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DIY Teepee Tutorial

Teepees are all the rage these days for little ones. I’ve been wanting to make one for my little girl’s first birthday, and have been planning this project for quite some time. I decided to take the plunge when Rico Designs dropped this lovely Cotton Canvas Fabric, and am so pleased to say that all the careful planning paid off.

I’m gonna take you through how I designed the teepee in this post; if you like it, you can make your own, too, with the little template that I’ve drawn up for you. I know that there are lots of tutorials out there, but I could not find one that suited my needs perfectly. I hope this is of help to someone.

Design choices

  • How many poles -- 4, 5 or 6? I went with 5 after seeing many examples online, and decided that this would be my favourite shape.
  • Side panels – I opted for them to be off the floor, as it’s easier to keep it clean.
  • Door style – slit or curtain style with overlap? I went with the latter.
  • Door finishing – I hemmed the opening, but you can also use bias tape to bind the raw edges.
  • What will the doors look like when open – “folded” back or draped like curtains? The latter won for me.
  • How will the doors be pulled back? You could use ties or velcro, but I particularly liked how toggles looked with the colour scheme of this teepee.
  • Window – round, square, sash, with curtains or blinds? I didn’t bother with a window for my (sorry, of course I mean Freya’s) teepee, as I preferred it simple.
  • Pole channels/slots – outside with accent colour, inside, or ties only? I wanted the poles to be enclosed inside, and to show off my stripes matching skills!
  • Securing the structure and fabric – I was worried that 1) the teepee might collapse/fall down and 2) the fabrics would slide down the poles. I had some back up plan for these issues, which involve tying rubber elastic bands to the poles, adding rubber feet to the bottom of the poles, adding boning to the bottom of the side panels, and adding grommets/eyelets to the top of the side panels. However, I’m pleased to say that none of these additional measures were needed.

In short, I went with a 5 panel design with poles enclosed on the inside, with overlapped front drapes, no windows, and toggles as a finishing touch. This is what I’d call a standard sized teepee --  it’s about 1.5m tall when up, and takes up floor space of approx 1.2m x 1.2m. It’s very similar to fashionable ones that you can buy online.

Want to make your own? Here’s a quick tutorial! I’ve tried keeping the instructions nice and concise.

What you’ll need

  • Sewing machine
  • Walking foot (trust me, it’s worth the investment)
  • Cotton canvas. I used 4.5m (56 inches wide) to make the teepee plus 2 matching cushion covers. If you don’t need to pattern match, you could squeeze out the teepee in 3.5m, but you’ll need extra for making the loop for the curtain ties etc. I would not recommend using a directional fabric for this.
  • 18mm diameter dowels x5 in 1.8m length. I could only find them in 2.4m lengths from both B&Q and Wickes, so had to cut them to size.
  • Drill with a 5mm wood drill bit
  • Measuring tape – measure twice, cut once is definitely true for this project!
  • Some masking tape
  • Handsaw and sandpaper
  • I also used 3 toggles, but these are optional.

Pattern

I’ve drawn out the pattern pieces that I’ve used for this project. Please note that this is not to scale, and you’ll have to draw this based on the measurements on your own pattern paper.

All seam allowances are included in the template. Specific seam allowances are noted in the instructions below. Cut out the pieces, and be careful to pattern match.

Instructions

1) Hem the top

Fold the small top edge on all 4 side panels and the front top panel by 15mm to the wrong side. Press. Fold and press by the same amount again to the wrong side so that the raw edges are enclosed. Sew this up with your walking foot. Note that I used the walking foot throughout the project. 

2) Hem the bottom 

Similarly, hem the bottom long edge on all 4 side panels and the 2 door panels. 

3) Door opening edge 

Hem the straight, middle edge of the door pieces in the same way. 

4) Attach doors to the front top panel. 

Align the sides of the bottom of the front top edge with the top of the door edges. You should have approx 40m of overlap when the two doors meet. It’s up to you which door goes on top. I used French seams here by sewing wrong sides together with a 5mm seam, and turning over and sewing right sides together with a 10mm seam. Alternatively, a “normal” 15mm seam would do just fine, if you then finish the raw edges on the inside. You should now have 5 pieces, each representing one side of the teepee. 

5) Make the ties for the doors and for tying the poles. 

Cut 2 pieces of bias tapes 40mm wide, both approx 1 metre long, Fold with right sides together, sew with a 10mm seam. Trim the seam allowances in half and turn it the right way out. Cut one of the finished ribbons in 4 equal pieces. 

6) Attach the curtain ties (one of the 4 shorter pieces) to the door opening. 
Mark where you would like the ties to be at the door opening. I added the toggles here by using some masking tape at the top of the tie piece, looping it through the toggle, and sewing both ends to the wrong side of the door opening. Here’s a photo showing the baseball stitch that I used here. You may wish to adjust the length to your liking here.
7) It’s time to sew the sides together! 
Sew all the sides with a 10mm seam with wrong sides together, paying close attention to the pattern matching. Trim the seams at the top and bottom at an angle (see photo below)
8) Creating the pole channels/slots
Essentially we are making giant French seams here. Pin or clip the side seams with the right side together, with a wide seam allowance of 28.5mm. Sandwich the remaining 2 short ties (that you made in step 5) to the seams adjoining the front panel at your chosen height/position, so that they end up showing on the outside. As I was using toggles, I needed to sew these up as loops rather than ties, so I tacked them with the baseball stitch first to get them in the right shape. Sew up the wide seams.
Voila! the majority of your sewing is done! Time to get out your power drills! 
OK, maybe a tea break first. 
9) Ready? All refreshed after your cuppa? Time for some light carpentry work!
Cut your dowels to 1.8m long. Sand down the cut edges. Drill 5mm holes 25cm (10 inches) from the top on each dowel. I used masking tapes to help guide the location of the holes. 
10) Finishing touches
It’s time to pop the poles into their slots, spread the teepee out and loop the tie through the holes at the top! I added another toggle here, too, by sewing up a loop at one end, and leaving the other end of the tie open (with masking tape), threaded through the toggle and hand tying it. This way the teepee can be taken down and put away at a later date. I also added a sheepskin rug, 2 matching envelope cushions, and a store bought cushion to complete the little den.
What do you think? I hope that Freya will enjoy her little den in the years to come! It's made with love and lots and lots of planning ;)
Until next time, 
Alice from Queen of Darts

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