Introduction: Starry Night Play Tent

Picture of Starry Night Play Tent

This indoor play tent is a project I made for my INLS 534: Youth and Technologies class at UNC Chapel Hill. The "stars" inside the tent are LED lights powered by the Lilypad Arduino. You can view the lights in action here. It is simple to make, but it not a project that can be completed in one day.

Difficulty Levels:

Coding - Beginner

Carpentry - Beginner

Sewing - Intermediate

Note: This tutorial has been adapted from the "Collapsible Fabric Play Tent…for kids!" tutorial created by Stitched by Crystal. You can view the original play tent instructions here.

(Also I recommend reading the entire instructable before beginning the project)

Step 1: Gather Your Materials

Picture of Gather Your Materials

Here is a list of everything you will need to complete this project:

1.) Lilypad Arduino Protosnap development board and five extra LED lights(Can be purchased here)

2.) Sewing Machine and basic sewing supplies

3.) Four 1"x2" boards that are four feet long. (They sell these in 8 foot boards at the hardware store so you can buy 2 of them and have them cut in half at the store.)

4.) Three 4' long wooden dowels that are 1/2" in diameter.

5.) Wood paint or stain and a paint brush. (Optional: I also coated my wood with polyurethane for more durability.)

6.) Drill with a 1/2" drill bit.

7.) 5 yards of fabric for the outside of the tent, and 5 yards of fabric for the inside (preferably a fabric with a night sky print on it.)

8.) 12 yards of ribbon, bias tape, or fabric strips. (Cut into 12 pieces that are each 30 inches long).

9.) 2 reversible zippers that are 24 inches long.

10.) Two sets of basic snaps.

11.) An embroidery hoop. I recommend a large one. (Mine is 18" in diameter).

12.) Basic iron and ironing board.

Step 2: Prepare the Wood

Picture of Prepare the Wood

After you have your wood cut at the hardware store, you need to drill some holes. I actually had my wood drilled at my local hardware store because my drill was broken, but this can easily be done at home.

Two inches in from each end of the 1"x"2 boards, drill a 1/2" in diameter hole.

Once that is done, put your pieces together in the tent shape shown above to make sure that all fit together correctly.

Finally, paint the wood your desired color. I used two coats of paint and one coat of polyurethane.

Step 3: Code Your Lilypad Arduino

Picture of Code Your Lilypad Arduino

We are going to use a code that makes the ten LED lights fade in and out in a specific pattern when the switch has been turned on.

To learn how to setup and use a Lilypad Arduino, please refer to these instructions.

Once your Lilypad is setup, copy and paste this code into a new sketch:

int ledPin1 = 5;
int ledPin2 = 6;
int ledPin3 = 9;
int ledPin4 = 10;
int ledPin5 = 11;
int switchPin = A2; // switch connected to digital pin A2
int switchValue; // a variable to keep track of when switch is pressed

void setup() {
pinMode (ledPin1, OUTPUT);
pinMode (ledPin2, OUTPUT);
pinMode (ledPin3, OUTPUT);
pinMode (ledPin4, OUTPUT);
pinMode (ledPin5, OUTPUT);
pinMode(switchPin, INPUT); // sets the switchPin to be an input
digitalWrite(switchPin, HIGH); // sets the default (unpressed) state of switchPin to HIGH}
}

void loop() {
switchValue = digitalRead(switchPin); // check to see if the switch is pressed
if (switchValue == LOW) { // if the switch is pressed then,

for (int fadeValue = 0 ; fadeValue <= 255; fadeValue += 5) { analogWrite(ledPin1, fadeValue); delay(50); } for (int fadeValue = 255 ; fadeValue >= 0; fadeValue -= 5) { analogWrite(ledPin1, fadeValue); delay(50); }

for (int fadeValue = 0 ; fadeValue <= 255; fadeValue += 5) { analogWrite(ledPin2, fadeValue); delay(50); } for (int fadeValue = 255 ; fadeValue >= 0; fadeValue -= 5) { analogWrite(ledPin2, fadeValue); delay(50); }

for (int fadeValue = 0 ; fadeValue <= 255; fadeValue += 5) { analogWrite(ledPin3, fadeValue); delay(50); } for (int fadeValue = 255 ; fadeValue >= 0; fadeValue -= 5) { analogWrite(ledPin3, fadeValue); delay(50); }

for (int fadeValue = 0 ; fadeValue <= 255; fadeValue += 5) { analogWrite(ledPin4, fadeValue); delay(50); } for (int fadeValue = 255 ; fadeValue >= 0; fadeValue -= 5) { analogWrite(ledPin4, fadeValue); delay(50); } for (int fadeValue = 0 ; fadeValue <= 255; fadeValue += 5) { analogWrite(ledPin5, fadeValue); delay(50); }

for (int fadeValue = 255 ; fadeValue >= 0; fadeValue -= 5) { analogWrite(ledPin5, fadeValue); delay(50); }

for (int fadeValue = 0 ; fadeValue <= 255; fadeValue += 5) { analogWrite(ledPin1, fadeValue); analogWrite(ledPin2, fadeValue); analogWrite(ledPin3, fadeValue); analogWrite(ledPin4, fadeValue); analogWrite(ledPin5, fadeValue); delay(50); } for (int fadeValue = 255 ; fadeValue >= 0; fadeValue -= 5) { analogWrite(ledPin1, fadeValue); analogWrite(ledPin2, fadeValue); analogWrite(ledPin3, fadeValue); analogWrite(ledPin4, fadeValue); analogWrite(ledPin5, fadeValue); delay(50); }

for (int fadeValue = 0 ; fadeValue <= 255; fadeValue += 5) { analogWrite(ledPin1, fadeValue); analogWrite(ledPin3, fadeValue); delay(50); } for (int fadeValue = 255 ; fadeValue >= 0; fadeValue -= 5) { analogWrite(ledPin1, fadeValue); analogWrite(ledPin3, fadeValue); delay(50); }

for (int fadeValue = 0 ; fadeValue <= 255; fadeValue += 5) { analogWrite(ledPin2, fadeValue); analogWrite(ledPin4, fadeValue); delay(50); } for (int fadeValue = 255 ; fadeValue >= 0; fadeValue -= 5) { analogWrite(ledPin2, fadeValue); analogWrite(ledPin4, fadeValue); delay(50); }

for (int fadeValue = 0 ; fadeValue <= 255; fadeValue += 5) { analogWrite(ledPin3, fadeValue); analogWrite(ledPin5, fadeValue); delay(50); } for (int fadeValue = 255 ; fadeValue >= 0; fadeValue -= 5) { analogWrite(ledPin3, fadeValue); analogWrite(ledPin5, fadeValue); delay(50); } } else { digitalWrite (ledPin1, LOW); digitalWrite (ledPin2, LOW); digitalWrite (ledPin3, LOW); digitalWrite (ledPin4, LOW); digitalWrite (ledPin5, LOW); } }

After you have put the code into a new sketch, click the "tools" tab, and then click "autoformat."

Compile the sketch, and then upload it to the Lilypad.

If the code is successful, then yo are ready to move on to sewing.

Step 4: Cut Your Fabric

Picture of Cut Your Fabric

Complete the following steps with both your sets of fabric. (The outside and the inside):

1.) Cut one large rectangle that is 96 inches long and 45 inches wide. (If you buy fabric that is only 44 inches wide, it will work fine; just use all of the fabric from selvage to selvage, you won’t miss that inch in your finished tent.

  • You can also sew multiple pieces together to get this large square if you are working with fabric that is not already in one large piece (like old bed sheets).

2.) Cut 2 rectangles that are 29″ wide and 38″ long.

  • On one of the rectangles, measure 3 inches over from the top left corner and 3 inches over from the lower right hand corner and cut a diagonal line between those points.
  • Do the exact opposite with the other rectangle, so that you end up with two sets of mirror image triangles.
  • You should now have 4 pieces with an angled side, which will be the front and back of the tent.

Step 5: Sew Your Lilypad Into the Fabric

Picture of Sew Your Lilypad Into the Fabric

Using your embroidery hoop and conductive thread, sew the components of your Lilypad into the large rectangle of your inside-the-tent fabric (the night sky printed one). You can follow the diagram above, or you can come up with a system that works best for you.

When you sew, be sure to keep in mind:

  • Do not allow any of your threads to cross paths because that will cause the circuits to not work.
  • Be sure to sew around each of the petals a few times to make sure that there is a strong connection. (I always sewed three loops around every petal.)

Optional step
I did not want to see the plastic around the LED lights when I was in the tent, so I decided to create small holes for each LED to poke through. I used thread scissors to poke a pin-sized hole, then I used a whip stitch to secure the hole and make it a bit larger. (refer to image above.)

Step 6: Create an Access Point to Your Lilypad

Picture of Create an Access Point to Your Lilypad

You will need to access the Lilypad from the outside of the tent in order to turn the entire system on and off and to charge the battery. To do this:

1. Lay out your inside-fabric large rectangle.
2. Lay your outside-fabric on top of the inside fabric.
3. Feel to find the location of your Lilypad, and cut a 6"x6" square in the fabric.
4. Fold back the edges of the square and sew them to create a clean, hemmed edge.

Now we need to create a flap to keep the access point covered when not in use. To do this:

1. Cut a 16"x8" rectangle out of the outside-fabric.
2. Fold the the rectangle in half to make a square, then fold the edges in and sew around the square to make a clean, hemmed edge.
3. Attach snaps to two corners on one side of the square. (half of the snap should be on the flap, and half should be on the large rectangle next to the hole.

Now sew the flap onto the rectangle to cover the hole. I recommend that you snap the one side of your flap to the rectangle while sewing so that you can be sure that they will line up properly when it is finished.

Step 7: Combine the Inside and Outside Fabrics

Picture of Combine the Inside and Outside Fabrics

Now we need our fabric pieces to be put together so we can start constructing the actual tent.

First, lay out the two large rectangle pieces on the ground with the right sides of the fabric facing each other. Pin and then sew down the long sides of the rectangle. DO NOT sew the short sides together. (Sew along dotted lines in the above diagram). Once you have done that, flip the tube so that the right sides of the fabric face outward. Iron the edges so that the rectangle lays flat.

Second, lay the triangle pieces on top of each other the same way you did with the large rectangles. Pin and sew along the three sides of the triangle that have dotted lines on them in the above diagram. DO NOT sew along the fourth side because this is where we will sew the zipper later. Once the triangles are sewn, flip them so that the right sides of the fabric face outward. Iron the edges so that the triangles lay flat.

Step 8: Sew in the Zippers

Picture of Sew in the Zippers

Now That we have four triangles we will add the zippers to the open fourth sides.

For each triangle:
1. Fold in the edges of the fourth side about 3/4 of an inch.
2. Pin the zipper about six inches down from the top of the triangle. It should be sandwiched between the two layers of each triangle.
3. Pin the zipper to each side while it is zipped closed so that you will be sure the zipper will match up and work when the project is finished.
4. Once the zippers have been securely pinned in place between the two layers of each triangle, and you are confident that the zippers will work, then you can sew down the fourth side of each triangle to secure the zipper in place.

Now we have two sets of paired triangles. I recommend keeping the triangles zipped together when possible so that you don't mix up the pairs.

Step 9: Sew All the Pieces in Their Final Place

Picture of Sew All the Pieces in Their Final Place

Pin the Ties in Place:
Find the center of the large rectangle piece of fabric, then mark 9 inches from the center, 23 inches from the center, and 36 inches from the center on all sides. Fold your ties in half and pin them to the right side (the outside) of your rectangle at those marks.

Pin the Triangles in Place:
Pin your triangle pieces to the edge of your rectangle with angled edge along the edge of the rectangle. (You will have to unzip them in order to do this.) The two triangles that belong to one pair should both the one the same long side of the rectangle. If they are on opposite sides, the zippers will not be on the same side as their mate.

Place the short side of the triangle piece 1.5 inches from your center mark. Your ties should be sandwiched between rectangle and triangle pieces and the pieces should be right sides together.

Sew the triangles and ties in place:
I recommend sewing down each side twice for extra durability.

Yay, Now we have one whole tent piece!

Step 10: Close the Top of the Zippers

Picture of Close the Top of the Zippers

Now you should have a gap between the top of your zippers and the top of the tent that is gaping open. To close that gap, fold the tent so that the tops of the triangles lay flat, with the right sides facing each other. Sew along the edge. When unfolded, the top outside of the tent should look like the picture above

Step 11: Sew the Final Two Edges of the Tent

Picture of Sew the Final Two Edges of the Tent

The short edges of the large rectangle should be the only edges left un-sewn. We need to use these edges to create tubes for the wooden dowels to go through. To create these tubes:

1. Fold the edges over to create about 2 inches of overlap. Fold toward the inside of the tent.
2. Pin the fold in place.
3. Sew the tube along the long side, but DO NOT sew the short edges. If you sew the short edges it won't be a tube and your wooden dowels won't be able to go through.
4. I recommend that you sew down the long edge twice for more durability.

Now the the tent is completely finished!

Step 12: Set Up Your Play Tent and Enjoy!

Picture of Set Up Your Play Tent and Enjoy!

To set up the tent:

1. Fold the tent in half and lay on the ground.

2. Thread the wooden dowels through the bottom tubes and through the opening in the top.

3. Insert the dowels into the holes in the tent poles.

4. Stand the tent up, and then separate the bottom poles so that the tent stands up by itself.

5. Use the ties to secure the tent to the tent poles.

Once it is setup, flip the switch inside the tent and enjoy your indoor starry night sky!

Comments

amberrayh (author)2015-03-17

Thanks for sharing! That's a really nice little light show you've got going on in that tent. Great job on your first Instructable! I hope we see more from you in the future.

Thank you so much!

About This Instructable

4,637views

106favorites

License:

More by jeanne.stroud.5:Starry Night Play Tent
Add instructable to: