Creating Places: Four Corner Tree Hammock

When I was a kid summer was all about building forts. Tree forts, earth forts, pillow forts, bark houses – you name it, I built it. I’ve always loved creating spaces that I loved to be in, and interestingly enough, other people loved those spaces too. Much like the forts of childhood, these spaces are not imposed on a place, but emerge from it. People like spaces that harmonize with what is already present in the environment. This is the story of one of my more recent ‘place makings’, a four corner hammock woven in place and suspended amidst four trunks of an English Walnut tree.

Firstly, this tree is amazing. Four trunks, all of which are roughly evenly spaced apart from one another, and each truck has a crotch at exactly the same height. Thank goodness I love to climb trees or I never would have seen this amazing gift! I remember the moment I noticed this the very next thought that entered my head was “HAMMOCK!”. I do love hammocks…

I hemmed and hawed about how to go about weaving this ‘sky net’ as my brother in law calls it. I thought about making a jig on the ground with fence posts and then bringing the completed product up into the tree and attaching it, but there seemed to be too much opportunity for error there. I ended up choosing to weave it in place, which ended up being much easier to do than I had imagined.

There are 3 main parts to this hammock; 1) the collars around each trunk, which had to be completed first, 2) the connecting lines that run from trunk to trunk and set the size of the hammock, and finally 3) filling in all the empty space between the connecting lines with a simple alternating weave pattern just like any typical patio hammock.

  1. Weaving The Collars

I first wove the collars using a caterpillar sinnet pattern. This creates a very strong rope (effectively doubling up whatever rope you are using) that also has the ability to have other lines woven into it. Each of these collars was run through pieces of cut firehose to help protect the tree from rope being tensioned immediately against the bark. Each collar is adjustable with a  heavy duty threaded carabiner to allow for the tree to grow without constricting itself or putting undue stress upon the hammock.

Here is the Caterpillar Sinnet tutorial video I referenced. 

2. Weaving The Connecting Lines

Once the collars were completed, I measured lengths for and wove to fit each connecting line to set the ‘frame’ of the hammock. I used the same caterpillar sinnet pattern demonstrated above in the video. This  pattern is important to use because it allowed me to weave the body of the hammock directly into the connecting lines. These connecting lines were woven into the collars to make for an extra secure anchoring at each trunk.

3. Weaving The Hammock Body

For this part I worked in approximately 100′ segments (that was about the maximum my home made shuttle (see it in the video below) could hold while still fitting through the caterpillar sinnet loops. Each new segment was tied together and the ends were fused with a small pocket lighter. While I wish I’d been savvy enough to document the process at the time, I was not, but if you YouTube ‘weaving with a shuttle’ I’m sure you’ll come up with far better methods than I used, and mine still worked and it was easy!

The hammock took only two days to complete once I began weaving the collars. I spent far more time thinking about how to do it than actually doing it. There is a lot of power in just starting and letting the project inform itself along the way.

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