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Netted Sling Instructions - Matthias Borstad

This article describes the basic technique of net making applied to the construction of fibre sling pouches. Advantages of the net pouch include ease of construction, perfect “cupping” of the projectile, and low “sail” area to catch the wind. Once you are familiar with the basic steps, it is easy to work this style of pouch construction into various designs and braid patterns. The approach shown here is probably the simplest - and it allows you to quickly put together a very serviceable and elegant sling. Some variations I’ve worked up are at the end of the article… I look forward to seeing other’s efforts!  


This sling carries twelve strands throughout. I’ve used two colours of fishing twine here, but the idea is adaptable to most sling making materials including: sisal/jute, polyester kite string, wool, embroidery cotton, Kevlar and more. Both twines in my example are close to 2mm diameter, which is about the largest that I’d want to use with this design.  
Measure out at least two “armspans” (about 12 feet or 3.7m) of twine for a 24” (31cm) sling. It is much better to err on the long side! You’ll need 6 strands total, since we’ll be doubling them at the retention loop. I’m using three strands of each colour here to try to make it easier to see what is going on. I strongly recommend looking at Dan Bollinger’s Making a braided sling: An illustrated guide if you are unfamiliar with three strand braided slings.
To make a finger loop, find the middle of the six strands and mark a spot about 3” (76mm) out. I like to use a twist-tie to hold the strands together at this point. Alternatively you can tie a knot. Flat braid the six strands for 5-6” (125-150mm), forming the ribbon that will fold over to form the loop.  

Once the loop is braided, untie your twist-tie and match the ends up strand for strand. Divide the 12 strands into three groups of four, taking 2 strands from both ends of the braided section for each.  

Braid the retention cord using a simple three strand braid, using what Dan describes as a “rolled” or round braid. For this sling, I’ve braided about 19” (48cm). If you are making a longer sling, remember that the braid eats length, so you’ll need to keep plenty of unbraided twine free. When you get to the pouch, divide your 12 strands into two groups of three and one of six. Take one strand from each of the original groups of four to make up the side braids of the pouch. If you are careful about this, you can separate them quite neatly from the rest - in my example I’ve taken the green twine to be the frame of the pouch. Braid each of these for 6-7” (15-18cm) and secure the ends again.  

Now comes the fun part!  
Netting is easy once you get the hang of it. Watch Greek fishermen mending their nets for a knot speed tying clinic. Before machines took over, traditional diamond mesh nets used to be made by hand using a netting needle to hold twine and a mesh stick to gauge the size of the meshes. The mesh in the sling is too tight for a needle, so you’ll have to thread the knots by drawing the entire length through each mesh. The mesh stick assures consistency, but isn't necessary at this scale - you’ll quickly learn to judge the correct size.
The first and last rows of meshes are formed by looping the twine trough the edge of the frame braids. I’ve counted 3 full braids (or edge turns) between loops, passing the net twine through the fourth braid. You can use a fid (or a pencil/knitting needle etc.) to help open the braid enough to slip it through. If you have trouble with the ends fraying, either melt them a bit or use a little masking tape to put a point on the end.  

The size of the loops determines how deep / wide the pouch will be. Keeping in mind that the knots will use up a surprisingly large amount of twine, I find it is best to make each loop a little more than a semicircle worth. You’ll need to do both edges like this. If you’ve braided the frames a little unevenly, skip or add a braid so that the positions of the loops more or less match up for each side. Those of you who are paying attention to details are probably noticing that I’m going to end up using more of the blue twine. If you can think far enough ahead, you might want to compensate at the beginning. I find it easier to just make sure to leave enough extra and trim to length after the sling is done. When I try to get too clever I usually end up short!  
The second row is netted onto the first using Sheet bends. When tied in a net they are known by various names, including Netting Knot, Weaver's Knot, Mesh Knot... They can be tied a few different ways, depending mostly on what village or island you grew up on.  
The drawings describe the process better than I can. Using the technique shown is quite a lot faster and more accurate than methodically tying individual sheet bends the way most people are taught. The mesh stick (shown with the hanging meshes looped around) gives you nice even meshes, but it is easy to size them by eye. Care must be taken when drawing the knot tight to avoid "capsizing" the knot - each knot should look like a 3 petal pinwheel when tied correctly.  
I highly recommend practicing with larger meshes and twine (rope even) before tackling a sling pocket - it will go much smoother.  

The first and last meshes of the second row are a little tricky because they start at a point. Try to keep the bar joining into the release cord tight - we won’t be netting into these ones.  

The third row is the same, except that we skip the first mesh (the tight one). Don’t worry about the loose ends - we’ll deal with them when we braid the release cord.  
Next net the other side the same way. You’ll notice that to keep the knots looking the same, you’ll need to mirror the way you tie the knots. This is because you are netting right to left instead of left to right like the diagram. If you always loop the twine under the hanging mesh in the direction opposite the way you are netting, it will work out! If it doesn’t, it isn’t a big deal… the knots will hold either way.  

When you get to the last strand of twine, you need to net back and forth between the two sides to join them down the middle. If you’ve figured out the knot direction trick, make sure to tie them the appropriate way. Those of you on my case earlier have probably just noticed that this particular blue strand is going to end up even shorter…  
The rest is easy! Just redistribute the twelve strands into the original three groups of four and braid away. You can adjust the tension in the net a little during the first couple of braids to even things out. If you flip the sling over at this point, the two cords will have their “chevrons” mirror image on either side of the pouch. This helps shape the pouch as it has a slight tendency to curl toward the side with the braid pointing away from the pouch.  
Tie a release knot or knots, and go try out your new sling!  


You can use the same idea with lots of different twists. This design has relatively bulky cords - if you join strands for the pocket, you can make them thinner. It is also possible to net the pouch using only one strand of twine worked back and forth, or even in a spiral. Vary the number of meshes, or the width of the frame to suit your fancy. Here are some other variations, with more in the gallery!  
“Traditional” sling made with jute garden twine (sold as sisal - don’t ask me why) to the same pattern. I really like this one!  
This pouch is one! piece of lead core braided fishing line that has been worked “Turk’s Head” fashion in the round (including the tricky braided crossovers at each end) before netting with the same unbroken strand. The cords are separate pieces, and can be interchanged. Pattern? I’ll leave this one to you to figure out!!!  

- Matthias Borstad  

© 2007