Camping is one of my all-time favorite pastimes. Growing up in Colorado, this meant long family drives to national parks with a pop-up camper in tow or treks into the mountains for weekend backpacking adventures, with surrounding views of the Rocky Mountains.
In Florida, most camping I've found is far from those picturesque peaks --overcrowded campgrounds full of satellite-tv-equipped trailers are peppered along alligator-ridden rivers--but the Sunshine State also has a beautiful network of spoil islands. These small, vacant refuges are accessible only by boat and are free for the nightly mischief of camping.
One of my first times to the islands, my friend Rani and I canoed out with a boat full of firewood, beer, vegetables wrapped in foil for fire cooking, and the other trappings of camp life. While I was setting up the tent, Rani quickly hung up two super-cool Eno camping hammocks she had bought for the occasion.
Materials and Tools
Real Eno hammocks are made with a nylon that is thinner, wrinklier, and can pack down a bit smaller than rip-stop nylon, but my local fabric store does not carry a wide variety of outdoor fabrics. They do have a half-dozen or so colors of rip-stop.
I found AmSteel Blue rope, nylon webbing, and carabiners at a nearby boating supply store.
Step 1: Sew the Hammock Body
Cut a quarter yard off the end of the green nylon so that it is 3.25 yards long.
Cut two 14.5" pieces out of the blue nylon so that you have two 14.5" x 3.25 yard pieces.
Sew one of the blue nylon strips to a side of the green hammock body. I found it easiest to sew the raggedy edges of the nylon together with a 1" seam allowance and then trim the seam allowance to 1/2" after sewing.
Instead of pinning the fabric together, it was easier to guide the nylon with my hands. It glides easily into place and saves a lot of time. This is a really forgiving project visually, so I took some lazy-person shortcuts.
To make sure the hammock is durable and looks super classy, I used flat-felled seams to attach the blue and green nylon. They look really complicated but are actually really easy, so don't get nervous if you are new to sewing! Everyone will be impressed with your seemingly incredible skills.
After sewing a blue side strip to the hammock body and trimming the seam allowance to 1/2", it's time to start flat-felling the seam. Trim the green side of the seam to 1/4" inch the entire length of the seam. Then, fold the wider side of the seam allowance (blue) down over the trimmed side (green) so that the edge of the wider side meets the seam.
Because ironing nylon like is a big melty no-no, I used a glue stick to help keep the fabric from unfolding.
Open the fabric out flat and lay the folded seam flat down onto the fabric so that you can see the stitches of the seam and all the raw edges are tucked away inside the fold. Sew the seam down along the folded edge.
Repeat on the other side of the main hammock body with the other blue strip of nylon.
Rani's Eno hammock has a neat little pocket attached to the outside edge. It serves as a container for the hammock and is a handy spot to stash a phone or small flashlight at night. While the pocket might be large enough to fit a mass-market paperback, I don't think it is large enough to fit the trade paperbacks. I decided to make my pocket larger to accommodate the books I like to read.
To make the pocket, cut a square of each fabric to be 11" x 11". Hem one side of one of the squares--whichever color you wand to be the front of the pocket--by folding the edge down 1/4", then folding again 1/4" to hide the raw edge. Sew along the inner folded edge.
Using a zig-zag stitch, sew the bottom and side edges of the pocket squares together with a generous seam allowance. Leave the top hemmed edge open. Trim the fabric to just outside of the zig-zag stitch, but leave the excess fabric on the open end of the pocket. Turn the pocket inside-out.
Hem one outer edge of the hammock by folding the edge down 1/4", then folding again 1/4" to hide the raw edge just like we did on the pocket. With the nylon, it is pretty easy to roll the edge of the fabric over with one hand while guiding the fabric into the machine with the other. This eliminates the need for pinning the fabric beforehand while still giving a consistent hem.
To hem the other hammock edge, first find the halfway point on the long side of the hammock by folding in half. Mark this with a pin. Lay the hammock out flat and place the pocket centered with this pin. Now stick a pin in the hammock at the front edge of the pocket--this will give you a reminder when you are sewing the hem to sew in the pocket as well. Remove your center-marking pin.
Hem this edge of the hammock just like the other side, but when you get to the pocket-reminder-pin, slip the un-hemmed fabric from the top of the pocket into the hammock hem and sew it in. Finish sewing the rest of the hem like normal.
To make rope channels at each end of the hammock, fold down the raw edge of the fabric about 1" or so. Next, generously fold the edge down about 2", trapping the raw edge inside. Sew along the fold inside the hammock three times in a row to make sure the rope channels are extra strong. This is the stitched part of the hammock that is will bear the most stress.
Cut your rope into two equal lengths and burn the ends of the rope to keep it from unraveling. Attach each rope to a carabiner with a cow hitch knot by folding a length of rope in half, feeding the looped end through the carabiner, and pulling the ends of the rope through the loop.