I'm pretty sure sometime last Summer or Fall when the teepee began it's trendy rise to the top of everyone's Pinterest boards, I declared we were getting one for Ashlynn. I found some great options on Etsy, but couldn't pull the trigger on a $150+ purchase for a baby who wasn't even crawling yet. It wasn't a need, and we were planning on moving so I tabled it. Instead I started looking into making my own and realized if I had a sewing machine, I could do it myself for so much cheaper. I'm pretty sure I sent the tutorials to my mom - who does have a sewing machine - along with twenty other tutorials for ruffled diaper covers, princess dresses, cute baby tops, and headbands galore, she instead decided to get me my own sewing machine for my 30th birthday. Of course, the teepee was at the top of my MUST DO list!
... ya know, once I mastered sewing in straight lines and the whole threading a bobbin business.
So with a few projects behind me, I decided it was time to get started. I found a bunch of tutorials on Pinterest and decided this one, by Australian blogger My Poppet, was my favorite. I liked the 5 pole design compared to the 4 pole or and how it really laid it all out step by step. At Christmas, I picked up a queen sized flat sheet on clearance from Target ($13), but when I cut my first panels I wasn't as precise as I should have been. The panels weren't all even and I was scared I didn't leave enough seam allowance since I was pretty sure my poles were a bit thicker than the ones used in the tutorial, meaning I would need a little extra room. So I scrapped the sheet and decided to use canvas.
Here is how our hideaway happened...
(be sure to read my lessons learned at the bottom, after the detailed shots!)
Supplies (and Cost Breakdown)
 9x6 Canvas Drop Cloth (under $15 from Lowes or any home improvement store)
 56"of fabric of your choice for the door - I used DS Collection Blossom Reel Floral, approx. $20)
approximately 4-5 yards bias tape (I made mine from scrap leftover from our mini quilt - free)
 10' PVC Pipe ($8 - less than $2 a piece!)
 can of spray paint -I used Krylon Caramel Latte ($5 at Michaels)
9 feet rope, cord, or in my case braided yarn (feel free to use less)
table saw - if hardware store won't cut for you in-store
sewing machine (and thread)
tape measure and/or yard stick
invisible ink pen
scissors and/or rotary cutter and mat
....and a seam ripper, you'll need it - trust me
Outside using scrap fabric for the bias tape, a panel where my door was too short, and yarn I had on hand to tie the PVC pipe together, the whole project came in under $50!
--Building the Frame--
First up, the poles. It seems like every teepee tutorial I found called for wooden dowels, which unless I wanted to 2" thick (and heavy) pine closet rods, my Lowe's didn't have options in the length I needed. I could have used pieces of trim like quarter round, but I wanted rounded poles so I checked out the piping in the plumbing section and found great and CHEAP options of PVC. Unfortunately, they wouldn't cut down the pipe at my Lowes for us, so we did it at home. The tutorial I used is based in Australia, so the metric measurements didn't match up to our standard. I grabbed the thinnest (and lightest) piping I could find.
After cutting our poles from 10' to 6', Pete drilled holes in the pipe using the largest drill bit we had 10" down from the end. After that (we actually did this last, but you might as well get it done now) spray paint the poles your desired color. We only painted the top 14" or so, the amount you'd see peeking out of the top of the tent. This covered up the stamped coding on the PVC and added a little personality to our hangout.
--Sewing the Cover--
Moving on to the cover, I followed the tutorial as closely as I could making a few adjustments for our supplies. First, when I decided to go with canvas for the covering, I picked up a 6'x9' drop cloth to save some money instead of buying yards and yards of fabric. Unfortunately, our teepee needs 5 panels and I was only able to fit 4 on the drop cloth. They do sell a larger drop cloth if you wanted to make the whole canvas, it runs about $25 so the price overall would be about the same.
I had thought about hand stamping the canvas, like Sydney from the DayBook did to her tent, but once I realized I was a panel short, I figured I'd add personality through a printed fabric door.
55" angled sides
3 1/2" top
(53" from center of base to center of top)
55" angled sides - ADD 1 1/2" seam allowanceI was a little generous with my allowances since I know I don't always sew perfectly straight and I didn't want my final panels too narrow or noticeably uneven.
32" base - ADD 1 1/4" seam allowance
3 1/2" top - ADD 1" seam allowance
--Making the Door--
To make the door, you can either use a piece of fabric that is long enough or do what I did (which required a lot of thinking, measuring over and over, and luck that it was going to turn out okay!). I originally took a 1 1/2 yds of fabric I had purchased for a quilt and realized it fit almost exactly to the length of my canvas panels, however, I didn't want to use this fabric for the door. So I hit Joann's and grabbed 1 1/2 yards of my selected print. However, once home I laid it out and it was too short, what gives?
Well, dummy me should have thought about it. I needed a 53" tall panel, plus 1" allowance at the top and 1 1/4" allowance at the bottom, so 55 1/4" of fabric... a yard and half is only 54". And again, since I wanted to be generous with my seam allowances, I needed to get creative.
I decided I'd block the top of the panel. So I grabbed some white eyelet fabric I had and decided to make the top 10" inches with that. That means my floral fabric was approximately 43" tall, with a 1 1/4" allowance added to the bottom and about 1/2" added to the top to sew the eyelet fabric together. The eyelet fabric was 10" in length, with a 1/2" added to the bottom to attach to the floral print and the recommended 1" allowance at the top.
(Please let me know if that is confusing!)
Now it's time to finish the cut with some bias tape. I made my bias tape using left over star fabric from my Mini Quilt. I used Heather's tutorial that she shared on Birch Fabrics Blog. You could easily use store bought bias tape too!
I already learned how to attach bias tape when I added it to my quilt, but I didn't want to hand stitch the backside so I half cheated (there are gazillion tutorials on Pinterest, find your favorite!) I opened up my bias tape and sewed the RIGHT SIDE (printed side) to the WRONG SIDE (backside) of my door panel. After attached, you just flip the tape closed around the exposed seam and now you are ready to sew to the front. This is where you'd typically do a blind hand stitch... but ain't nobody got time for that!
I just fed the tape through the machine making sure to catch both sides. If I did miss the underside, there wasn't much worry since I already sewed it to the back. Again, check out some tutorials on this as I didn't photograph the steps, nor do I want to make this post even longer. Let's stick to the teepee action!
I held off on attaching the final two tie backs to the sides until the very end. So keep those two leftover to the side.
--Attaching the Panels--
Now we are ready to attach the panels together.
First sew THE WRONGS SIDES TOGETHER, for novices like me, this means the backside of the fabric. This means you will have seams on the outside of the teepee, you haven't made a mistake.
Before I sewed the last side of the door to the last canvas panel, I hemmed the top of the teepee. The tutorial has you doing this after all 5 panels are together, but I thought it'd be easier to run through the machine before they were all connected. Your choice.
To hem the top, I rolled it down about 1/2" and then another 1/2" so no raw edges were exposed. This accounts for the 1" that you added when you cut your panels. After the top hem is complete, I attached the final sides together.
Now it's time to make the hidden pole pockets! This was another area I had to measure a few times to make sure the tutorial didn't have me making a mistake. I measured the diameter of pole and gave some extra room on each side, roughly 1 1/4". I even went as far as pinning the fabric together around the pole to make sure I was getting it somewhat even on both sides and marked with my invisible ink pen to keep my sewing on track.
When your pockets are complete they will be on the inside of the tent and there will be no visible seam from the exterior (shown three pictures above).
It's almost finished friends, get excited!
Now to close it off you'll need hem the bottom just like we hemmed the top. You can make the hem slightly more generous as we have 1 1/4" allowance. Once again, double roll the edge to make sure no raw edges are exposed. The tricky part to this is sewing over the pole pockets to close them off. This will prevent the poles from falling out the bottom. The tutorial wasn't super clear with this step so I did my best. They aren't perfect, mainly because the canvas is so thickly bunched up, but it works and most likely isn't noticeable to anyone else. If I were to actually sell these, I'd try to come up with something that was a little cleaner looking.
Now it's time put it all together! Don't worry I didn't forget about the final tie backs, we need to set up the teepee to make sure we get the right placement for those. Insert the poles through the pockets, being gentle as not to rip any seams. Once they are in, stand up the teepee and start widening the bottom as far as you can, this may mean you need to mess around with the placement of where the poles overlap. Be careful here as well, as moving them in and out of each other can scratch the spray paint job. Once the teepee is fully extended and you are happy with how the poles overlap at the top, get your last two tie backs and pin where you like them best.
The tutorial suggested using them with the bottom ties, but I preferred the look of tying back the top. I placed my tie backs directly on the canvas right outside of the seam where floral door and canvas meet. I did remove my poles to sew them on with the machine, but if you are feeling lazy, go ahead and hand stitch. Just be sure to avoid sewing over the pole pocket.
The final step is tying the poles together. This really isn't necessary as it stands up fine on its own, but it pulls it together and makes it look more professional. I used yarn I had braided together into a rope. I taped the end to feed through the holes and once together I tied them as tightly as I could with keeping teepee set up the way I liked (opened as far as it could be). I wrapped my extra length around multiple times and tied it together and let the ends hang free.
Boom! You have made your very own custom teepee for a fraction of the price of buying one!
- I decided to go with canvas over a cotton sheet because I thought it'd be more stable and durable in the long run. I don't have a 100% cotton teepee to compare to, but I would imagine this one is less likely to collapse under pressure (or falling) of little ones.
- However, canvas is not the easiest fabric to sew through. Not only does it constantly shed/unravel, it's thick. So when rolling twice for hems, it's definitely a little tricky getting through the machine. It's also heavy and stiff, so it's not the easiest moving around on the sewing table. You may want to take this into account depending on your sewing space. I had to constantly re-adjust to make sure I was sewing straight and when the whole thing is attached it's bit annoying moving all over my desk.
- I said this earlier, but take your time with your cuts and be precise. I did use my first cut triangle panel as a template for the others, but I made sure to use my yard stick to outline the entire panel and cut it using my straight edge and rotary cutter (you could easily use scissors).
- Don't be afraid to make a mistake, that's what seam rippers are for.
- Be patient, aside from making bias tape in advance and cutting my canvas panels earlier in the week - which cutting fabric always seems to be the longest and most stressful part of any project - I did complete this over the weekend during a few hours at night after A went to bed and during a nice long morning nap the day. It's definitely not a single nap time project, but it won't take a year to complete either if your motivated.
- Keep the camera close by! You'll want to take pics of your little one seeing it for the first time and how much fun they have playing.