Teepee for the Boy: a Tutorial

A couple months ago I saw a play tent over at Cape27 and knew Little M NEEDED one right away. When I showed S the tent, he suggested a teepee so that it would take up less storage space when folded. Our lives revolve around storage space. I argued that a tent could fold flat and slide under the couch; he said a teepee would fold up and fit in the corner of a closet – any closet – easily whereas we only have one free under-the-couch storage spot. So I turned to Pinterest for inspiration and after landing on an Etsy page where teepees had little flags flying from the tops of their poles, was convinced that teepee was the way to go.
We took a family trip to the orange store and to the fabric store for our supplies. We priced out wooden poles at a cost of $35 v. 3/4” PVC water pipe (white is for water, gray for electrical) for a total cost of $3.20. I begrudgingly agreed that it made zero financial sense to buy wooden poles to then conceal them with fabric and chose two of the only 10’ lengths of PVC without any writing or UPC codes stamped on them. Our cashier did not thank us.

We bought canvas drop cloths to use for the fabric, but when I got them home and opened the packaging I decided that the weave was so loose that by the time I pre-shrank them before sewing they would become so small that they would no longer be a cost effective choice over buying cotton canvas fabric. So I returned the drop cloths and bought 5 yards of 12oz cotton canvas from fabric.com. I also bought a yard of navy blue 9oz canvas, the same fabric we used for the glider in Little M's nursery. The total cost of the fabric with a 15% off coupon that I found online was $32 – the exact cost of using canvas drop clothes had they shrunk as I expected. 

While I waited for my fabric to arrive (I’m always so frustrated that I live in a major city and we have the crappiest options for great fabric) S cut the PVC pipe and we did all our calculations. It brought me back to high school math except in high school I didn’t have my friend Google to help me find the formulas I needed to calculate the length of the sides of a triangle. I must have been some kind of genius to be able to remember stuff back before Google. Especially since I just did this and I can’t tell you off the top of my head which triangle formula we used.
S held our four poles together on our living room carpet while I spaced them out into a teepee size that could comfortably fit in the small space. I sat under the poles. We decided that 40” between the base of each pole made an area wide enough for Little M to play and still tall enough that he could stand or so S or I could sit inside with him. 

I did all my calculations allowing for ½” seam allowances. I didn’t allow for a bottom hem because I used the canvas’s selvage edges for the bottom of each panel. This diagram shows my panel sizes. 
I cut three of the same size triangles for the side and back panels and two panels for the front flaps. I show sizes for the flap panel, but I just winged it when I cut them. I basically traced one of the side panels, but after tracing the bottom and right side, I moved the triangle over two inches and then traced the left side. Then I cut the whole thing straight down the center. This gave me an extra 1” on each side to sew a ½” hem (½” folded over twice) at the opening of the teepee.

If you want a different sized teepee, then just use a calculator for a right triangle (a2+b2=c2) where a = ½ the length of your base (plus seam allowance) and c is the length of your pole (plus seam allowance.) Solve for b, the height of your teepee panel. Make sure to leave room for tying your poles near the top.   

My calculation looked like this:
420.25 + b2 = 2500
b2 = 2500 - 420.25
b2 = 2079.75
b = 45.6

Confused yet? I just did the hardest part of this whole project for you with my gorgeous paint diagram; I promise the rest is easy!

Hem each of the two front panels at the center of the teepee opening with a ½” hem folded over twice.

Hem ½” on one end of each of the four contrast strips.

Fold each the four contrast strips together lengthwise, right sides facing and sew the end you did not hem together using a ½” seam allowance. Turn right side out. You’ll end with four long strips that have one short end sewn together and the other short end with a nice, neat hem. 

Fold prepared contrast strips with right sides out.

Make a sandwich with one front half triangle, one contrast strip with the sewn shut end at the base of the triangle and the hemmed end at the top point of the triangle panel (this is where your  pole will stick through), and one side panel. The right sides of the panels should face each other and the contrast strip should be sandwiched inside so you just see 4 rough edges. Pin.

Sew with a ½” seam allowance.

Make a similar sandwich with the other side of the side panel you just sewed, contrast strip 2 and the back panel, pin and sew.

Continue on by making and sewing another sandwich with the back panel, the third panel and contrast strip 3. Finish with contrast strip 4, the remaining side of the side panel and the remaining front panel.

Snip any loose ends off your masterpiece and insert the four poles through the openings at the top of the contrast strips. Mark the poles about an inch above the top of the tent panels. Drill though the holes, lace twine through the holes and secure them with several tight knots.

I didn’t do any calculations for my flags, I just folded a piece of canvas into fourths, cut a flag shaped triangle and hemmed along the two “flag” edges with contrast stitching.

I cut the 5th contrast strip into four, hemmed the bottom edge of each and then trimmed them all to the length of pipe sticking out above the twine, adding ½” for a seam allowance. This was about 7” on our teepee. 

Fold the strips right sides together, roll the flag up so it fits inside the narrow strip pocket and sew the flag between the two long edges of the strip. Sew across the top to close the top of the strip.
Turn right side out and stick on top of your teepee.
Bring your toddler down from nap and make the grand reveal. 
Burst when you kid flips the blank out and gives you a reaction way more enthusiast than you ever imagined. 
Get all mushy every time your kid brings all their toys into their “tent” and gets all cozy in there.

After my big reveal to Little M I added a 40" strip across the front to keep the front two poles from sliding open too far on our wood floors (ahem, from making the teepee fall over on top of my baby.) It also helps keeps the teepee upright when Little M decides to crawl out under the back panel! You can see it in the crummy photo below. It's just a 41" strip of canvas folded over a few times and sewn shut along the long end that I sewed to the bottom of the front two contrast strips. I also plan to add one or two ties to the doors so Little M can hide away in his "tent" (teepee is too hard for the little guy to even try to say). Right now he stands up, holds the front panels shut and shrieks with laughter when we peek in under the flaps.

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We are four weeks into the bid process on our addition project and I think we're close to pulling our hair out. We had no idea it was going to take over a month to get all our bids. We were thinking more like two weeks. Today marks four.

To be fair, we did get one bid within two weeks and the second at three weeks. The third came in on Monday, but four and five are still outstanding. One we've been promised "tomorrow" at least a half dozen times. That should raise a red flag, but we like the guy so much and he comes so highly recommended! And number five, who knows where the heck he went. He threw out an arbitrary number based on nothing that was twice the amount of bid number one. I think I may have snarfed a little when he threw out his number. So needless to say, he's not really in the running. And the snarf is probably why we haven't heard from him again.

Right now bid number three is looking really good. I had a good impression when I first met him and all his references so far, love him. Two of them have used him for multiple projects. And I don't think they're his relatives. Or on the payroll. But we still need to work out several details to bring the whole project within budget. That means we're looking at another week 'til we're giving our architect the green light to draw up the final plans. 

We really wanted to be breaking ground on June 1. But at this point I think we're looking more like June 15 at best and July 1, if I'm being honest with myself. Our architect needs two weeks to finish the plans and our county takes up to a month to approve plans. Let's get going already!

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