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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

It's Time to Make More Hammocks

Fabric haul for holiday hammock projects.
It seems like Life with Rats also means Life Making Hammocks. Even if your rats are not voracious chewers, the constant nibbling on the edges will eventually wear the hammocks down until they hang from threads. Even if they are still functional, they quickly can become unsightly, and if there are loose tangles of threads, potentially dangerous. Sometimes you just get tired of putting up the same old hammocks every time. Part of giving our rats the best possible environment includes changing up that environment - bringing in different styles/sizes of hammocks in different places for a new experience. And I like to take a seasonal approach - decorating the cage in fabrics that compliment the time of year. You also always need to have two sets of hammocks in play at a time - one currently in use while the other is being laundered.

I am fortunate that I learned to sew when I was in high school. I don't remember much of what I learned (at one time I could sew pleated pants, blazers, and swim suits), but fortunately, I don't need to know anything more than how to wind a bobbin, thread a machine, and sew a straight seam. Most hammock seams are straight lines and most fabric pieces are cut into basic geometric shapes. Sizes and shapes are flexible and the instructions and tutorials are really nothing more than a guide. Seams do not have to be perfectly straight. I can experiment with fabric pattern/color combinations and if they come out looking a little wrong, well, the rats don't care about that either. But when they come out looking right (or close enough to right), there is nothing like the enjoyment that comes from hanging them up for the first time and taking in the effect - it is like a brand new cage every time. The rats seem to think so to - from the way they will instantly explore every nook and cranny of the new setup. Making hammocks is so straightforward that even if you have never sewn a stitch in your life, you could learn to make a functional hammock with just a few basic instructions. (Our instructions for many types of hammocks can be found online). You don't need anything fancy - even the most basic sewing machine can do everything you will need to make a basic hammock.

I often wonder how people who don't sew tackle the hammock issue. Obviously, one can buy them online from crafters or one can use old clothes, towels, washcloths, fabric scraps, sheets, fleece blankets etc. But my family doesn't go through these items nearly as fast as our rats go through hammocks and paying for ready-made hammocks can get expensive considering how quickly they need to be replaced. Just buying the fabric can be expensive even if you only buy on sale. I would hate the constant fabric expense required to replace hammocks if it weren't for the fact that I enjoy picking out new patterns/colors and sewing new sets. It is like having two hobbies for the price of one - hammock making and rat keeping.

But no matter how you do it, supplying the rats with new hammocks is a constant need when you own rats and now it is time for me to focus on this again.

A flowery hammock set for the girls
(and Pirate)
When we decided to adopt some girls this past spring, I got very excited about the opportunity to sew new hammocks - for the first time in girly fabrics. I could pack away the pirate fabric and the race car fabric and buy something with flowers and butterflies in effeminate pinks and purples. I made several sets and they are still in good condition. But they are spring and summer patterns and fall is just around the corner. My holiday themed hammocks have been chewed to shreds, so I need new Halloween and Christmas themes, and I thought I would try a fall/Thanksgiving theme as well. Plus, Loki didn't get any flowery hammocks (they just don't go with his personality - I could just imagine him sulking in a butterfly covered cube thinking to himself, "How embarrassing!").

So I made a big shopping trip to Joann's this weekend (they had Christmas prints 50% off, Halloween and Fall prints 30% off, anti-pill fleece 40% off, plus a coupon for 25% off the entire order). Now it is time for me to get back to work. I still have some girly fabric I haven't had a chance to use yet, but I will save that for next spring's project.

What's first on my agenda? Halloween - my favorite holiday to decorate for. I can't wait to get started.

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