Summer is coming, and so are the lazy days of relaxing outdoors in the warm weather with a good book and a cold ice cream cone. What better way to nap outdoors under the sun than in your own DIY hammock. Hammocks are surprisingly simple to make and so comfortable to climb into for an afternoon summertime snooze. They make great camping companions and kids of all ages love the way they rock us to sleep.
Knowing how to fashion your own DIY hammock from a few simple materials will give you a versatile and quick sleep surface wherever you land. This tutorial shows you step-by-step how to make a classic hammock that you can hang between any two sturdy trees, whether in your yard, at a friend's summer party, or for your next camping trip. This hammock requires no spreader bars or stands so it can be tossed in a bag and taken anywhere.
What Is a Hammock?
A hammock is essentially a hanging or suspended bed or resting place fashioned out of rope, cord, fabric, netting or cloth. The modern word hammock comes from “hamaka” of the Taíno and Arawak languages. Hammocks have been used as beds for adults, children, and babies and as safe places to store food and other valuables.
Originally made by the indigenous folks of the Caribbean, South America, and Central America, hammocks spread about the world once adopted by sailors as a safe and comfortable way to sleep aboard rough-sailing boats. Before adopting this technology, sailors risked death when tossed from their sleep surfaces while at sea. It is hard to know exactly when peoples started fashioning DIY hammocks for sleeping, but history tells us their use goes back hundreds of years.
Hammocks provide a safe and cozy place to sleep above the ground and provide a lot of advantages over a bed or mat on the floor. Lifted above the snakes, bugs, and other critters the hammock sleeper is protected from wildlife that may otherwise plague the outdoor sleeper. Hammocks allow for air flow which keeps you cool in the warm summer and early autumn months. Finally, hammocks are portable enough to travel with you whether hanging in the backyard, camping with the kids, or going on a three-month backpacking trip.
Materials You'll Need for Your DIY Hammock
The materials list for this DIY hammock is short and sweet. If you are very industrious or plan to make multiple hammocks, you may want to take the time to make your own hammock loom first and explore woven hammocks. There are beautiful and elaborate ways tie hammock knots, different methods that use cloth, netting, rope,
or paracord, and hand ties with and without wood spreader bars.
We are interested in offering the simplest DIY hammock that almost anyone can manage without a lot of fancy materials or naval knot tying skills. This hammock uses fabric and does require very basic sewing skills.
The carabiners should be strong enough to support the humans who use your DIY hammock. Don't use the cheap kind; rather, go to the outdoor supply for the real climbing types.
For the cloth, canvas works best. You will use all of this. Get a quality piece with no holes, tears or uneven cuts.
Tip for beginners: Fabric comes in different widths. Consider this when choosing the fabric for your DIY hammock. The most common widths for canvas are 45 inches and 60 inches. We used a 60-inch width.
- 1Gather all materials together in one well-lit place. If you are using a sewing machine, be sure you have a surface large enough to support the amount of fabric you are using. Canvas is heavy and may pull if draped over the edge of your sewing table.
- 2If you are using a sewing machine, get it set up for a straight stitch and be sure your heavy duty needle is in place. If you are hand sewing, thread your heavy duty needle with as long a length of thread you are comfortable managing.
Tip for beginners just learning to hand sew: Use a thread as long as your arm from fingertip to armpit. Anything longer than this may be difficult to control, leading to tangled threads.
For the Hammock Body
- 1Remember to use the entire length of fabric. Turn the edges ½ inch. Press if you are using an iron. Pin folded edges in place.
- 2Hem all the way around the edge of the fabric using a straight stitch. This straight stitch can be long or short to your liking. We find that a shorter stitch is more secure over time.
- 3Turn the edges ½ inch again. Turning your seams twice will give a nice finished edge and help prevent fraying over time. Press if you are using an iron. Pin folded edges in place.
- 4Hem all the way around the edge of the fabric using a straight stitch for a second time. You now have a nicely finished piece of straight fabric with two short and two long sides.
- 5On both of the short sides of the fabric, fold over the fabric at about 5 inches. Press and/or pin down.
- 6On the edge of the fold that you just pinned, sew your first seam 1 1/2 to 2 inches from the end of the hammock.
- 7Sew a second seam about 1/4 inch from the first, moving away from the end of the fabric towards the turned-over hemmed edge. The easiest way to do this, if you are using a sewing machine, is to line up the edge of your foot to the first seam you made.
- 8Repeat the last step until you have sewed as many lines as you can fit from the start to where your hemmed edge is. These multiple lines help to reinforce the part of your hammock that will support the most weight.
For the Webbing
- 1Cut your webbing into four pieces. Two pieces should be about two feet long; these will be threaded through the hammock ends. The remainder of your webbing should just be cut in half to make two equal, long pieces; these will be your tree straps.
- 2Fold over one end of your cut webbing at about three inches from the end. Pin it in place.
- 3Sew a 1 ½ inch box starting from about 1 ½ inch from the folded end, continuing along the edges, and finishing at the cut end which is now folded over. The measurements here do not need to be exact as long as you leave a loop long enough to fit the carabiner to and you have at least a one-inch square.
- 4Sew an X in the center of your box.
- 5Reinforce these X's in boxes with several repeated stitches alongside each other.
- 6Repeat the last three steps until you have sewed boxes with X's at the ends of all four pieces of strapping.
Assemble and Hang the Hammock
- 1Thread the short pieces of finished webbing through the loop ends of your hammock.
- 2Attach webbing ends to a carabiner on each side.
- 3Choose a location for your hammock. You should find two trees (or fence posts, poles, etc) at least a few feet apart.
- 4Using the longer tree straps, wrap your straps at least twice around the trees you want to use. You can adjust for different-sized trees or different distances by wrapping more. (Tip for beginners: hang the ropes higher for more comfort and to allow for give when the hammock is used. If your straps seem to slip, use a rough-surfaced tree with a lot of bark or wrap them above a branch. No one likes their bum to hit the ground!)
- 5Attach the finished ends of your tree straps to the carabiner that is attached to the hammock straps.
That's it! You have made your own DIY hammock the whole family can enjoy. Remember, have an able-bodied adult try the hammock out for safety the first time someone uses it.
Now that you know how to fashion your own DIY hammock out of a few simple materials, we hope you are able to pass on this valuable skill to your friends and family. You may wow them with your cunning skill. Once you have the know-how to build your own bed, you will never again be without a place to lie down at the end of the day, or for that afternoon nap.