Front of the tepee

Front of the tepee

We have all seen the incredibly cute tents and playhouses for little ones on Pinterest lately. Some are made with lace, others with canvas drop cloths, or even cute bed sheets  When I saw them, I knew Ryan HAD to have one for Christmas. “Oh what fun” it was going to be to read silly stories and play make believe in a magical fort! Although he is young, I thought that by this summer he might start playing with his toys in there. I am not a huge sewer, so I asked my mother in law and her mother for advice and help. Richard’s grandmother used to sew draperies, so when we went in for Thanksgiving to Arkansas- I brought it along! She just couldn’t resist diving into the project, so Ryan now has a homemade tepee made by his momma, Nana, and his Great Grandma! Pretty special for a special little boy.

Here is what I did:

1. First, I read a LOT of blogs on the subject. My favorites were Lay Baby Lay and Smile and Wave. Their pictures were really the inspiration for me. Most of the bloggers say that they just eyeballed the tepee and started sewing, but I can’t do that.

2. Next, I searched and searched for a pattern. I can’t just start sewing and hope it turns out okay. I need a plan. I found a pattern (an oldie) from Butterick. B4251. I think I bought it at Joann’s.

3. I then ran over to Home Depot and bought the largest canvas drop cloth I could find. Look at the colors. Their is a whiter and darker one. I went with the one in the middle. I also went with one I felt was sturdy. The heaviest one is the one I bought. I figure it wouldn’t tear as easily, and a flimsy cloth might fall with this pattern.

4. Finally, I went into Hobby Lobby and bought 3 yards of a fun contrasting pattern (red polka dots) that matched his room and 2 rolls of 1-1 1/2 inch ribbon (black and white chevron) for the tie backs. I also bought 1/2 yard of striped black and white fabric and 1/2 yard of mustache fabric for the pennants. I then had to buy wide bias binding for the string to tie the flags together. (I think black looks nice.) You will also need about 12 22mm wide beads (this I had trouble finding, so I just bought the biggest wooden beads I could find), and leather cording. My father in law helped with the 8 ft long poles that were from Home Depot (mine are square and not round).

3. Pretty much from then on, I followed the pattern. A few tips:

a. iron the fabric after you cut it so it lays flat.

b. make sure you know what sides go together (we had to pin/ repin, sew/resew)

c. don’t tick off the lady at Hancock fabrics (I succeeded in doing this)

d. hem the bottom when you are done (makes it look neater)

e. when you use the ribbon for tie backs, sew it together (for strength and so it always shows the pretty side)

*one thing I wish I would have done now, is sewn the curtain fabric together so when the curtains are open, the pretty side always shows. I can only open mine a certain way.

4. Now while my amazing MIL and GMIL were sewing, I worked on a little extra detail for his tepee. I wanted it to be special and for him to know it was just for him. I plan on making a tepee every first Christmas for each of my children, and I want them to be personal. I found Jen Loves Kev’s blog and worked off of their design and made it my own. I used all of the left over fabric to make his name circle, and my GMIL stitched it. I recommend NOT gluing, because the canvas is finicky  I am afraid you will have “glue grease”- you know, that spot of glue you can see through your fabric? She zigzagged mine on. If you just stitch, the canvas doesn’t stay on the fabric as well.

5. While searching for a way to make bunting flags, I found Whip Up. I followed it pretty much to the T without adding letters. I made 5 flags total.

6. Once the tepee was stitched (and restitched when one of the panels was backwards), we added the poles to the inside pockets. YES, the pattern has pockets for your sticks! Most of the ones people are making just have ties. I didn’t really start with a preference, but after watching Ryan in it, the pockets are so much sturdier.

7. My father in law drilled holes according to the pattern, (sorry I am not specific, but I stayed out of this part). My husband put up the tent, arranged the sticks, and I added 2 beads with leather cording to separate the sticks. This was not difficult once you have done a few. You are gonna need help for this!

8. Once it was up and I felt it was stable, I added my Anthopologie quilt that I am not using anymore (super fluffy) and a few boys with a little bunny. I hope Ryan enjoys his tent for years to come!


Ryan’s completed tepee


Working on Ryan’s tepee