Playing with intent – making a children’s tepee

This week I’ve been dusting off my GCSE Textiles skills and making Eliza a children’s play tent…so how did it go?

making a play tent

making a children's play tent

We were stumped when it came to something to buy for her birthday, coming so soon as it does after Christmas. All our friends and relatives usually buy her brilliant gifts and in the style of most modern toddlers, she’s already acquired so much stuff.

In the end I thought about making her something instead. I’d had my eye on a tepee-style play tent for a while (you can see my Tipi-tastic Pinterest board) And when Hobbycraft offered to send me a sewing machine to use on a crafty project, it seemed like a good opportunity to get my teeth into something creative. As a teenager I used to make lots of my own – slightly odd, admittedly – clothes, and there have been lots of times in our new house that a sewing machine would have been really useful to have around.

how to make easy bunting

Here’s what I used to make the play tent and bunting:

  • Six garden canes to make the frame – around £4 from Wilkos, potentially in your garden for free
  • Fabric – the star fabric is a fleece throw, the sequinned material is an old scarf and there’s another fleecy throw we had around the house I used as the base. The orange ribbon that ties the top of the canes was from a bunch of flowers I was given when Florence was born
  • Bunting – I used some leftover fabric from my brother’s wedding, and the ribbon was from HEMA
  • Pegs – as the fabric really wouldn’t stay up…

How to make really easy bunting

I looked up loads of ‘easy tepee’ guides on Pinterest and thought it really would be easy. Was I right?  Of course not. I initially folded the fabric into one big quarter and snipped out a tiny hole, thinking I could stick the canes through and it would all drape over, but the fabric was both too heavy and stretchy and the poles hated me (really). In the end I cut out some lopsided rectangles and sewed them together. It was still far too big at the top, so some pinning was involved, and it’s tucked under at the bottom.

I know bunting is a bit Royal Wedding circa 500 years ago, but I had a lot of leftover fabric from my brother’s wedding so thought it would work. I made this by sewing together two back-to-back triangles of fabric, turning them inside out and then zig-zag stitching them onto the ribbon.

Brother LS 14 sewing machine review

Brother LS14 sewing machine review

The path to play tent making doesn’t always run smooth, so here’s some tips to avoid:

  • Don’t try to figure out the sewing machine when two children are hanging off you
  • Bamboo canes are fiendishly difficult to work with. Not only did they give me a splinter – the meanies – but they wouldn’t stay in place (we the resorted to taping them in the end and then put the ribbon over)
  • Pinterest tutorials are not all as they seem. Shocker.

The sewing machine I was sent – a Brother LS14 that costs around £69 – is really easy to use. Even after a gap of many years I picked it back up again – once both children were in bed – but you wouldn’t really need any experience to make something. There are a variety of different stitches and it’s pretty compact. Considering I used to use my mum’s hand operated Singer (which she still has and uses!) this is a vast improvement.

making a tepee

Making an easy blanket tent

How to make a children's play tent and tepee OK, so it may not be the most finely crafted of things, it was at times frustrating and it’s a cosy fit for one, but Eliza really likes it. Which is all that matters to me.

Looking forward to using it outside in summer.

You can also see my IKEA hack children’s spice rack bookshelves, and an early Easter project – really easy salt dough bunny decorations.

12 Comments

  1. Gabi
    February 9, 2015 / 2:37 pm

    This is the prettiest tepee I’ve seen in my life!

  2. February 9, 2015 / 2:42 pm

    I’m really impressed you made this! I don’t have a sewing machine and my skills are severely lacking in this area (can just about sew a button) but you’re inspiring me to give it a go x

  3. February 9, 2015 / 3:29 pm

    So pretty! Well done going for a fairly big make after a break from the sewing machine. I’m rusty on mine and when I return this year I’m going to make small lavender bags until I get the gist of it again. Such a lovely teepee and a lovely looking sewing machine too. x

  4. February 9, 2015 / 5:17 pm

    how cute is this! i would have loved a little tent when i was younger.

  5. February 9, 2015 / 9:17 pm

    Ah this looks like a beautiful teepee, and so lovely that you made it yourself! Most impressive. I have a sewing machine, stolen from my poor mother, and I never find the time (or skill) to use it x

  6. February 12, 2015 / 10:40 am

    On first glance I thought you had purchased this…! It’s amazing…well done you and you made it look so simple xx

  7. February 12, 2015 / 10:32 pm

    Oh my goodness! I am SO impressed with this. My mother tried and failed to get me using a sewing machine with confidence but I do have one. I desperately want to learn (with the kids in bed, of course). The one I have only does straight stitch but if I get on with it, maybe I’ll upgrade to something like yours.

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