This past Christmas I wanted to give my nephews a handmade gift that would be more memorable and sentimental than anything I could ever pick up off the shelves.
Secretly, I also wanted to challenge my DIY skills with this gift. Although I’ve been sewing since I was a kid (I used to make my own clothes and dolls…and doll clothes), I’ve never sewn a play tent or anything of this size, so I was pretty excited to try my hand at it.
There are millions of tutorials for DIY tee-pees and play tents out there. If you’re not confident enough on a machine to try it, I promise there is a no-sew option out there just for you. Out of all the tutorials I looked at, Strawberry Swing and Other Things had the design closest to what I was looking for. I chose to go a different direction with my tee-pee door, but feel free to play around with what look suits you best!
The exact tee-pee I made requires the following supplies:
- 1 9×12 canvas drop cloth
- 5 wood dowels (1/2 – 1 inch diameter) cut to 6-foot lengths
- 5 feet of braided rope
- 2 packages wooden beads
- 1 sheepskin throw
- Mark one of the wooden dowels 10-inches from the end and drill a hole through the center of the pole. Gradually increase the size of the drill bit, so the pole doesn’t split, until you have a hole big enough to thread the rope through. Repeat for all remaining dowels.
- Pre-wash and dry the canvas drop cloth to make it less stiff and easier to cut and sew. Spread the canvas out on the floor and prepare to measure and cut out the triangular panels.
- Start by measuring and marking a 32-inch wide base near the bottom of the canvas, from the center of the base measure 53-inches up to mark the height, then center and measure a 3 1/2-inch top. Using a yard stick, draw a line to connect the narrow top to the wide base on both sides (approximately 55-inches in length).
- Measure and mark a minimum 1 1/2-inch seam allowance around the entire perimeter of the panel and carefully cut it out. Use this panel as a guide to trace and cut out the remaining three panels.
- To make the door panel, fold one of the cut panels in half length wise and trace onto the canvas. Add a 1-inch seam allowance along the long folded edge, mark and cut out. Use this panel as a guide to trace and cut out the second door panel.
- Press and hem the top and bottom edges on all the panels.
- To make the door, sew the two door panels together. Place the right sides of the canvas together and starting from the top, sew down the center edge right on the 1-inch seam allowance marked previously. Do not sew the entire length, only the first foot down, this will create a door with two open flaps that are connected only at the top. Fold over, press and hem the unfinished edges down the length of both flaps.
- Next, connect all the panels together. Starting with two panels, place the wrong sides together and sew down the entire length of the edge with a 1/4-inch seam allowance. Continue this process until all the panels and the door are connected.
- This next step will create the pole pockets and hide the seams connecting all the panels together. Place one of the wood dowels on the tee-pee, along one of the seams connecting two panels. Fold the fabric around the dowel, lose enough so the pole can slide in and out, and mark the pocket size needed at both the top and bottom of the canvas. Repeat these markings on the remaining seams. Turn the tee-pee inside out and using the markings as a guide, sew all five pole pockets. The raw seam will now be on the inside of the pole pocket.
- To assemble the tee-pee, thread the poles through the pockets and stand the tee pee up and spread out the base, gathering the poles together at the top. Thread the string through the holes drilled in the top of the dowels, wrap excess string around the top and tie in a knot to secure. Leave about 1-foot of excess string hanging and trim off any excess.
- Thread alternating sizes of wooden beads onto both pieces of string, tie the string into a knot and press the knot up into the last bead hole to secure.
- Drape the sheepskin throw around the top of the tee-pee and secure the edges together with a large safety pin or with a needle and thread.
The panels on this tee-pee drape open beautifully, so tiebacks on the doors are not necessary. But if you choose to add them, simply measure the height you want and hand stitch them in place to be sure they are perfectly symmetrical. Finish the ends of the tie backs with more wooden beads to complete the look.