Introduction: Make Your Own Teepee

Picture of Make Your Own  Teepee

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

Picture of 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:

Picture of

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:

Picture of

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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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

Picture of 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!


Kuffar (author)2016-01-07

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.

lm5392 (author)Kuffar2017-11-04

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.

the tat2artist (author)lm53922017-11-10

It's Not a flag as Iv'e mentioned several times

lm5392 (author)lm53922017-11-04

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

emkh66 (author)2017-06-21

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!

the tat2artist (author)emkh662017-06-21

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

emkh66 (author)the tat2artist2017-08-03

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!

the tat2artist (author)emkh662017-08-05

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

emkh66 (author)the tat2artist2017-08-09

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?

the tat2artist (author)emkh662017-08-09

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

emkh66 (author)the tat2artist2017-06-22

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

Tattooed Farmer (author)2017-06-16

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.

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.

fzbw9br (author)2016-12-29

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

the tat2artist (author)fzbw9br2016-12-30

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

Onlyonelife (author)2016-07-23

I have a few questions. I was looking at the home depot site, I know you said 15x12 canvas tarp, but which on was it exactly . I keep finding ones for 50$ and I did find one for 31$, but I was not sure if it needed an exact 8oz, or 10oz., also is it waterproof, or do you have to do that your self?

The ones we used were the 8oz but you can use what ever it does not have
to be exact and the way we water proofed it was by lighting a fire with
pitch wood and closing the flaps so the smoke would get into the
canvas...more like water resistant than water proof but you can use
commercial water proofing or even make your own with bees wax,paraffin
and turpentine you can find a recipe online very easily

MikeyS12 (author)Onlyonelife 2016-07-23

The ones we used were the 8oz but you can use what ever it does not have to be exact and the way we water proofed it was by lighting a fire with pitch wood and closing the flaps so the smoke would get into the canvas...more like water resistant than water proof but you can use commercial water proofing or even make your own with bees wax,paraffin and turpentine you can find a recipe online very easily

MannyMostFabulous made it! (author)2016-06-11

This is a great instructable! I finished it about a week ago, and it has held up very nicely in rainstorms. I used bamboo poles instead of pine, and it turned out great. I would suggest adding some instructions on how to lift up the main tripod. Excellent instructable!

have you stayed in it? Bamboo poles are nice in a display or pinch....for just a quick set up....but drip horibably when it rains. Each of the rings is a drip magnet. You also need to pull those poles out to keep high winds from pushing it over.

a way to to water proof the cover is 16oz of bees wax 8oz of boiled Lin seed

oil,8oz of turpentine

they are trying things out you need to let experiance teach and not attack because you can

tipisholley (author)tipisholley2016-06-28

Your opening at the top is also way to big and will let lots of water in. What did you base the setting of the poles on?

water is not a big thing here in south Dakota also the opening can be adjusted for the weather. The pole setting is based on the plains Indians preferred method...also

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

Good Idea with the bamboo light weight but very strong

pictures look great!

tipisholley made it! (author)2014-12-04

This is a great article, but let me also say there are is some other informaton that might want to be included. You do not have instructions on how to make a lining which takes about as much materials as the whole making of the cover. Also, the lining is NOT necessary to have for a fire. This has come down from the Laubin book on making tipis of 1957. The old tipis did not rely on linings for fires or that necessary for setting up either. Most tipis did not use a lining except for cold weather or high winds to defect the air off their beds. Covers came all the way to the ground to stop draughts and this is documented in many hundreds of photos on tipis. The fitting of the poles is something we have all longed for for easy transportation but they have a drawback of leaking water or dripping when in heavy rain storms for an extended period of time. The water must run down a continuous pole or surface. If it hits a barrier like the PVC or duck tape it wil drip at those points. There is also the problem in high winds of strenth as some poles will break. This is a great article on the use of material.

SparkySolar (author)2014-10-19

This is so nice,-

Thank you;


59merlot (author)2014-10-10

Great Tipi! How do you safely incorporate a fire inside? Do you pitch it directly on the ground or do you have a floor/liner? How does the venting work? Thanks!

the tat2artist (author)59merlot2014-10-10

We pitch in right on the ground. Tipis were made to have fires inside them as long as you have the liner it brings in the air needed for the fire and also creates the draft that takes the smoke safely out of the Tipi. the smoke flaps take some time to get used to but you change there position to create the draft. And you close them to keep rain out.

TrollFaceTheMan (author)2014-08-30

Nice Project, very cool for Camping.

glockstar made it! (author)2014-07-22

we tryed it with some old tarps I love it lots of room I'm going to do it again with the liner and break down ploes thanks you win in my book

Shiseiji (author)2014-07-02

Love it. In the very first Mother Earth News, circa 1970 if memory serves (it's home on the coffee table, but if I wait till I get home I'll forget) they published a "How to." for a teepee. Your's is much better IMHO. I used those plans to scale down a 6' teepee for my kids, but it was a long time ago and is long gone.

I too take flag etiquette seriously, I think you did a great job of incorporating a reminder, similar to bunting, while complying with Chapter 1 of Title 4 of the United States Code (4 U.S.C. § 1 et seq). I still grit my teeth over a 4 star who showed up on the National Mall one 4th with a shirt I thought was way out of line. Oh well, his free speech.

"The flag should not be used as "wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery", or for covering a speaker's desk, draping a platform, or for any decoration in general (exception for coffins). Bunting of blue, white and red stripes is available for these purposes. The blue stripe of the bunting should be on the top"

While your field is reminiscent of the one on a US Flag, I think it is much more a reminder of the beauty above.

I'm a old soldier, and the old General Purpose (GP) Medium canvas tent poles used the same sleeve. I can still smell the fungicide the canvas was soaked in . . . With practice, two guys could get one up in <:15 minutes. Strangely enough by simply following 95% of the instructions. How long does a non rush pitching take?


the tat2artist (author)Shiseiji2014-07-02

It takes me and my wife about 30 mins. to pitch the teepee with the liner

tomc53 (author)2014-07-01

I love the idea - Thanks

The only comment/question I have is that it looks like you used pieces of an American Flag. As a former Boy Scout, I was taught that the flag should never be used for anything but as a flag, and that destruction was to be done as a private thing. I'm not yelling at you, but just saying that you might get some flak.

naught101 (author)tomc532014-07-01

I'm not American, and my American history is weak at best, but I would have also thought it might be fairly offensive to native Americans to use their cultural artefacts (the tee pee), and plaster it with a colonial American flag...

the tat2artist (author)naught1012014-07-02

I am 1/4 American Indian (piegan Blackfoot)) and I'm also a United States Marine. The indigenous people of America have become intergraded into the society and we remain proud of the past but accept that we are part of this country and have a long history of love for the country we have become part of, this is why I made the teepee and why the paint resembles a flag .

the tat2artist (author)tomc532014-07-01

We painted the canvas to resemble the flag, but purposely didn't make it a flag as a Marine I also know flag etiquette. :)

artifeffe (author)tomc532014-07-01

that striped thing has way too many stripes to be old glory, pal.

I'm not yelling at you, but just saying that you might count before you write, next time

jermncoco (author)2014-06-28

You could add either clevis or locking cotter pins to your pvc connectors on the poles, would still keep it quick to assemble and maybe sturdier. Love the diagrams as well. Great job!

the tat2artist (author)jermncoco2014-06-29

I never thought of those great idea thanks

doodlecraft (author)2014-06-28

Oh that would be so fun to campout in a teepee! Great job! :)

Mackramer (author)2014-06-28

Great instructable! The colored drawings are outstanding!

LeafLand (author)2014-06-27


wilgubeast (author)2014-06-27

That is such a good idea for a cover. I bet Barbie's tipi is super-awesome. Pink to match the 'vette?

we didn't do it pink but in hind sight that would have been appropriate.

M3G (author)2014-06-27

This looks awesome! How well does it trap the heat?

the tat2artist (author)M3G2014-06-27

we stayed in it during a blizzard and stayed comfortable...there are some things you can do to keep it warmer like putting straw between the cover and the liner but we were not expecting the storm.

About This Instructable




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