When I was little, I loved having my own little place. I was always looking for a quiet corner to curl up in with some coloring or a craft and listen to a book-on-tape. I spent a lot of time dragging pillows and blankets around and setting up camp in corners, under tables—one time I even moved into my sister’s closet after she had cleaned it out.
As such, it was always a big deal in the summer when my dad would set up the canvas teepee we had. Spending an afternoon in the teepee was a big step up from being under a table. It was more secluded, more private, and so magical. As a kid, there was nothing like being outside in my own completely enclosed space. I would bring three or four bags filled with books, activities, stuffed animals, and snacks. I’d bring pillows and blankets. Sometimes I’d even drag out an extension cord for my tape player so I could listen to a book. The goal was to pack everything I could possibly need and then not go back to the house all afternoon.
I distinctly remember climbing into bed on the days I spent out in the teepee. I’d snuggle up with my blanket that had made the journey with me. The fresh smell of grass pervaded my bed and made me feel like I was still outside in the summer air. Still to this day, that smell always makes me think of those summer days spent in my teepee.
All of those fond memories had me jumping at the idea of designing and making a kid’s teepee-style tent. I remember that the teepee we had definitely had some flaws, and I knew I could improve on the design. A quick Google search found a lot of “no-sew” teepees, which looked to be mostly pieces of fabric draped over some poles, falling more under the category of “temporary fort” in my mind, and the sewing tutorials I did find were on a much smaller scale than I was thinking.
What I have for you today is a teepee-style tent that is satisfactorily large and able to fit several small children or—if your kids are like me—one child with half their room. I stuck to a very simple design because I think that the simplicity is part of the charm and, to deal with some of the problems of my childhood teepee, added sleeves of fabric that the poles slide into. My hope is that this design not only keeps the fabric of the tent taut, but that it also makes setting up the tent more possible for children. That was the biggest complaint I had: that I couldn’t set up my own teepee but had to wait until my dad was available.
Step 1: Cut poles for teepee tent
Using a hand saw and a miter box, cut all of your poles to 82”. Drill a large hole at the top of each pole, 10” from the end. Cut a length of rope and thread through all five of your poles. Set aside.
Step 2: Cut teepee tent fabric
Lay out fabric and mark out dimensions based on the cutting guide. Because we’re cutting out large sections and long, straight edges, I used a piece of 8’ moulding as an extra long straight edge for the largest pieces and a regular (3') straightedge for the smaller sections. I found using a framing square was extremely helpful for making sure my lines were perpendicular where they needed to be.
(4) Side panels
(4) Side tops
(2) Front flaps, right and left
(1) Front top
(5) Pole sleeves
(2) Sets of side pockets
(1) Long length for all six ties
Once all of your pieces are cut, compare and make sure that all of your duplicates are the same size and shape. Trim accordingly.
Step 3: Make front panel of teepee tent
We’ll start sewing with the very front of the teepee. First hem the flaps, then attach them to the top to form a triangle. For this step you’ll need the front flaps (left and right) and the top front.
Hem the straight sides and bottom of the right and left front flap pieces. Fold over 1/2” twice and sew in place. Because the fabric is the same front and back, this part can be tricky. Make sure you’re folding over the two sides in the opposite direction so you don’t accidentally end up with two right sides, or two left sides (like I accidentally did!).
Pin the left front flap to the front top, right sides together, lining up the angled edge. Sew in place. Pin the right side to the top front, lining up the angled edge and overlapping with the left side. Sew in place also.
Step 4: Assemble side panels of teepee tent
Next we’re going to be assembling each of the remaining four sides by sewing together the top and bottom part of each panel. For this step you’ll need all the side panels and the side tops.
Pin together side panels with side tops, right sides facing each other. Hem with a 1/2” seam allowance.
Step 5: Make pockets
Next we’ll be adding pockets to the bottom of two of the side panels. (You can do more or less pockets as you prefer.) For this step, you’ll need two of the completed side panels, and the two pockets.
First, fold over one of the long sides of the pocket twice and hem. (If your pockets have been cut out along the finished edge of the fabric you can skip this part.)
Lay rectangular pockets along the bottom sides of the panels, right sides facing each other. Pin in place and trim pocket to the shape of the panel. Hem bottom edge 1/2” away from the edge. Press seam flat—you can also get away with rolling the seam between your fingers and manipulating it into place. Top stitch the pocket side 1/4” from seam.
Baste the sides together and sew lines perpendicular to the bottom of the panel to create separate pockets.
Step 6: Hem raw edges of teepee tent
Next, it’s time to hem the raw edges for all the tops and the non-pocketed bottoms of the sides and front. For this step, you’ll need all of the side panels and the front panel, and also the pole sleeves.
Hem the bottom of all of the pole sleeves by folding over the material 1/2” and then 1/2” again, then sew in place. Hem the bottom of any side panels without pockets.
At this point, I recommend comparing the lengths of all of your tent panels and all of the pole sleeves. (The length of the pole sleeves should be equal to the length of the angled sides of the panels.) Trim any excess, and make up for smaller sections with a narrower hem. Now, hem the tops of all of the pole sleeves and side panels, and the top of the front panel.
Step 7: Baste pole sleeves of teepee tent
Before assembly, we’re going to prep the pole sleeves. For this step you’ll need all five pole sleeves.
Fold the pole sleeves in half lengthwise, with wrong sides facing each other, and baste together the raw edges with a narrow hem.
Step 8: Make ties for teepee tent
Next, we’ll be making ties to open or close the flaps at the front. For this step you’ll need the long tie length.
For this process, I planned to sew the loops in half and then flip them right sides out afterward. But because the fabric was so stiff, I had to make a change of plans. I intentionally cut these ties out along the finished edge of the fabric so we only have one raw edge to deal with. Fold the tie roughly into thirds with the raw edge tucked into the folds. Top stitch the ties together with a zig-zag stitch. Cut ties into two 13” lengths and four 7” lengths. Because the fabric is so thick, I finished the ends of each tie with fray check rather than hemming them.
Step 9: Assemble DIY teepee tent
Next it’s time to sew all the side panels and front panels together with the pole sleeves in between each pair of panels. For this step you’ll need all four side panels, the front panel, all five basted pole sleeves, and the two 13” ties.
Lay out the front panel, right side up. Then lay out one of the pole sleeves along one side, lining up the raw edges. Add a tie 18” from the bottom of the panel. Tuck it underneath the sleeve, so that half of the tie is laying on the front panel, and half is sticking out. Finally, lay one of the side panels on top (right side facing down). Pin all three layers together and hem with a zig-zag stitch and a 1/2” seam allowance. (If you own a serger, this is definitely the time to use it).
Repeat this process (minus adding the tie) with the remaining side panels and pole sleeves, finally sewing the last side panel to the opposite side of the front panel (adding a tie like you did with the first side).
Step 10: Add ties to close your teepee tent
Add two ties to the right side of the front flap: one 6” up from the bottom, the other 24” from the bottom. On the inside of the front flap, mark where the right side overlaps the left and sew corresponding ties. This way the front flaps can be overlapped and tied together, and wind and rain won’t be able to get through (or uninvited siblings).
Step 11: Put together teepee tent
Finally, it’s time to put it all together!
Insert poles into each pole sleeve. Stand up tent and pull out poles until evenly spaced and fabric is taut. This may take a few minutes of fiddling with it.
That's it! I love this project because it reminds me of my childhood. I hope the kids in your life are able to make fond memories of their own in this teepee-style tent, too.