Introduction: PVC Children's Teepee

About: Designer, Photographer, Tinkerer, Builder, Musician, Father.

For some time now, I have been looking at purchasing a Teepee for my daughter. They seem to be the latest must-have thing for kids, and seem to be loved by the kids, who love to sit in them, play with toys or even read books (gasp!). Unfortunately, the price attached to these Teepees in the shops range from ~$120-$250 depending on brand and store. This seems ridiculous!!

So, like any good tinkerer, I decided to have a swing at making one!

Step 1: Materials

The first step (after working out the size, how many poles you wish to use, and other variables like that!) is to locate and purchase the materials required.

Reading several different sources, I decided to lean away from the timber pole option (cost to high, weight too heavy). I went for the PVC option! PVC is light, cheap and can be painted, sanded or even bent if required (not for this project!) I needed 5 poles of 2 metres (6' for you Americans!). My local hardware store had 2 metre lengths in orange, but only the 20mm. I wanted a bit more sturdiness, so went with the 25mm. Totally up to you though! Because of this, I had to purchase 3x 4 metre (12' for the Americans) lengths. They even loaned me a hacksaw to help fit them into the hatchback!

Rather than going to a fabric store and paying >$50-60 for the required fabric, I looked around and found that a Painter's Canvas Drop Sheet was possible, and could be used for 4 of the 5 panels, for a grand total cost of $20.

so, so far the materials are as follows.

1 x 1.5m x 3.6m (5' x 12' for the Americans) canvas drop sheet - this allows for 4 panels, this is a 5 panel teepee
1 x Extra piece of fabric in contrasting/complimentary colour or design
3 x 4m lengths of PVC Electrical Conduit (or 5 x 2m lengths, if you can find them)
1 x Hacksaw (if you have to trim down the 4 metre lengths!)

Step 2: Cut the PVC!

Okay so as stated, we need 5 PVC Conduit lengths that measure 2 metres (6')

Measure 3 times, cut once! Measure from the non-flanged end, as the flange is ADDED to the overall length, and these need to be trimmed as well, as we want nice, straight poles for this project.

Using a hacksaw (and wearing any safety gear you deem appropriate), slowly and carefully cut on your marked line. A few millimetres (fractions of fractions of an inch, for you Americans!) will not be a huge issue, as all poles touch the ground, and the remainder will poke through the top, so its not super-critical to get this perfect.
Do not push too hard! I have had a few blades on a previous project EXPLODE on me, with at least one fragment hitting me in the face. If you choose not to wear goggles, then follow THIS advice extra carefully!

Once all PVC cuts are made, you should have a spare piece. Put it aside, as this will be useful if you discover you have botched another piece! Spare parts are never unwanted parts. They are simply parts you don't need... yet!

Gently buff the ends with sandpaper or a file, removing any burrs, and if you have floorboards in your house, rounding the edges a bit, to reduce the risk of scratching said floorboards!

Step 3: Measure and Cut Fabric!

Remove the drop sheet from the packaging. This is vital, as unless you do this, the teepee will look rather silly.

Unfold it and lay it out on the floor. I tend to work better when I can see it all, but due to the length of this sheet, I folded it in half to work on easier.

Each panel should measure as follows. These measurements DO NOT include allowances for hemming, so add these! Add as much or as little as you prefer to work with, as they are hems. Some people prefer small, tidy hems, others allow an inch or more (I have allowed 1-2 inches on all sides) These seams will not be visible from either side, so don't stress too much!

820mm for bottom edge (32")
90mm for top edge (3.75")
1345mm for centre - bottom edge to top edge (53")
1395mm for outer edges - angled edges (55")


Once all of these measurements are marked onto the fabric and you are happy with them, cut the fabric. Keep the offcuts, as there may be use for them in later steps!

Step 4: Where's the Door??

The drop sheet allows for 4 of the 5 panels required, so by now you have probably found an amazing piece of fabric (or an old doona cover or bedsheet that needs a new life!) Using the same measurements as above, measure and cut this as well. There is also the option of using a scrap of the canvas on the small section above the door opening. This is by choice. If you do this, add this section, pin it and include this in the above measurements.

Remember to cut the door hole! A tent becomes a child fortress without a door (This step can be overlooked if a Child Fortress is your overall goal!)

Hem the door opening to avoid fraying, and to give it some weight. Remember to make allowances for the door hems in the overall width of THIS panel only.

Step 5: Joining the Panels

Once all of the panels are cut and hemmed, its time to join them together!

This may sound strange and completely wrong, but we are going to sew the seams on the OUTSIDE, making them visible. For the first join, put two panels back to back. The canvas panels don't matter as much, but the door panel will be obviously different on both sides.

With two panels back to back, sew them up along one long side. Repeat this process for the remaining panels, then put the last long edge against the first panel's remaining edge and stitch it together, making a teepee shape!

Once all panels are joined where they are supposed to be joined, hem the top and bottom "holes" of the teepee. You could do this before joining the panels, but doing it after ensures a nice crisp, even edge.

Step 6: Making the Pole Pockets

THIS is where the magic happens! This step will turn your pile of fabric and the lengths of PVC Conduit into something that can potentially resemble a teepee!

First, turn that pile of fabric inside out so that the seams are now on the inside (and the door panel is face-in). Using one of the poles as a guide, place it inside the fabric (as in, under one side of the fabric - inside the teepee-shaped pile of fabric!), aligning it with one of the seams that should now be on the inside (trust me, this will hopefully make sense in a minute!). Now, pin the fabric on the lower edge of the pipe, creating a pocket that runs along the long edge of the panel join (where the pole should go!)

Repeat this step for all five poles. Remove the guide pole. The fabric is ready!! We are soooo close to getting inside your amazing creation!

Step 7: Setting Things Up!


So there is one more thing to do before the poles are inserted.
Take each pole and measure 250mm (10") Down from the top. Drill one hole all the way through each pipe length with a 10mm (1/3"? Seriously, Americans need to learn the metric system! Its so much simpler for this stuff, without going into large fractions like 14/64, or something equally silly...!) drill bit.

At this point, if you were wanting to paint the conduit, this is when you should probably do it. As fabric will be covering most of it, you would only need to paint the top 600mm (24") of each pipe, and perhaps the bottom 100mm (4") just in case you wanted to be sure that the plastic colour is not visible...

Once the painting is dried, take each length of conduit and feed it into each of the pockets, ensuring that the end that you drilled a hole through is at the smaller "peak" end of the teepee (top). Once all pieces are in their pockets, and only sticking out a little, hold the entire structure 'closed', like an umbrella in Summer sunshine.

Using either a bootlace or a length of ribbon etc, thread it through each hole. Do not tie anything yet, as you will want to adjust a few things before making the knot 'final'.

Still holding all of the poles neatly together, twist the top sections of the conduit as someone helps you fan out the section!!, creating an even visual spread

now the all of the dewing is done, its

Step 8: Embellishments

Now that your teepee is fully functional (hopefully!) and utilised, you might think that this tutorial is over, yeah?

Well, you would be wrong!

Personalising your teepee is a very important step. This could mean that you paint the poles in alternating colours, or perhaps painting or stamping a pattern onto the canvas sections of the teepee?

Perhaps use it as a joint project, with yourself and child both painting onto the panels (outside, of course!!) or perhaps you prefer to leave it blank?

Maybe you choose to lace the door slit at the top? or perhaps use velcro to hold the door closed?

I plan to add either fairy lights when my daughter is a little older, or perhaps a small USB LED reading light, suspended through the hole in the roof, allowing for pre-bedtime reading in the evening. I will also add a lambskin or other plush, furry flooring, perhaps some small cushions etc and make it into a daytime retreat for her.

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