There is no better place to grow a child’s imagination than tucked away inside a secret hideout. While blanket forts are still a trusty go-to, why not up the ante with a DIY no-sew teepee that can stay out year-round?
Store-bought play tents can cost upwards of a couple hundred dollars, but this smart design can be made for right around $60. It requires intermediate crafting skills and is collapsible for easy storage. Be warned, however, that after you complete this fun project, you may find yourself competing with the kids for teepee time!
Materials: (6) 3/4″ x 10′ thick-walled PVC pipes, (6) 3/4″ PVC couplings, (6) 3/4″ PVC caps, 9′ x 12′ canvas drop cloth, woodgrain Con-Tact Paper, Super Heat’n Bond iron-on adhesive, (1) package (8 count) 5/8″ heavy duty snaps/tools, 1/4″ sisal rope, Duck Tape, saw, iron, hot glue, marker, paint, fabric scissors, hammer
Before you start, wash and dry the canvas drop cloth in a regular warm cycle with detergent and fabric softener. This will make the fabric less stiff and much easier to work with.
Use a miter saw or hand saw to cut each 10′ piece of PVC pipe down into two sections, one 32″ long and one 48″ long. Below is a close up of the caps and couplings for your reference. If you do not wish to make the teepee collapsible, you can just cut each pipe to 80″, and you will not need the couplings.
To give the pipes and couplings the look of real wood, I covered them with some woodgrain Con-Tact Paper left over from my lampshade revamp. Be sure to leave about an inch of pipe uncovered on one end of each short pipe and both ends of the long pipes—this will allow them to fit snugly inside the couplings and caps.
Spread out the drop cloth on a flat surface with the 12′ edge at the top. Center the end of a measuring tape at the top and mark a dot 69″ out with a marker. Continue to mark 69″ out from the center until you’ve drawn a half-circle (a helper to hold the end of the measuring tape centered will make this step easier). Cut out the half-circle with fabric scissors.
In the next step, you’ll be hemming the edge of the drop cloth and creating pockets. Use a marker to draw 2″ wide x 2″ tall sections evenly spaced around the curved edge. See the diagram below for the correct measurements.
Preheat an iron to medium high. Use the Super Heat’n Bond iron-on adhesive to create a 1.5″ hem along the curved edge of the drop cloth. Do not place any iron-on adhesive where you’ve marked your 2″ pocket openings. Make sure to protect the floor you are working on from the hot iron.
You should have six pockets and a 1.5″ hem along the curved edge of your drop cloth when you’re finished.
At the center of the top edge of the drop cloth, cut a half-circle with a 4″ diameter. Then cut 1″ flaps and use more iron-on adhesive to tack back the flaps for a smooth hem. The diameter of your finished half-circle should be 6″.
If you wish to paint your teepee, do that now. Make sure to flip the canvas over so the pockets are on the inside! I used a foam roller, painter’s tape and latex house paint.
After your paint has dried, tuck one PVC cap smothered in hot glue into each of your six pockets. The trick to not burning yourself is to put two fingers into the cap whilst smothering.
You’re almost there! Starting at the small half-circle, attach seven heavy duty snaps along the straight edge spaced 1.5″ apart. You will be overlapping the two sides, so place the snap tops on the right edge and the snap bottoms on the left edge.
Cut a piece of 1/4″ sisal rope to be 16.5′ long. Wrap the ends in Duck Tape to prevent them from fraying (or gold Duck Tape if you’re feelin’ fancy).
Since your teepee is all in pieces at the moment, I’m going to first show you how to pack it up for easy storage or transport to your set-up locale. Simply tuck the disassembled pipe pieces and rope into the folded canvas covering. Then roll together and secure with extra sisal rope or, in my case, a strip of excess drop cloth.
To set up your teepee, first find a suitable cornfield with an adjacent freshly cut lawn—just kidding! Start by attaching one short pipe and one long pipe together with one coupling until you have six tall poles. Stand all the poles up together, and, holding the top, evenly space the legs out. About 10″ down from the top, lash them together with your pre-cut sisal rope. While this can be done alone, an extra set of hands is very useful for this part.
Next, gently drape your canvas covering around the legs and secure the top with the snaps. Gently push each leg into its respective cap in the bottom hem of the canvas.
At this point, you want to spread the legs out evenly to make the edges taut. This may require some jostling and pulling the legs to get a nice tight fit.
Once set up, the teepee stands 6′ tall and 5′ wide. Adding a cute paper feather garland, a blanket and some pillows makes this teepee the place to be!
When summer sun gives way to falling leaves, bring the teepee inside for winter fun. Or pack it up and easily store it away for next year. Whether it lives on the lawn, in the playroom or filling the corner of your nursery, this DIY no-sew teepee is sure to spark that special kind of imaginative play that childhood is known for.