Swinging from tree to tree - what better way to unwind?
Every house should have a hammock. These instructions will help you make one. It can be any size you want: a tiny one for a child, a wide, luxurious trampoline for two, or just a modest, single- size hammock to start with. The rewards are manifold.

Unaccustomed as we are to people who make things, even the poorest effort is rewarded with ecstatic praise: "Gosh, did you make that?" Socially, it is a winner. You can bask in the interest and pleasure your creation generates.

"Ah! Nothing's as comfortable as a hammock."

"Did something just snap?"

"Help! If I let go, I'll fall out. Don't all just stand there!"

In addition to the fun in making it, a hammock is a nice thing to possess. Slung between two shady trees, basking in dappled sunlight, what better way could there be of idling away a summer afternoon? Surely I have given sufficient reason for nipping out and fetching the necessary bits and pieces - you can't lose!

You will need two lengths of broomstick (at least 26in long), two heavy, galvanised shackles, and some string. I have used some of my polypropylene baler twine, but natural materials are preferable. Thick postman's string is a little irritating to the naked bits; braided cotton lanyard is soft and pretty.

Take your lengths of broomstick, measure off 1in from the end, and then mark off centre-points for holes at 2in intervals, finishing 1in from the other end. Cut off the waste and round the ends with a penknife.

Support the sticks on a pair of notched blocks and drill each hole. Once you have drilled the holes, round off the rough edges with a large drill, or a pointed countersink bit (fig 1).

Make the netting needle illustrated. Card will do or, if you have a jigsaw or fretsaw, make it from plywood or MDF (fig 2).

Find a horizontal beam about 6ft or so from the floor, and nail into it three large nails. You hang your net from these nails, so they should be knocked in quite hard.

Lay the first stick over the nails. Cut off a 5ft length of string. Tie one end to the shackle with a turn and two hitches (fig 3), poke the other end through the centre hole of the stick, round the second broomstick, back down the hole, and fasten the end of the string to the shackle. This second broomstick really belongs at the other end, but it is a useful temporary measure around which you can form loops, and it is withdrawn as the netting is woven up to the stick.

Do the same at each end of the stick. With three loops in place, both sticks will be held close, in a stable arrangement (fig 4).

Measure off about 20ft of the string, bind one end with Sellotape to stop it fraying, and fasten its other end to the shackle.

Suspend a weight to the shackle to hold the strings tight, and wind the string from the shackle, through the next hole in the stick, round the top stick and back down the hole again.

Pull it straight, slip the end round the shackle, and repeat, until all the holes are occupied.

Lift the sticks down and remove the weight. Stretch a tight rubber band over the shackle and pull it 4in down the strings to gather them together. Hang the shackle on the centre nail. Take a couple of yards of string and, working from the shackle downwards, tie a series of simple overhand knots, alternating back and front, to the distance of about 3in. This is called a West Country whipping (fig 5). Finish off by tying the ends with a reef knot (fig 3), burying the knot between the strands that run down to the stick.

Lift the shackle off the nail, and lay the stick and strings neatly on the grass. Hammer a stake through the shackle to hold it still.

The netting is the next part. Wind a good length of string on to the netting needle. Move the top stick sideways one hole, to release one loop, and start the first knot. The stages are illustrated (fig 6). It is easy once you get the hang of it. When you have completed the first knot, move the stick one string to the right. Put your left hand through the string that dangles between the knot you have just finished and the needle, and poke the needle through the next loop to the right, that has just been released by moving the stick (fig 7). Grip the loop and the string with the thumb and first finger of the left hand and finish the knot. Repeat right across the stick.

You will notice that the size of the mesh is governed by the size of the loop you make round your hand. Try to keep the loops the same size.

Once the first row of meshes is made, you can hang the stick back on the nails and begin the return row. Unless you are ambidextrous, the best thing to do is to walk round to the other side of the net and work to the right, as before. Each row will add about 5in to the length of the net, so after a while progress is quick. Pull each knot tight before moving on to make the next. If the knot slips below the loop (fig 8), unravel it and do it again. (This is caused by releasing your grip with the left hand too soon.)

When your needle runs out of string, replenish it, and join it to the old with the same knot you have been using (sheet bend), or a reef knot (illustrated at fig 3 ).

As the net gets longer, your working position will become awkward. Take the second stick, thread it through a line of meshes, and hang it across the nails. This will lift the netting.

When you think you have woven enough netting to lie in, lay the hammock on the grass. All you have to do now is to slip the other stick in position and weave the sling to the second shackle. Peg this shackle in position about 2ft from the end of the mesh. Cut off a 5ft length of string. Tie the end to the shackle and thread it through the stick, knot it to the mesh, and thread it back up through the stick to the shackle. The order is: centre string first, then the two outside ones, then the rest, the same as when we started (fig 9).

Hang the shackle on the nail again, and make a neat whipping at the end. Lastly, take a length of string about 8ft long and feed it through the end hole of one stick. Tie it, using plenty of string to prevent it pulling through the hole in the stick, and wind it all the way along the side of the net to the stick at the other end (fig 10), and fasten it in the same way. Repeat on the opposite side with fresh string. This strengthens the edges of the hammock.

Hang your hammock. It needs a road test. Bounce about in it for a while. Swing it a bit. Try a short snooze. Move a table a little closer; fetch a book, a drink and a pillow. Trials should be thorough, and anything but exhaustive.

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