Make Your Own Teepee





Introduction: Make Your Own Teepee

About: I'm a tattoo artist and former Marine. I like just tinkering with stuff to keep boredom away on my days off.

Here's how my wife and I made our own Teepee that we use for camping and going to Rendezvous. It is very spacious inside with room for 6 adults plus our gear and we can have a fire inside for those cold nights. The building was pretty easy and quick and only cost about $150 in materials for the cover and liner

Step 1: The Outer Cover

We bought 3 canvas tarps at Home Depot measuring 15 feet by 12 feet. ($25 ea.)

We then sewed the 15 foot sides together; at the end of this we had one big canvas that was 15 feet by 36 feet. Now comes some measuring and cutting, so take your time measure twice and cut once. We lay the whole thing flat in our yard so we could see it... Staring at the left side of the 36' side measure 10' to the right then drew a line 3' up then, on that same line do a 2' mark then draw a line back to the side making a rectangle that we will Call cut A-1. Do the same thing one the right side of the canvas we will call this rectangle A-2 (see diagram) * each square = 1'

Now cut out the two 10' by 2' sections and save these two pieces. Cut up the line to the 3' mark.

Take the two pieces that you just cut off and sew them together along the 2' side; move the piece to the back where it is sewn to the center of the 36' side making the center now 17' ( see diagram) *each square = 1'

Next find the center of the side you just removed A-1 and A-2 from and draw two lines 2' apart from the top of those lines 1 1/2' back to the center it will make a big M shape ... cut this part out ( see yellow area of diagram ) we the sewed a triangle piece of canvas where the bottom of the M where the smoke flap poles will go into.(see the teepee picture)

Its a good idea to reinforce all areas that end in a cut.

You now have your smoke flaps.

Step 2:

Now for cuts B-1 and B-2 .

From the back left side measure 1 1/2' inward and 6 1/2' down to make cut B-1.

Do the same thing on the right side to make cut B-2 ( see diagram ) * each square = 1'.

Cut these out then take those two pieces and sew them together on the 15' side then take this piece and sew it to the middle making the 17' middle now 18 1/2'.

Step 3:

Drive a stake in to the ground in the center of the M cut where the canvas would be if you had not cut it. Tie a rope to this stake and measure out 18' and tie a pen or maker at this point. Start at one of the corners and using the rope like a compass draw an ark all the way to the other corner this will make a half circle shape on the canvas as seen in the diagram ( there might be a little missing where A-1 and A-2 meet the big canvas but it shouldn't matter to much can add pieces here if you want to make it all even.

Cut holes for the door (see diagram) then cut out the parts to make the door cover by sewing the two pieces together.

Step 4: The Liner

The Liner of a teepee is very important if your going to have a fire, as it is what funnels the air so all the smoke will go out the smoke hole at the top. We made our liner by using two 15' by 12' canvases. We cut them in half making them four pieces 15' by 6'. We attached them to the poles inside the cover by wrapping a rope about 4'6" from the ground and then tied the liner to the rope with twine. We use rocks on the bottom of the liner to keep it down and keep out drafts.

Step 5: Poles

There a few ways to get poles for your teepee. The cheapest way is to go to the woods and get them, another way is to buy them pre-cut. But the way we did it was to buy tree stakes and combine two 10' stakes together to make 20' poles that are easier to carry around on top of our Jeep. We got PVC that went over the poles (2 1/2" PVC) and cut them into 2' lengths . On one side we wrapped duct-tape around pole so it fit snug in the PVC then inserted it 1' and used three screws to secure it permanently to the pole then wrapped the other pole with duct-tape so it fit snug but could be taken apart when we were done, we did this with all the poles. when we put up the poles we used duct-tape were the take down was to make it less likely to come apart while placing the poles.

Each pole set consists of 3 tripod poles 2 smoke flap poles, 1 pre-measured lifting pole, and 10 regular poles.

Step 6: Set Up

Steps For set up
1. Layout tripod poles.
2. Tie rope to poles
3. Raise tripod poles. Swing out North pole and place between 7 and 11. south pole will go between 4 and 8
4. Place pole #1 to frame doorway
5. Add poles #2, #3, #4, #5, #6, and #7 in the same crotch as #1.
6. Go around to back of tipi.
7. Add poles #8, #9, #10,and #11 in same crotch.
8. Wrap rope around poles.
9. Tie tipi cover to lifting pole at 18' mark.
10. Add lifting pole to space between poles #9 and #10.
11. unwrap tipi around poles with two halves meeting at door opening.
12. Using wooden lacing pins join tipi halves. (see diagram)
13. Adjust poles until tipi looks good.
14. add smoke flap poles
15. Using wooden pin fasten door on second set of holes above door.

Step 7: All Done

There are many ways to put up a teepee (tipi) on the internet so look around... the main thing I wanted to show in this Instructable was how we made the cover. You might want to make a small version first to try it out before making a big one (We made one for "Barbie" before we made our big one.) Have fun!

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43 Discussions

I say Do it! also the size is up to you make it smaller if your "solitary" LOL

Hi, I hope your still out there..... I am wanting to make this teepee for a rendezvous. I think I have done all the math right. When you made this teepee what did the foot print end up being on your space? Did you use a ground cloth around the outer edge (ie. away from the fire) and how tall was it in the middle?

Thanks so much!

1 more answer

We used a ground cloth where we slept. It was about 15 feet high in the far as the foot print it was as big as the bottom of the poles I couldn't tell you exact size but we once had 10 people inside during a Rendezvous all drinking and telling stories and we were not cramped.


2 years ago

For those that seem to have their panties in a wad, over the flag. Count the stripes, please. You will notice that there are more than 13 (18 by my count). That is how many colonies, and thus stripes, are on the U.S flag. The author doesn't point this out, but it is O.K. to use striped material, any way you deem fit.

Very nice ible. I've been wanting to make a tipi for years, just haven't gotten one of those rountuits, yet.

3 replies

I don't know where you got your flag, but if it has more than thirteen stripes, it is not a proper flag and probably made overseas. I have several, including one from a veteran's funeral, and all of them have seven red stripes and six white stripes with a red stripe at the top and bottom and a red stripe separating each white stripe. Also, the blue rectangle contains 50 stars, for each actual state, no star is included for D.C., nor any provinces. The stars are in rows, starting with six in the top row and five in the second, then alternating six and five for a total of nine rows to make 50 stars.

sorry, I didn't realize you were talking about their bunting, not the American flag.


1 year ago

hi! i'm looking forward to making this instructable and am planning to do so for my wedding night! i would like some advice on the sewing- did you hand sew or use a machine? what type of thread? i have a standard sewing machine with a short arm so i am concerned about it fitting all this fabric. thanks so much!

6 replies

We used a serger machine with upholstery thread. I think they are also called over lock machines

i'm finally getting into this and have a second question for you. i've gotten as far as cutting out the 'm' shape but am unclear what you mean by the next direction: "we the sewed a triangle piece of canvas where the bottom of the M where the smoke flap poles will go into.(see the teepee picture)" i'm afraid whatever this piece is in not that clear to me in the teepee picture. thank you!

I was trying to explain where we put the smoke poles if you look at the teepee photo you will see there is a little pocket on the ends of the flaps that holds the poles up... I hope that helps

Ah, I see. I don't seem to be able to zoom in on that photo so yes, that helps!

What I think I'm still confused on in that phase of the instructions is the utility of that 'm' shape cut. Is the 'peak' of the 'm' where you made another little pocket and placed your lifting pole?

no pocket for the lifting pole we just tie it to the pole

ah yes, a serger. love those, but don't have one. we'll see how this goes then- thank you for replying!!!

Home Depot carries a plastic backed 12x15 canvas drop cloth. Do think this would work? Would it be an improvement or a con?

Thanks in advance.

1 reply

I can only see one con to this Idea...I would need to know how flame resistant they are. that is the only thing that gives me pause.

my understanding from talking with folks who have lived in teepees, if you use a liner, you peg it to the ground, and run it up the inside, then when you stretch out the outside cover, you peg it so there are a couple inches above the ground to allow air flow.

this helps pull the smoke out the top, and keep everything below the top of the liner pretty smoke free.

Also, setting up teepee was woman's work. Men would never help, as the women take GREAT pride in their home

1 reply

Times have changed and then they haven't I love to help my wife setting up our teepee but the other stuff still applies