Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Make Your Own Play Teepee!

Note: If you aren't into sewing, there is good news! TheMudPieMakers has opened an Etsy shop...we have custom teepees available for order! See side bar for a link.

A play teepee is a super-fun hideout, reading corner, or ready-made fort for pretend play! And I promise it's not hard to make. If you have a sewing machine and can sew a basic straight line...and you can find a free can make this! It will take 3-4 hours. It is fairly inexpensive as well...actually, it could be pretty much free if you repurpose a used twin sheet and are lucky enough to have bamboo growing in your yard.

I had neither of those, so my cost was $20, which included 2 sheets from Walmart ($5 each) and PVC pipes from Home Depot ($10).
Gather Materials:

  • 1 flat solid color twin sheet

  • 1 patterned twin sheet or 2 yards of any 45”w cotton fabric for contrast banner and pole pockets

  • matching thread

  • 37” length of single fold bias tape

  • 5 PVC or bamboo poles, each ¾” thick and 74 inches long

  • 10 caps for the PVC pipes

  • 1 shoelace or 24” length of cord or twine to tie the poles together

  • a drill with a 1/4” bit
Prewash your sheets.
Lay the solid-color sheet on the floor and use a measuring tape and pen to mark the triangles that will be the 5 sides of the teepee.

The far right triangle on the diagram, which is at the top of the sheet (where the big hem is) may vary a little in size...that's ok. It will form the door flap. Use a straight edge to draw lines between the marks. Now cut the triangles.

Lay out your contrast fabric. Cut 5 strips that are 60” long by 5.5” wide. These will form the pole pockets.

Cut a small triangle pattern piece for the banner that is 7x7x7.5" and 6" tall.

Cut 14 of them. These will form the pennant banner that is on the door flap.

Start sewing. *All seam allowances are 5/8” unless noted.

To make the front door section, overlap the 2 smaller triangle pieces. They should overlap 3" to 6", depending on length of your sheet. You will have to turn over the piece on the right so that the wrong side is up. The back of the hem will show in front, but it's not noticeable.
Overlap the two pieces (left wider hem piece over right piece) just enough so that together the bottom edge measures 36”. Make sure the overlap is same at top and bottom.

Pin together and mark a line 3 feet up from the bottom. This will be the top of the door.

The overlapped top piece can be cut to a point to match the bottom layer--up near the point. Now stitch along the upper edge and then along the overlap until the 3-ft mark.

Stitch across that line to attach the two layers and make the top of the door flap. It's a good idea to zigzag stitch this seam to reinforce will get pulled on when doorflaps are opened.

Now, on this and the other four triangles, measure 9" from the top point down each side, mark and then cut that piece off the top.

Hem the top edge by folding it down 1/4” then 1/4” again and stitching. The bottom edge is already hemmed for you.

To sew the pole pockets, first hem the short ends of each, turning the end under 1/4” and then 1/4” and stitching. Do this to both ends of each strip.

Next, you will fold the pockets in half lengthwise with the WRONG sides together. Put this long strip between 2 of the teepee sides so that the RIGHT sides of the teepee pieces are on the inside, against the pole pockets. All the raw edges should be even.

The pocket piece should be just a 1/2” to an inch shorter than the teepee pieces on each end. Pin and then stitch all the way down. As you sew, you may need to gently stretch the bottom piece to make sure your top and bottom edges end up even. Be sure to reinforce the edges a good bit where you start and stop your seam-—I stitched back and forth about 6 times over a couple of inches at both ends to make sure it wouldn't easily pull apart with use.
Repeat this step 5 times, so that you end up with the pockets showing on the outside of the teepee.

If you like, go ahead and zigzag stitch or serge the edges of those long seams to neaten them up inside.

Now for the banner. Put 2 small triangle sections right side together. WIth a 1/2" seam allowance, sew along the edge of the 2 slightly shorter sides, pivoting at the corner.

Leave the longer side open. Cut off the corner close to the stitching to remove fabric bulk.

Turn inside, using a pencil or scissors to gently poke it out to a point. Press. Cut off the little points at the bottom edge. Top stitch each triangle on the two sewn edges.
Open up the piece of bias tape and fold one end down a half inch. Lay a triangle piece under this end so the raw, unsewn edge is in the fold of the bias tape. Pin.

Lay the other six triangles inside, slightly overlapping the corners. Adjust so they fit just inside the 2 ends and there is an inch of bias tape left at the end that you can fold up a half-inch to hide the raw edge. Now, fold the tape over, and start stitching through all layers from one end to the other.

Pin this banner on the inside of the wider hem flap. Sew from bottom to top about 5/8” from the edge, making sure you don't catch the other door flap in your stitching. Now topstitch again next to the edge.

To prepare your poles: each should be 74-inches long. They will have markings on them from the store, so you may want to spray paint them or wind colored tape around them to make them prettier.

Measure down 8” from one end of each pole and mark. Drill through both sides of the pipe at these marks. Insert the poles through the pockets of the teepee and put a cap on each end of the pole.

With the teepee and poles all bundled together, thread your cord through the drilled holes and tie it so it has just a little bit of slack. Stand your teepee up, spread the poles and adjust the tie as needed.

Furnish with a couple of good books, a little snack, and your children will have hours of fun in their new make-believe world!


  1. I love this. How tall does it stand when it is sat up? I am wanting to make two of these for Christmas gifts and want to make sure they will not be to tall for the bedrooms they will go in.

  2. Hi Christa. This would make a great gift! It measures about 72 inches tall when standing.

  3. Thanks for sharing. I can't wait to add this to my Christmas/gift idea binder!

  4. Hi i love these teepee's they look great, i'm going to make three for my boys for christmas. I'm going to use plain calico rather then the sheets so i was just wondering what length & width i should get the material? Thanks Jade

  5. Jade, I believe most calico is 45" wide, so you could probably fit 2 panels next to each other lengthwise on the fabric...I would guess you will need about 5 1/2 yards per teepee. Maybe you could cut out a triangle panel and lay it out on some yardage to figure it out for sure! If you can find 60" wide fabric, I'm sure you could use a lot less. Your boys will love them!

  6. Thanks Kylee going to start them today. Jade

  7. How much floor space does it use? Is it a 4x4 or different? And do you have any idea what method to use if I wanted to reduce the size if it was a little too big?

  8. It measures about 4 1/2 feet across inside the teepee. I haven't tried making it in any other size. Hmmm...if you cut a few inches off each panel, that would reduce the size, but you'd also have to cut down the top a little more--making it shorter--in order to still fit the poles. Wish I could give you an experienced answer!

  9. I found your site through The Happy Housewife... and just thought I would let you know I am sewing this up tonight... hoping all goes well so I can give it to my kids for Christmas. :) Thanks so much for sharing!

  10. Thanks, Alison! I'm sure it will turn out super cute! We'd love to see a picture if you care to post one on our FB page. :) Merry Christmas!!

  11. Well, everything went great except that the pole pocket strips were way too long. After hemming them I had to cut off a lot more to make them match up. Maybe 60 inches was to match the triangles before cutting the 9 inches off the top? Thanks again for taking the time to share how you did this. The only thing I had to buy was the PVC pipe, so this was a CHEAP and fun project!!

  12. Oh, just saw your comment. :) I will try to get a picture of it with the kids in it. :) (By the way, I am on the west coast, so I'm not really up till 3am sewing... though I'm sure I've done it before!)

  13. The triangles seem like a lot of work....are they necessary to make the door fit?

    1. No, the triangle pennants are not absolutely necessary--I found they did help overlap the door panels a little better. One alternate idea if you wanted to avoid the work of sewing (yes, they are a little time-consuming!), is to cut them out of felt and just quickly stitch them down the side of the doorway without the bias tape. :)

  14. I saw these at a craft show 50.00 I think I can make one a lot cheaper [going to try]

  15. I attempted this today. While it's not a complete loss - #1 is definetely a learning process. I did not have sheets at home to use. I bought Cinderella and plain pink flat sheets at the thrift store for 5.99 each. They were both twin - but varied greatly in size. I bought 5 PVC pipes and 10 end caps at Home Depot. The poles only came in 10' @1.44 each. The caps were 59 cents each. I do not like that the poles have the black printing from top to bottom. I had also hoped to find rubber end caps to keep the teepee from slipping on the floor. I had to get the PVC cap material. #1 was hard because my large triangles were not all even so when sewing together I had to adapt quite a bit. Over all my day care children will love it. I am thinking of making more as gifts - if I do I will buy the PVC from a plumbing supply store that sells it in 20' lengths. You have so much waste with the 10'. I may also buy sheets at Walmart since I paid more than the new price anyway.. But it was a character sheet. The door was the hardest. Mine is too snug now so they do not have complete privacy (which maybe is a good thing :o)

  16. hi all, im from australia. After searching for weeks now this is the ONLY teepee instructions i understand, and that actually make sense. my only question is what is a twin sheet?
    over here we have cot sheets for baby, single sheet for kids beds, king single for extra long kids beds, then double for teens and queen or king for adults. any idea of the dimentions please.

  17. i made this and used a single doona cover opened out which i guess made a really big sheet(i'm from australia also). it worked out and was pretty straight forward but next time i would make it BIGGER and have more overlap for the door. I used the snaps off the doona cover to make tabs for the door to be held opened. it took a couple of days with many interruptions.
    thankyou so much for posting these instructions!!! christmas present...check!

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  20. How wide is the 'flat sheet' that you used, I am in the UK and doubt that our sheets are the same size. Also going to buy fabric to make it.


    1. Hi Charlie, the twin sheet we used measured 168 cm x 244 cm. Good luck!

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  22. This is fabulous, I can't wait to give it a go for my boys!

  23. Just finished making it for my kiddos. They love it and it looks fantastic! Excellent tutorial - you covered everything. Thanks so much for posting!

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