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I am planning a project using simple 1" x 2" pieces of wood and attaching a length of textile between the planks.

The wood will be about 12 inches long, and the fabric will go from long-edge to long edge and up to 3-4 feet wide. So, 12 inch by 36-46 inch pieces of fabric.

The ends of the fabric will be flush with the outer edges of the wood, and each end will be sandwiched between two of the pieces of wood.

Once everything is assembled, the fabric will be taut, but still flexible, and need to support up to 40 pounds without the fabric tearing from screws I use to attach the top and bottom wood strips to one another.

I want to be able to attach the fabric to the wood, without having to use glue. I want to be able to swap out the fabric with different lengths as desired, or attach multiple pieces that branch out in different directions. Some type of eyelet protector comes to mind, but I'm not sure how to attach one to a pre-made hole.

Here's a 2-minute diagram of what I'm trying to achieve:

enter image description here

This is the view you would see from the side, once this hammock/shelf is attached to a wall. The brown pieces are the woods sandwiching the blue fabric, and the grey parts are the screws/bolts I will be putting through the wood and fabric.


For those curious, I have been inspired by some cat shelf/highway products, but am not satisfied with the appearance of them. I want to make something myself that is functional and pretty. But, since living creatures will be playing and sleeping on these modular pieces, safety is of the utmost import.

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Instead of securing the fabric with the scews, I'd let the fabric secure itself on the outer edge of the wood. The less holes you poke into a fabric, the stronger it is to withstand tearing or wearing out.

Instead of a simple hem, you could roll and secure the fabric (light blue) around a cord or other thick material (dark blue) to create a bulge that is held by the wood (brown). If the material is somewhat thick and the wood closes well without big gaps, a "simple" hem might even be enough.

enter image description here

Advantages:

  • Preserves the fabric's strength by avoiding holes
  • If a weight pulls the fabric down, the force is distributed between all points on the edge instead of single holes.
  • You can easily replace one piece of fabric with another one.
  • No need to sew button holes or inser grommets into the new fabric

Disadvantages:

  • You need to sew a thick or corded hem on the fabric
  • The hem is always visible on the "outside" of the wood pieces
  • I do like this idea, but it would probably limit me to simple connections, and not making Y-like branches. I was trying to think of a way to attach to the outside like this. – Web Head Nov 22 at 14:29
  • I don't quite understand what you mean with "Y-like branches", but you should be able to fix a piece fabric at an angle with this method. You could sew the hem at the same angle the fabric is supposed to branch out to distribute the force. But if a piece of fabric is too narrow it might move along the wood if it's not anchored. – Elmy Nov 22 at 14:36
  • Something like a single sandwich have one length of fabric on one side, and two lengths on the other one. Although, I think I could solve this by having some lengths of fabric have dowels in their center, so I can fold them and half and the fold would have the support dowel. I'm really liking this approach, too, because I could create ramps the same way with the dowels acting like "steps", like I've seen on playground equipment. – Web Head Nov 22 at 17:46
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    This is a clever solution! Thinking outside the holes, as it were :) – Erica Nov 22 at 18:14
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    This is a great idea... if the corded edge sticking out is a problem you could bevel the edges of the clamping wood to provide a channel for the cord to rest in and remain flush with the outside. It wouldn't take much of a bevel cut, just slightly less than half the diameter of the cord. – rebusB Nov 23 at 17:18
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I can think of a couple possibilities.

A "fabric only" method would be to sew buttonholes. These are reinforced with thread all around a slit in the fabric, which prevents fraying and tearing at a frequently-stressed point. While they're most often used in clothing, I have also used buttonholes on a shower curtain -- I haven't tried on an application that would hold up to 40 pounds.* Many sewing machines have a buttonhole foot and stitch available.

Using grommets would be the eyelet protectors that you mention as a possibility. These are stronger reinforcement (basically metal buttonhole edging!) but do require tools to install.

In either case, I'd recommend...

  • Run a nice sturdy seam along the outermost edge of each shelf piece to have a "safety" barrier in the event that a tear does start at one of the mounting holes. Fabric can often rip fairly easily, but trying to rip through a seam is much more difficult -- think of a pair of jeans, for example, you won't get through the side seams without cutting!
  • Keep the wood sandwich pieces cinched down tightly when assembled, so the fabric isn't able to move at the hole locations. The less it rubs against the bolts in general, the less wear and therefore the less chance of tearing.

* Remember, the more holes you have, the less weight each one has to hold. 4 holes would each only need to stand up to 10 pounds of pulling, for example.

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    Oh, wow, this would be perfect. It's almost exactly what I was imaging, but I couldn't think of an example product that had them to figure out the term/tools. The tutorial is even using a fabric material similar to what I would. – Web Head Nov 22 at 14:32
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Instead of adding any holes or other fittings to the fabric, you could design the brackets to clamp the fabric, along its entire width. That way, there is no localized stress on the fabric, and you can position the fabric wherever you want (including small length/tension adjustments).

The catch is that you will have to either:

  1. Make the clamps longer than the fabric is wide, so that there can be one screw at each end, not going through the fabric, or
  2. Design them so that the clamping screws are past the end of the fabric (which requires more complex woodworking).

In order to ensure the wood gets a good grip on the fabric:

  • (For the first option) Shape a slight convex curve on each of the two pieces of wood so that they meet in the middle first, and when the screws tighten down they try to straighten the curve. This will counteract the wood's tendency to bend and exert less clamping pressure in the center. The curves do need to be very smooth to avoid gripping in only some spots, but we can compensate for that:
  • Add some type of rubber sheet material (e.g. shelf liner, the kind that is a rubber mesh) to increase friction. This would also allow compensation for irregularity in the wood (whether original or in your work) since the rubber is compressible.

enter image description here

For the second design, the necessary curve is exaggerated in the diagram, but if you provide enough room in the middle area you could combine it with sewing rods into the ends of the fabric as Elmy's answer proposes.

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