If you are looking for a unique house warming gift for someone with a garden, you may consider choosing a hammock.
Hammocks are often an overlooked item but will present the home owner with a unique gift.
Hammocks Give You a Lift in More Ways Than One
The next time you’re out of gift ideas for someone, maybe you’ll consider a hammock.
Robbie Cranch’s husband and two daughters surprised her with one for Mother’s Day about five years ago.
“I couldn’t imagine a better Mother’s Day gift,” says Cranch, 56, the program director of the Retired & Senior Volunteer Program in Fresno, Calif. “It’s total relaxation” when you’re in it.
Tom Boehm of Madera, Calif., also received his first hammock as a gift. His wife, Tammie, gave it to him almost a decade ago for his 40th birthday.
“It kind of surprised me, but it’s a pretty cool idea,” says Boehm, 49, co-owner of S&J Lumber in Madera. “I never really thought about having one, but I really like it and use it quite a bit.”
As Cranch and Boehm have discovered, once you’ve experienced the weightless, rocking sensation that comes with resting in a hammock, you might not be able to do without this leisure activity again. The question then is which kind of hammock to get, whether as a gift for yourself or someone else.
Hammocks have been around for centuries, but they were first noted by Christopher Columbus when he encountered the Taino Indians in the Caribbean, says Kevin Olenick, co-owner of Swings n’ Things, a San Diego store that specializes in hand-woven, traditional hammocks.
“In fact, the word hammock comes from the hamaca tree, and that’s a native tree there,” he says.
“People use (hammocks) outdoors,” he says, “but in some of the traditional countries, like Mexico, they’re used indoors as beds. Space is tight, and you can take them down quickly. Also, (people use them) because of their comfort and to be off the ground and away from the bugs, rodents and things.”
Whether you use one indoors or out, hammocks are generally 13 feet long with an additional foot of chain or rope on each end. They may come with spreader bars, which help keep the hammock spread-out and open.
Hammocks can be made of many materials, such as cotton, nylon or polyester. When they’re used outdoors, they’re often installed on trees, posts or stands, and are about 4 to 5 feet off the ground. They typically come with instructions on how to properly hang or install them.
Hammocks come in several styles. The more traditional Mayan or Brazilian hammocks are mainly imported from South America. They’re often hand-woven with cotton or polycotton-blended fibers, Olenick says.
Another type is a rope hammock, which typically is made of thick, woven ropes. Cranch has a rope hammock that “is soft, almost silky,” she says. Her “worsted, artificial” rope hammock fits two people and hangs between two pine trees by their family cabin at Dinkey Creek.
It’s comfortable to rest in, she says. “The only thing that happens sometimes is if you fall asleep and you’re wearing shorts or bathing suit, you’ll get a (rope) pattern on your legs or shoulders. But that goes away real fast.”
Also, the rope hammock has an open weave that allows air to flow through, she says. That feature “is particularly nice in this climate because you get a breeze with it.”
A quilted hammock, which comes in two styles, is another type. One kind has two layers of fabric with a polyester fiber filling in between; and the other uses one fabric layer, says Meghan Frazer, a customer service representative for The Hammock Co., an online hammock retailer in Winterville, N.C.
Nancy Cheng of Fresno bought a quilted hammock about three years ago at a Costco store.
“We wanted a nice, comfortable place to relax by the pool and watch the sun go down,” says Cheng, an administrative assistant. The hammock hangs on a wooden stand in the backyard underneath some palm trees.
“Hammocks are comfortable,” she says. “We’ve fallen asleep out there. It fits your body. It’s like a nice cocoon.”
Hammock alternatives that won’t have you flat on your back are chair hammocks. These look more like fabric chairs suspended in the air. For years, Jan Phillips of Prather, Calif., longed for one.
“They’re just so comfortable,” says Phillips, 58, who works for Gazebo Gardens Nursery in Fresno. “Every time I’d go to a home and garden show, I’d sit in them and say I’d buy one.”
In March, she finally did, while she was at the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show. She saw a chair hammock there and ordered one, as well as a metal stand. She placed the chair hammock on her deck, overlooking a swimming pool.
“I just like to go out there and sit in the evening,” she says.
While she had a hammock years ago when her children where younger, she wanted a chair hammock this time around, she says.
“No, I didn’t want to go back” to a regular hammock, she says. “I’d rather sit. I’ve always been attracted to hanging chairs. … When you’re sitting in it, and it’s got a little foot rest, I think it’s almost more relaxing than a hammock, at least it is for me.”
Phillips paid about $235 for her chair hammock and stand. Cost of other types of hammocks can vary. For example, Mayan or Brazilian hammocks can cost between $35-$129, while rope ones can cost $88-$170. Quilted types can be $175-$210.
Some hammocks come with stands included, but stands also can be purchased separately. Generally, they start at about $100 for metal ones.
Once you’ve found a hammock to your liking and put it up properly, getting in and out of one can be a balancing act if you’ve never attempted it before.
John O’Connell, the executive vice president of sales and merchandising for Long-Island-City, N.Y.-based 1800mattress.com, has found himself on the ground trying to get into a hammock.
The company sells one style of hammock in addition to mattresses. The hammock had just been set it up in the showroom.
“I said, ‘This is kind of neat.’ I never sat on one before, and the whole thing flipped. I just didn’t really read or listen to the instructions.”
Now he knows. Stand with your backside facing the hammock in the middle of the hammock. Then “I pull the edge to the back of my knees, position myself in the center, spin my backside and then lay (down) my feet,” he says. “If you don’t do it that way and sit in the center, you’re going to flip.”
Any newcomers who want to climb into the hammock at Cranch’s family cabin will get tips on using it first.
“We give people a quick tutorial about getting into it,” she writes in an e-mail. “Aim your fanny at the very center of the hammock. Sit down, then quickly fling your arms and legs into position and make minor adjustments in balance with your fanny.
“I can’t tell you how many people have been ejected on their first attempt at getting into the thing, but once you have the knack, it is heavenly comfortable.”
Cranch’s hammock also comes with an interesting rule: “Whoever is in the hammock has to be left alone.”
“I would urge anyone who gets (a hammock) have that special feature,” she says.