Charming old-time craft used for all kinds of articles, from pudding bags to window curtains. Outdoor use for hammocks, tennis nets, etc. Illustrated by photographs of netted fringes, etc., and by sketches showing methods of working, and of Colonial designs.
Netting is one of the most charming of household arts which our grandmothers loved; forgotten except in villages like old Deerfield, where the excellence of handwork has always been appreciated. Netting was not confined to trimmings; it was used for every kind of indoor article, from a bag to hold the Christmas pudding to curtains for the tester bed. One of the best examples is a dear little cap made for a new baby seventy-five years ago. The net stitch was applied to all sorts of outdoor uses including fly nets to protect the horse in the summer, sacks to hold ears of Indian corn, and little round bags with long handles with which the small boy might go crabbing or min-nowing.
It is curious that such a useful art, for netting is both durable and inexpensive, should have been relegated to the fishermen making or mending their nets, and to the old salts, making hammocks in the Sailors' Snug Harbor while they wait the call to start on the last voyage. It is durable because each stitch is perfect in itself, and if it breaks the web is not loosened, and inexpensive because it requires only cord or thread as material and is made with only two wooden tools, both easily made at home.
With this article are shown sketches of two styles of needle, the larger one for hammocks and all large work, the smaller for lace and fringes. Hard wood should be used; gumwood answers, and holly is also very good; three-sixteenths of an inch thickness makes a large needle. One-half of a pattern may be drawn on a piece of thick manilla paper (which has been doubled and creased) and then cut out, the paper then being unfolded and pressed out. The needle may be cut out with a knife or scroll-saw. This ensures the two sides of the pattern being exactly alike. The mesh stick or block may be of any desired width - one inch is an average size of mesh for a hammock made of seine cord. For finer work a lead pencil is often used for a mesh stick, but for lace, or anything made with thread, an even smaller size is required; sometimes in one pattern of lace two or three sizes of mesh are used, each requiring a different stick.
The needles and blocks may be procured for about fifteen cents at any cord store. The cord used for hammocks varies in weight; an average sized soft cotton sells for about twenty-five cents a pound, and two pounds are sufficient.
There should be provided also five yards of "side-cord" and two large iron rings. The materials for a large hammock cost about fifty cents, so it will readily be seen that hammock-making is a fairly profitable industry for women at home, as a hand-made one never brings less than two dollars, and may be as high as three and a half. The plain netting may be varied by the introduction of fancy stitches and knots.
The materials being procured, the cord should be wound into balls and the needles filled as shown in the sketch. The easiest way to make the top of the hammock is, to my mind, to put the requisite number of stitches on a cord stretched between two nails, as at first it is easier to see the meshes and avoid mistakes, working in a horizontal line. Forty-two stitches make a good width for a large hammock.
The method of using the needle is shown in one of the sketches better than I can explain it in words, but care must be taken to draw up the thread quickly and firmly so as to avoid a slipknot. Great care must also be exercised never to slip a knot.
When the first row is finished, the mesh stick being moved along so as to keep it always with at least half a dozen stitches on it, the end loop is left extra long and the new row begun. If necessary, the work may be untied and turned wrong side out so that the worker may always be following from left to right, but it is better to learn to work either way.
The thread must be joined with care when the needle has to be refilled, by lapping the threads in the center of the knot. When the hammock seems a reasonable length - six and one-half feet is a good size for an adult - the ends should be finished without cutting the cord at the last mesh. The hammock should be laid on a long table, so that the end meshes extend straight across it two feet from the end. A tack should be driven under the edge of the table to hold the ring. The needle should then go from the end through the ring and back, then through two meshes, where it is caught with a stitch, then through the ring again, and back through two more meshes, etc. If necessary to tie in a piece do so with a weaver's knot, very near the ring. The thread should finally go up to the ring, and all the threads near the ring should be securely wound; a long piece of cord, say five yards, should be left for this. The "side-cords" must, however, first be put in by lacing one through each side of the hammock, so that they go through the rings, and all loosely knotted around the bunch of threads. The side-cords must be left just loose enough to hold the hammock taut without letting it settle too much in the middle. In winding the ends the same principle may be used that the sailors employ in splicing ropes; that is, the remaining end must be left so it can be pulled under the twist. To do this the end is laid through a loop of cord long enough so the ends extend eight or nine inches along the threads. As the twist is only six inches long this leaves ends projecting. When the twist is long enough the end may be put through the loop, and these ends pulled till the end goes far inside the twist.