Weaving a Mayan Hammock

weaving-a-mayan-hammock

Photo courtesy Wikipedia.com

 Weaving a Mayan Hammock–Video Overview

Introduction

The Mayan hammock is arguably the most comfortable gathered-end hammock available anywhere, and is notable for being the descendent of the original hammock discovered by Columbus on his voyages to the West Indies. The Mayan hammock is woven using a fairly tight “triple weave” that creates a lattice when pulled apart.

Mayan hammocks tend to be heavy, due to the quantity of string used to create the netting, so this style of hammock is more suitable for sleeping indoors than lightweight backpacking. Much depends on the type and quantity of string used and what size hammock you weave.

I found that the Mayan weaving style is not terribly difficult, but it does take patience and a little time. Once you get the weaving pattern down, expect to spend a few weeks to complete the weaving, depending on how much time per day you can devote to weaving and how big you want the bed.

References

Materials Needed

  • > 2,000 yards (~1,860 m) of #18 twisted cotton or nylon string for a hammock bed approximately 72 × 50 in (183 × 127 cm). Nylon is more mildew resistant, but cotton will be more comfortable. The clew or end strings, are each half the length of the hammock, effectively doubling the overall length of the hammock.
  • Netting needle/shuttle (8 × 1.25 × 0.1875 in / 20 × 3.175 × 0.5 cm)
  • Loom
    • 3 @ 1 × 3 × 8 (horizontal beams, wedges)
    • 2 @ 2 × 3 × 8 (vertical posts)

The Netting Needle

mayan-hammock-netting-needle

A netting needle (“lanzadera” or shuttle) is used to load a quantity of string and work it through the warp to create the weave. A netting needle differs from a traditional loom shuttle in that the one end is pointed or tapered, making it easier to poke the shuttle through the weave. These needles are traditionally used for making fishing nets and are still used today to make Mayan hammocks.

You can make your own needle or purchase one.

mayan-netting-needle-cut

The Loom

A basic loom measures 6 ft (1.8 m) tall by 6.5 ft (2 m) wide when assembled and consists of two vertical posts or poles and two horizontal beams. Most looms are adjustable via notches in the horizontal beams and holes in the vertical posts so the weaver can make slightly longer hammock beds. These horizontal supports are secured with a wedge so the hammock body can be removed (slid upward) off the frame when the weaving is complete.

You can make a basic, inexpensive frame out of PVC pipe or lumber. To make a traditional stand, you’ll need to cut and assemble the wood poles and beams, including wedges, to make the stand sturdy and long-lasting.

mayan-loom-instructions

Loading the Loom

Once the loom is built and in place it is time to load the loom with the “warp” string. Begin by tying the warp string to the top of one vertical post and then wrap it around the second post until you wind a sufficient number of strings between the two posts. The number of warp strings depends on the color patterns you intend to weave. You can easily add more warp string as you go along, allowing for color variations on the project, even alternating between the warp and weft strands.

Once loaded, tie the standing end back to one of the loom’s vertical posts.

Loading the Netting Needle

A netting needle can handle only so much string before it’s full, so having a few on hand is a good idea if you want to keep weaving without interruption. Hitch the end of the string (ABOK #1602) around the needle and then begin to wrap around the bottom of the netting needle and back to the top where you wrap the needle again. Repeat this back-and-forth process until the shuttle is full (see shuttle image above).

The Edge “Crochet”

A few sources refer to the edge as “crochet,” which it might be, but it’s nothing more than a series of overhand knots (ABOK #46) evenly spaced along the edge. This is the first task in the weaving process.

  • There should be a minimum of 21 knots, making 20 spaced sections.
  • The knots should be spaced between 3 and 4 inches (8 and 10 cm) apart.
  • There should be a minimum of 4 rows of interlaced knot rows and as many as 8 or 10.

This edging sets the spacing for the weaving along with providing a tight edge to maintain the hammock shape.

mayan-hammock-edge3

First row: Loop around the bottom (first) warp from the back, then around and back behind the second and first warp, capturing the working weft as well.

mayan-hammock-edge2

Subsequent rows: Loop around a knot then go up, capturing a new warp line, then back around to the first line and knot.

mayan-hammock-edge1

mayan-hammock-edge4

The Triple Weave

  • The weaving pattern is “under two, over and around one.”
  • There should be 2 weaves on each of the 20 spaced sections, creating 40 weaves across the hammock body.

mayan-weave1

Where the weft dips down, pull the two warp strands and insert the shuttle.

As you work along the warp, keep the weft string tight to ensure the lattice isn’t loose when you’re done. When you reach the end, go around the pole and hitch the weft and warp strings you were just working on and then continue the pattern.

mayan-weave2

The shuttle goes under two warp strands and over one warp strand…

mayan-weave3

…and then back around to the front to end the weave cycle.

mayan-weave-loose

You can see from this loosened weave the undulating pattern created in the weave.

mayan-weave-tight

NOTE: Never end a string in the middle of the hammock. If you run out of string, tie it off on the pole and begin a new string. Do not tie knots or leave loose strands in the middle of the hammock.

High-quality Mayan hammocks have at least 40 rows of weft that is woven through the warp, leaving a tightly-woven net that flexes and supports the occupant unlike any other hammock available.

The Clew

This video (above) actually does a great job in showing the mechanics of making the clew.

The clew is a modern sailor term for the nettles or string that attaches to the ends of the hammock and provides a loop or ring as the attachment point.

  • The nettles should be half the length of the hammock, effectively doubling the overall size of the hammock (for example, a hammock body 2 m (6.5 ft) long, the nettles should be 1 m (3.25 ft) long each).
  • The nettles should all be the same length.

Traditionally, the nettles are made from a single, continuous strand of #18 twisted nylon string that is looped around 6 sections from the hammock body. The nettles are middled to create a bight. This bight is tied and then cockscombed to protect the nettles.

The two remaining ends are tied on to themselves using a French Spiral Hitch/Whipping (ABOK #3450).

Alternatively, you can tie a Shouldered Sword Mat (ABOK #3819) with the two remaining ends to create a navy-style clew.

  39 comments for “Weaving a Mayan Hammock

  1. Connor Williams
    July 30, 2013 at 2:37 pm

    How would you change the color of the string during the triple weave?

    • Derek
      July 30, 2013 at 3:23 pm

      Mayan Hammock pattern weave example

      Changing the colors is quite simple, really. Just weave as much or as little as you want to create the desired pattern. Tie off the string around the loom post (I use a bowline know) so you have a loop that matches the rest of the loops around the posts. Here are a few ways I’ve been doing it:

      1. Use multiple shuttles/netting needles. In the photo (above) you can see contrasting colors interwoven with the main color. For example, the red section punctuated with four rows of cyan/blue. To do this, the loom is wrapped with red yarn (primary color) and you alternate between two shuttles, one with red and the other with cyan (secondary/highlight color). After four weaves of one color, you set that shuttle down (the yarn is still attached), and begin weaving with the other shuttle. Continue alternating. If you run out of a color before the pattern is complete, fill the shuttle with yarn and tie the yarn from the shuttle to the end of the weaving yarn you just finished. I use a double fisherman’s knot to connect the yarns. Make sure your knots occur at the ends of the hammock, not in the body itself.

      2. Fill warp and weft strands to set amounts. After finishing a few rows, I found that I could fill a shuttle with enough yarn for about 1 in (2.5 cm) of completed weaving. It worked out to about 10 warp strands around the loom. When I wanted to change the pattern, I would wrap 10 strands around the loom and then weave with the shuttle. My shuttle would just about run out after weaving down those 10 warp strands. At this point I could switch colors both on the loom (warp strands) and the shuttle (weft strands) as I wanted/needed.

      3. Keep the spool of warp yarn attached to the loom as you would a sewing machine. I’ve done a few sections where the warp strands around the loom continued for a while, even though I was alternating the weaving/weft strands. Instead of wrapping dozens of strands of yarn around the loom, I would only do about 10 and then stick the remaining spool of yarn on the top of my loop (secured with a rubber band). In this way, I could wrap the loom again without tying any more knots for the warp strands.

      Let me know if this makes sense and if you have further questions.

      • Connor Williams
        July 30, 2013 at 8:34 pm

        My last question is did you use a thousand yards or thousand feet?

        • Derek
          July 30, 2013 at 8:45 pm

          1,000 yds (915 m) will get you a hammock bed about 50 in (1.27 m) wide and 6.5 ft (2 m) long. Add a little more for the nettles which will double the overall length of the hammock.

          • Connor Williams
            July 30, 2013 at 9:24 pm

            Then i guess that leads to my next question of, where did you get rope for this?

          • Derek
            July 30, 2013 at 10:11 pm

            For the hammock I’m making now, I purchased the yarn from hobby lobby. They had an assortment of colors of #18 nylon from the brand “Artiste”. Each spool was 197 yds (180 m). I got 6 of them.

            I also purchased a spool of white #18 nylon string from Home Depot, 1,000 yards (I think) of mason line. It was pretty cheap.

            I’m still trying to find a good source for the cotton yarn. When I find a good source for a good price I’ll post it.

          • Derek
            August 4, 2013 at 10:30 pm

            Correction: my earlier estimates only counted the wrapped yarn, not the weft or woven yarn. You’ll need about double the amount of string, or roughly 2,000 yards (1,830 m) for a hammock bed about 50 inches (1.25 m).

      • Lori
        August 19, 2014 at 5:45 am

        Do you have a source for the #18 cotton cord in different colors? I’d like to make one for my daughter but can’t find the cord.

        Lori

        • Derek
          August 19, 2014 at 9:59 pm

          Lori, I wish I was better at understanding yarn and string. I exchanged samples with a yarn maker out of Kansas for weeks and it is still confusing to me :} I was searching online today looking for some samples that might work, but I can’t be 100% sure. This string looks pretty good.

          A friend sent me several cones of yarn from Mexico that is labeled to be “good for hammocks and weaving” so I’m giving it a try on my loom. It is a “No. 6 100% Nylon”. It is smaller than the #18 I used on my last hammock. I’d like to do something thicker, and in cotton, but I still haven’t found a good source.

          • August 20, 2014 at 3:57 am

            I actually have samples coming from a cotton yarn Mfg. Their minimum order is like 900 lbs. LOLO but they offered to hook me up with a customer of theirs who would ship smaller quantities. I’ll keep you updated when they arrive.

  2. mike
    September 18, 2013 at 8:44 pm

    How is the finishing edge or crochet done?

    • Derek
      September 18, 2013 at 9:14 pm

      The edging is the same on both sides. You’ll need to lay out a few wraps of warp string to match the beginning edge and then begin the knotting process. Skip every two weaves and tie an overhand knot and layer those knots as you did in the beginning.

      • Kate
        May 3, 2014 at 11:13 am

        Could You Post A Video Of You Finishing The Edge? I’m More Of The Monkey See Monkey Do

        • Derek
          May 3, 2014 at 12:43 pm

          Yes, although it is a repeat of the beginning edge, which is already on the video. It is the same pattern: skip two and tie a half hitch.

  3. Adam
    October 20, 2013 at 3:59 pm

    Hi! I followed your instructions and built a mayan loom and attempted a baby sized hammock. However, when I finished and took the hammock off the loom, the weave stretched out and made a mess. I don’t think I am finishing the rows up correctly when I reach a pole.

    You state, “As you work along the warp, keep the weft string tight to ensure the lattice isn’t loose when you’re done. When you reach the end, go around the pole and hitch the weft and warp strings you were just working on and then continue the pattern.”

    What do you mean by “hitch the weft and warp strings you were just working on…”?

    Currently, when I reach a pole, I just wrap the weft around it and continue weaving. Over time, the undulating weft pattern near the poles start creeping inwards towards the center of the hammock. So I am pretty sure I am not doing it correctly. Are you tying off each row to the pole? My hammock does not scrunch back up all by itself when it is off the loom and in my hands.

    Thanks so much for your instructions and your help!

    • Derek
      October 20, 2013 at 5:19 pm

      Adam, I also replied to you personally, but for the benefit of the community, I’m realizing there are a few idiosyncrasies that I need to address, possibly in a new video.

      When you finish a row of weaving and bring the shuttle around the pole, you first hook this line (hitch it) with the same working line from the shuttle. After this first hitch, you then begin the triple weave.

      The way you fill the loom is important. The line you are weaving (the top line that you go “over and around” with the shuttle) should be opposite you on the loom. The working line from the shuttle should be nearest you on the loom. When you wrap the loom and begin weaving, you should follow this pattern. The warp string should be on the opposite side of the loom.

  4. Cameron
    November 11, 2013 at 10:34 pm

    Soooooo, if one inch has about 10 warp strings, then a 50″ wide hammock has about 500 warp strings in total? Wow!

    • Derek
      November 11, 2013 at 10:39 pm

      Much depends on the thickness of the yarn you use. In my own testing, I had some rows with 12 to an inch. If I haven’t already stated, let it be known that I’m not a weaving expert :) Every time I spoke with the Yarn Barn in Kansas about yarn, I got confused about how they measure yarn thickness. It was maddening. I finally admitted that I have no desire to be an expert on weaving, but it was a lot of fun to make the weave and the hammock. So, as long as nobody asks me specific questions about the best yarn (I’ll leave that to the experts) I’m happy to entertain questions on how to weave the mayan hammock. That part I have down pat.

      • Chelsea Juhl
        April 11, 2014 at 10:45 am

        You’re a stud. Can’t wait to start the project! Thanks

  5. Andy
    January 30, 2014 at 12:46 pm

    Hola Derek, Thank you for this informative tutorial. I’m confident about the entire process short of the clew, is a separate jig used for this process?
    Gracias, Andy

    • Derek
      January 30, 2014 at 9:49 pm

      You could use a jig. The “pros” just wrap it around their legs, with the bight or center of the nettles between their legs as they get it folded up. I used a make-shift jig so I could get the nettles all the same length (two poles: one to hold the hammock in a line and the other used to wrap around). Once the nettles are all wrapped through and sized correctly, the whipping is easy. I first make the bight and whip the nettles together. Next, I “frap” the whipping or wrapping so it is properly seized. The frap goes around the whipping, through the eye and down to the nettles and back a few times. Finally, I do a simple cockscombing around the eye. There are several methods you can use, including a basic half hitch.

  6. Jason
    May 27, 2014 at 9:13 am

    Great video! I can’t wait to try it.

    I feel like I’m missing something though – your warp (the white strings?) seems to be twisted and thinner than your weft (do I have that right?), which seems to be thicker and braided. Should these be different thicknesses, or could one just go with the same line for everything?

    Thanks!

    • Derek
      May 27, 2014 at 9:34 am

      Same line thickness for everything. In the video I tried to use contrasting colors for better visibility.

      • Jason
        May 27, 2014 at 3:55 pm

        Got it. Thanks!

  7. boonrada
    June 7, 2014 at 5:42 am

    Hello
    I really interested in how to make a mayan hammock.I really want to learn how to weaving it.is it inpossible to teach me?I would like to learn step by step but I don’t know how.I’m in Thailand. tunnaka2011@hotmail.com
    thank for your kindness

    • Derek
      June 7, 2014 at 7:34 am

      Let me know what step you need help on. Did the illustration and video make sense?

  8. Matt Gornall
    July 9, 2014 at 5:14 pm

    Hello Derek,
    I’m very thankful for your video as I have been trying to find the legit way of making a Mayan Hammock for quite some time now. I do have a few questions before I begin. What kind of knot do you tie the warp to the loom with? Can your warp be more than one strand and if so how do I add on more warp? And how do I add the clew to the hammock body? I hope to hear from you soon! Thank You!

  9. Matt Gornall
    July 9, 2014 at 5:16 pm

    Also how do add the nettles?

    • Derek
      July 9, 2014 at 5:57 pm

      Hey Matt! It might be faster to talk over the phone. You game? Send me a PM.

  10. Matt Gornall
    July 10, 2014 at 5:41 pm

    Derek,
    The actual size of #18 mason line is very thin compared to the nylon string used in the pictures and the videos posted on this page. Is it a thicker nylon being used? Or a different brand or braid?

    • Derek
      July 11, 2014 at 6:16 pm

      Some of the demo photos used in this post were made with thicker string, but the final hammocks I made were with #18 line, as that matched the original Mayan hammock I purchased.

  11. August 7, 2014 at 12:41 pm

    I’m not sure, but I think the cotton equivalent of of nylon #18 isn’t cotton #18 but cotton #5. Just sayin’. Also, great guide, I just finished building a simple loom and carving a shuttle. Hope I don’t mess anything up…

    • Derek
      August 7, 2014 at 4:35 pm

      You’re probably right. I’m no expert in yarn sizes. Indeed, it confuses me :)

  12. August 13, 2014 at 7:00 pm

    Does it matter from which side you start warping the loom?
    Do you just wind the warp thread in a circular pattern or is there a figure 8 pattern used?
    Do you start the warp at the bottom and then go towards the top of the loom with it?

    • Derek
      August 13, 2014 at 8:13 pm

      It doesn’t matter which side you start, but start from the bottom and wind up in a circular pattern.

      • August 17, 2014 at 11:38 am

        So in whatever direction you load the loom right to left or left to right tying the edge knots AND weaving continue in the same direction. Me edges look like hell I am missing something.

        Do you always finish an “under two over and around one” repeat? clarification on the edges if you could! Thanks.

  13. September 5, 2014 at 8:53 am

    I just wanted to tell a little secret to the Mayan hammock that very few of us know about. This hammock is made according to an old mayan tradition in ancient times when labor was not valuable. Nowadays, the people who make those hammocks are still respecting that old tradition and make hammocks at home for their pleasure and not for a money living. The real mayan hammock is not worth making it for money. The small hammocks made of thick rope sold to the tourists on the beaches of the mayan Riviera are about the only ones who provide money for the producers. But they are too small. Some smart businessman (who weren’t aware of this tradition) took this hammock to India and China in order to copy it and find a better price. That was a big mistake, and they have lost a long time for this quest, and were rewarded by mayan time, worth nothing !!!!
    I have made myself a Mayan hammock with 4 strings stiches and I guess I will never do one again. I failed for making the arms and bringed it to some mayan experts do it again for me. Here you can see some pictures http://www.tropical-hamac.com/blog/cours-de-tissage-du-hamac-mexicain/ and read some french !!
    Que les vayan muy bien.

  14. raz
    November 17, 2014 at 10:21 am

    how many warp strings should there be?

    • Derek
      November 17, 2014 at 11:51 am

      For a full hammock? That depends on the size of string you are using (how many weaves equal an inch is variable) and how wide you want the hammock. I cannot answer exactly, but I will say that once you start weaving you can make an easy calculation based on how many weaves equal an inch.

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