Well, rat or ferret... or whatever animals may like a nice cozy hammock.
The entire project is fairly freehand, with no need to print patterns, and can be completed in less than two hours . Really, it probably takes a lot less than two hours because I was stopping to take pictures and also had a plumber come, but I figure I'll say two because that's the upper limit (in case you happen to be interrupted by a plumber).
Edit: I've added optional instructions for a durable backing for the hammock to increase the lifespan of your hammock with or without a big chewing issue.
The project will be broken up into two parts:
1. The first half will be the basic design to a point of functionality from which you can hang the hammock with safety pins which takes a very short amount of time and less materials if your rats happen to be big chewers and it's not worth finishing the whole thing.
2. The second half of the project is the finishing step where we'll add the trim and grommets and such which makes the whole thing take longer, but look very nice. Generally recommended if your critters don't chew on their hammocks much.
All the photos were taken with my cell phone. I think they came out well, but I thought I'd add that in case you don't agree. ;)
Step 1: Gather the Materials
For Part 1 of this project you will need:
-- 2 squares of micro-fleece slightly larger than you want your hammock to be. For our rats, and this project, my final product was 12"x12", so I cut two rough squares about 14x14 to cut down. Contrasting colors are nice, but matching works too. Recycle an old micro-fleece pullover or buy remnants to do this on the cheap.
-- Sewing Machine
-- Thread, etc. for the sewing machine.
--(Optional) A square of more durable material such as denim, canvas, duck cloth, etc. about the size of your fleece squares.
Step 2: Begin Cutting the Fleece
Once you've done this, you can lay the ruler across the cloth to connect the notches and then cut along the length of the ruler to keep your cut straight. Having cut two parallel lines 12" apart (or whatever size yours is), you can rotate the cloth 90 degrees and repeat the procedure to get two basic squares, the same size.
Once you have a nice set of two squares, you're going to make strips out of them. Either repeat the process with the notching at both ends, or you can use your ruler as a rough guide for the width of each strip, as I did here. I laid the ruler along one edge of the square and then cut along the edge to keep my line straight.
Step 3: Weave the Fleece
Start weaving the fleece strips of one color into the other. The technique that I found was easiest after the first strip, was to pull back all the lines of the green which will lay over the blue and set the blue down in place, up close to the folded back strips, then replace the strips. Lather, Rinse, Repeat until all your strips are woven together.
Well... Not necessarily all your strips. Even though my squares were exactly the same size, I ended up with an extra blue strip after the weaving. How odd.
Make sure you trim any gnarly ends before continuing on.
Step 4: Sew you want to make a rat hammock...
Anyway, there's a fairly high risk of the weave coming loose as you sew this thing, so I highly recommend a bit of pinning. Do a couple of pins on the edges you're not currently working on, mostly the corners and maybe the center of each edge, and then pin the edge you'll be working with first.
I don't like sewing over pins very much, so I tried to do the minimum here; just the corners and the edged where the ending strip lays on the bottom of the weave. (See the second photo). Then set up your sewing machine and sew down the length of the side.
Repeat the pinning and sewing process until you lock each of the four sides. If you'd like to add a bit of extra stability to the body of the hammock, you can sew a cross through the middle of the hammock (see step 7's photos).
Congratulations! You've completed Part 1!
At this point you could stop and attach the hammock to the cage with safety pins, or tie it through holes in the corners of the weave. Enjoy your new hammock!
Optional step for increased durability:
Trace the completed weave onto the square of denim/canvas/etc. that you had at the beginning. Cut it out, line it up underneath the hammock and sew it into place as a backing for the hammock.
Fleece doesn't stand up to a lot of abuse and this will greatly increase it's lifespan, as well as give the hammock in general a bit more protection in the event of chewing.
Continue with the rest of the instructions normally.
Step 5: Part 2 Materials
For the second part you will need:
-- A sewing machine again and the thread you used earlier.
-- Double fold quilt binding in a complimenting color. (Alternatively, broadcloth or some other stiff-ish stuff that would make a nice edge)
-- A grommet punch and grommets to fit it
-- Your hammock from Part 1!
Step 6: Hemming
Pin the quilt binding in place over the edge, with the hammock sandwiched in the fold. I used about 3 pins per side.
Sew down the edge, binding the hammock and hem together.
Repeat three more times for each of the other edges!
Step 7: Structural Integrity
All you're doing in this step is sewing a cross through the middle (or thereabouts) of the hammock.
I didn't even pin it, just be careful the sewing machine's foot doesn't hang up on the edges of the strips. Guide each one underneath as it sews.
Step 8: Grommets!
You're pretty much just going to follow the directions for whatever grommet punch you have, but mine tells me to pick my location and use the punch's cutting plate to cut a hole in the material.
Next, slip the grommet into position through the hole and put the washer faceplate over the shaft of the grommet.
Swap the faceplate on the punch, position the grommet in the material over the faceplate and crunch it down into position!
I particularly like the corners where I managed to get the hem trapped in the grommet sandwich, I trust the quilt binding more than the fleece for strength.
Step 9: Add Rats
Using metal (like the key chain split-rings) will allow your hangers of choice to be almost impervious to chewing, although they would be harder to remove. I chose to use cable ties because my girls don't chew very much, and if they did I could easily replace the ties.
Enjoy your hammock and feel good because you just made something that can cost upwards of $10 at the pet store!