyester cording to make both the hammock main bed, which I describe here, and the support ropes, which are describe in another article. Most people will want the cording of both to match so buy it all at the same time. I do not recommend cotton cording for hammocks that will be used outside, as it will absorb water and mildew. Hammock cording made from synthetics like nylon or polypropylene will work well outside as water will not affect them, but sunlight will deteriorate them and they are not as soft as cotton. You want to use braided cords rather than twisted and you want cording easy to tie in knots that won't slip. Next you will need a weaving shuttle to wind the cording on, making it easy to work with. You can buy a shuttle, but most are too small for this job. You need one about 17 to 24 inches long and 4 to 5 inches wide that will hold enough cording to keep knot tying to a minimum. Check out my other article that explains how to make a hammock weaving shuttle that can hold more than 100 yards of cording, How to make a weaving shuttle for making hammocks. Tools needed  to make the hammock bed include: a measuring tape, a soldering iron (or some other way to melt the rope ends), scissors, paper tape, a drill with bits, and wood screws. Other supplies needed include, two- 1 inch diameter, wooden dowels about 3 ft. long like two old broom sticks, and a couple of clothes pins.

2. In order to support the hammock body while weaving it, you will have to make a weaving frame to hold the work. The hammock bed needs to be suspended between two upright supports such as porch columns or poles approx. 80 inches apart, that you don't mind placing screws into. You want to fasten the wooden dowels or broom sticks to the uprights so their tops will angle inward, be 74 to 76 inches apart, and be about 4 1/2 ft. high. They need to be fastened securely to support the weight of all the cording. The screw holes should be predrilled in the dowels so they won't split. You also want about 20 inches of free space on the outside of each column. Look at the picture to see the weaving frame layout. Attach a clothes pin onto the top of each stick by taping one side of the clothes pin to the stick. Look at the pictures to see how the clothes pins should be taped onto the sticks. Now measure from the top of the left stick, across to the top of the right stick and continue measuring from that point down the right column till you come to 86 inches from the top of the left stick and make a permenant mark at that point. Repeat the same process measuring from the right stick and making a mark on the left column at the 86 inch point. Another way to make a weaving frame is to make a portable one from plastic pipe. I explain how to build a nice, light weight weaving frame in another article. How to make a hammock weaving stand.

3. Fill the weaving shuttle with hammock cord. Because the cut end of the braided polyester hammock cord tends to fray you will have to melt the ends, being careful not to burn your fingers on the hot material. Place tape around the cord before cutting it, then cut across the middle of the tape, and melt the two ends. It is also a good idea to tie a simple knot about two inches from the end of the cord as a safeguard to keep other knots from coming loose. Place the hank of cording in a basket or trash can while unwinding it so it won't roll all over the floor. On one end of the shuttle there is a small groove. Place the end knot of the cording in this groove and start loading the shuttle. Hold the shuttle and wind the cording onto it by flipping it end over end, not by winding the cord around the shuttle with your hand. Hand winding will cause a twist each time around and that will lead to problems later. You should get at least 200 to 300 ft. of cording on the shuttle. I know it will be quite bulky but the more cording on the shuttle the fewer knots you will have in the body of the rope hammock.

4. For the first and last rows of the hammock you will need rope chains some 80 inches long. The start of each chain is a loop known as a sailor's knot which is shown in my picture along with a simple knot. To make a sailor's knot cross the cord over itself approx. eight inches from the end, making a loop, pass the free end back up this loop to make another loop under the first. Pass the free end around the rope that is sticking up out of the first loop and then pass it back down into the first loop. Hold the bottom loop open keeping it around 2 inches wide and pull the knot tight. Practice making a sailor's knot till you can make a good tight knot with a loop the size you want that won't slip close. Now make the chain by pulling the cord up through the loop to make another loop and then repeat the process of pulling loops through loops until you have a chain some 80 inches long. All the loops need to be the same size and if not just pull on the unknotted end and the loops will all come out. Once the chain is long enough, cut off the cord, leaving about a foot free after the last loop. Melt the end, tie a hard knot 2 inches from the end, and wrap the end around the second loop back from the last. Stick the free end back through the second loop then through the last loop and pull it tight. Make the other chain the same as the first. The number of loops in each chain do not have to match.

5. Stretch one of the chains between the two dowels by putting the end loops over the dowels. Check that there are no twists in the chain and notice the two different sides, a single cord side and a double cord side. You want the single side, which look like a row of bumps to be facing up. Check the picture to see what that side should look like. Now pull out about ten ft. of cord from the shuttle, and pass the end down through the first free loop in the chain next to the right side stick. You want the cord to go through the single cord side of the loops at sixteen other places evenly spaced along the chain. This may take several tries to get sixteen evenly spaced downward passes. When finished the cord should be attached to the chain at 17 places and when it is, make a sailor's knot at the free end of the cord, slipping it over the left stick, to sit just above the chain's loop. Make these tie on loops loose enough to get a finger between the stick and the cord. Draw an upward facing arrow on the left upright support and mark the right side upright with a downward facing one, to remind yourself which way to stick the cord through the loops when making each row.

6. Once you have the free end of the cord secured to the left upright, pull the shuttle end of the cord to stretch it tight across the space between the dowels, but not so tight that the sticks break. Hold the rope taut with one hand at the top of the right stick and use your other hand to measure out its length to the 86 inch mark on the column. At the 86 inch mark on the cord take it back up to the clothes pin on the right stick and stick it into the pin to secure it. By doing this with each row of cording the length of each row will be equal. After securing the cord, pass the shuttle around behind the right side stick and unwrap about 7 ft. of cord. Notice the arrow on the right column, seeing that it points down means you will stick the shuttle down into each of the loops for this first row. Using slack in the cord open the first loop and pass the loaded shuttle down through that loop, then back up to go down through the next loop. Make 16 passes down through the loops, stretch the cord across the dowel tops and measure out to the left upright 86 inch mark. Fasten the cord in the left clothes pin at its 86 inch point, pass the shuttle around behind the stick, and look at the left column. The upward pointing arrow means you will make the next row by passing the shuttle up through the previous row of loops. You will need to check each loop to be sure it is part of the previous row and not an earlier one. Do this by pulling up on the loop to see if you get a four cornered shape without any other loose rope going through it as shown in the picture. The first pass should always be after the first set of crossed ropes on each side. You need to keep a count of the passes as you make them to be sure there are always 16. When you reach the end of a row where a clothes pin already has a cord in it, drop that cord around the back of the stick and replace it with the next measured length of rope. The begining is always the hardest part of making hammocks because the shuttle will be so full of cord and you are just learning the process. It will get easier as you go along and the shuttle gets to a manageable size.

7. When you run out of cord on the shuttle, go back to last complete row and tie it off to the stick by making another sailor's knot at the 86 inch mark. You don't want any knots in the bed of the hammock. Reload the shuttle and tie the free end of the cord to this same stick with another sailor's knot. These two loops will be counted together as single loop on the stick. Keep making rows until you have 41 loops on each stick. Count the chain loops, and any double loops where you tied on new cording as a single loop. You won't count the tie on loop on the left side stick, because the tie off loop should be made on the right side after the other chain is attached. When you have measured out and secured the last row at the left side do not cut the cord yet. Place the other chain on the sticks making sure it is not twisted and having the single strand side down. Now take enough cord off the shuttle to make the last 86 inch row and an additional 2 ft. for tying, cut it off, melt the end and tie a hard knot in it. Pass the free end around the back of the left stick and through the first free loop of the chain. Following the left side arrow, go up through the first loop of the hammock body. Make 16 evenly spaced passes across the chain and through each hammock loop. At the right side make the 17th pass through the last free chain loop, measure the rope out to 86 inches and tie it off at that point below the chain loop. Slide the chain loop off the stick and while holding it, slide the last sailor's knot loop on under it. Now you should have 43 loops on each stick counting all the loops and counting any two loops where you tied off and tied on due to the cord ending as one loop. Now you have made the main hammock bed.

8. To make a complete hammock you will also need to make two sets of braided support ropes. Check out my article on how to make hammock support ropes, How to make a set of hammock support ropes. These support ropes connect to the main body through wooden spreaders that act to hold the hammock open. I also have an article on making hammock spreaders, How to make wooden hammock spreaders, that covers how to make them. The loops on the sticks are what the support ropes will tie onto. To keep the loops straight and in order pass a section of rope down each stick through the loops and tie its ends together. After doing this you can take the sticks down, leaving the loops on them to be able to move the hammock while being careful to not tangle it. Read my other articles on making hammock rope supports and hammock spreaders to finish making your rope hammock.

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