A Simple Braided Sling in 20 Steps - Jeff Holt
For my first sling, I used the method described in “20 Steps to A sling”, which I found on the internet and to which I give full credit for most of the following. I found it difficult, however, to get a nicely balanced pouch using the “20 Steps…” procedure. Hence I redesigned the pouch somewhat to make balancing easier. Out of that process came the instructions and sling to follow.
This sling is made of nylon seine twine, has a retention loop plaited into the cord and the cord itself is laced through a pouch of supple but strong leather. If you don’t have access to a leather store or some old leather clothing, a local furniture store may have some leather swatches from furniture that has been discontinued.
I used AutoCAD, a drafting software, to lay out the pouch. I then printed it onto drafting appliqué film. This film peels off the backing and sticks on the leather (suede side is best) and then comes off easily when I am finished. All the necessary holes are located on the pattern by a center dot and circle. This reduces my layout, cutting and punching time dramatically. The appliqué film is available from drafting supply stores and web sites.
There are probably many ways to make this sling nicer, though they would certainly mean more work. I am a minimalist in many ways and don’t like to embellish something which will likely be ruined in the process of use. That said, if you can figure out a way to improve the design, then please do, and please let the rest of us know how you did it.
Expect this project to take more than one day, even with time saving measures. It is only about five or six hours work total, but plaiting this small cord is hard on the fingers and hands and I usually have to take a rest.
Seine twine: Braided, #18 minimum (#24 or larger is better.)
Paper covered twist ties
Leather for pouch (see diagram below)
Torch or candle (to melt the ends of the twine)
Hook (Over the door coat hook works well)
Cardboard bobbins (see diagram below)
Sewing Fid (optional but takes a lot of misery out of this sling)
1) Cut the pouch to the size and shape shown in the diagram.
2) Punch the holes along the edges. An even number of holes is necessary so the strands go back out the side they came in through. Space the holes approximately 3/16” apart. In my diagram they are a bit closer, but I had the advantage of letting the computer space them for me.
3) Optional: cut holes in the center to allow the leather to stretch. This is only for stiffer leathers which don’t want to stretch on their own and can be done after the sling is complete if necessary.
Make the bobbin from stiff poster board or chip board. Follow the diagram.
A) The sling is plaited beginning at the retention loop.
B) Use round four strand plait. It is very important to keep the plait even and tight.
1) Measure out four strands of seine at least 10’-0” long. Longer strands are better in case you mess up. You can always cut the strands off, but never lengthen them. If they are too short, you won’t know until the sling is finished and then it is too late. You will find that slightly different diameter strands consume differing lengths.
2) Measure off twelve inches from one end of the strands and bind them together with a twist tie. Wrap the long ends the bobbins, one strand to a bobbin.
3) Begin at the twist tie and plait about four inches of the short end of the strands. It would be better to do a little more here than a little less. If the loop is too small for your finger, you can’t use the sling. If it is too big, you can whip off the bottom of the loop and make it smaller.
4) Fold the plaited part in half and twist tie the ends of the plait together and make a loop. Hook the loop onto the coat hook.
5) At this point you will have the short, plaited part folded over a hook and four short strands hanging alongside four long strands. Double up the strands and plait the short ends into the long ends or use a round eight strand plait if you know how. Continue plaiting until the cord is about 32” when stretched. Twist tie the end of the plait to hold it together while you weave the strands through the pouch.
The length here is really up to you. I am 5’-8”, have a 32” sleeve, and put the retention loop on my ring finger. The sling hangs almost to the ground when I load it and let my arm hang mostly straight. I could make the sling longer, but don’t find any need for the extra velocity in general. The sling shown here has a 23” cord length. I made it short for the sake of time and my eight year old has lost hers and needs another one.
Also, while plaiting you will have to let the bobbins out periodically. This can be done easily with one hand. Just remember, it helps to keep the bobbins at different lengths to cut down on tangling somewhat.
6) When finished with the length you want, take the strands off the bobbins and lace them through the holes in the edge of the pouch, two strands per side. This could be done in a variety of ways. Using a small sewing fid works very well. A medium fid allows you sew in both strands at one time, but be careful to not over stretch the holes. If you don’t use a fid or needle of some sort, this part is very slow and tedious. If you don’t have a leather shop you can get a lot of great stuff via the web from Tandy Leather at tandyleather.com. This includes punches, fids, needles, thread, leather and so on.
Make sure that the strands are pulled with equal tension as they go through the pouch. Do this on each side and make the sides have equal tension so the pouch will be even when finished. Note: this is where the redesigned pouch came in. By having the plait go directly from the cord into the holes makes it much easier to even out the pouch. The ears on the pouch keep everything nice and tight and protect the end of the cord. The ears also keep the pouch from slipping on the cord. Since I use the suede side for the stone, I put the strands in from the smooth side first.
7) When you finish lacing the pouch, loop the plaited cord around the coat hook just above the pouch. Begin plaiting the loose strands at the pouch and continue until the release cord is six to eight inches longer than the retention cord when both are stretched equally.
8) Whip the last inch of the release cord around the plait itself and cut off the loose strands.
9) Melt the ends of the twine strands at the end of the release cord and hanging from the retention cord. Whip the end of the eight cord plait in the retention cord. This is an extra measure to keep it from fraying. If you made the retention loop too big, whip the bottom of it to close it up some.
10) Sew the ears of the pouch around the cord.
11) Tie a knot in the release cord for a release node. I tie mine so that it rests just under my thumb. The knot I prefer is a figure eight stopper knot. It is larger than an overhand knot and easier to untie later. Tie up the remainder of the release cord to keep it out of the way.
- Jeff Holt