About: I live with my wife and children in Fort Worth, TX. We enjoy day-trips and junk stores. I'm a firm believer that homemade food tastes better and I love to try new recipes. When I can, I like to head out to t...

I wanted to make a rounded sun shade for my kids that I could take apart and put away when it wasn't in use. I also wanted it to be inexpensive, with parts that were easily replaced.

I looked all over the internet and saw many different designs, but nothing that fit what I was wanting. So I decided to make it up as I went along.

Step 1: DESIGN

I sat down with a pencil and paper and tried to come up with a suitable design. I had a basic idea of what I wanted in my head, now I just needed to make it come alive.

My first design involved five poles joined horizontally on the ends. A six foot piece of all thread would act as both the pivot point and the tensioning device. I even went so far as to drill holes into a 2" x 3" I had lying around to create a hoop jig.

After looking at it, I had a eureka moment. Two separate fixed assemblies, curved, with pole slots. A hole in each end to allow for use of tent spike to hold it into the ground. It wouldn't allow for clamshell folding, but it should work for proof of concept.


I used some scrap 2" x 6" wood I had laying around. I used the bottom of a five gallon paint bucket to get the curves. I cut it out then sanded it. I marked the sides to give me the correct angles for the pole hole. I drilled 4 holes in each piece, ensuring that they were lined up. I wanted a symmetrical setup.

The end pieces are 11.5" x 6". The peg holes are roughly 3" apart.

After getting them drilled, I temporarily screwed them to a board and placed the poles. It worked!. I took it back apart and painted the ends with some oil based enamel.

While it dried, I took some scrap metal I had in the garage and drilled holes in it. I screwed the metal pieces to the bottom. These will act as the anchor points for the tent spikes.

Step 3: HOOPS and COVER

Once I had the end supports finished, it was time to work our the cover. I used 10 foot sections of PVC water pipe. It's 1/2 inch and very flexible. Place one end in the end support and bend the pipe into the other support. Once it's in, I place a short screw to keep the kids from easily popping it out.

I kicked around several different ideas for the cover. Canvas? Vinyl? Tarp? Nope, nope nope. I settled on an old king sized cotton sheet.

To get the shape right, we cut a small part of the factory edge to slide the front pole through. Then my wife kindly sewed a channel on the other end to allow the rear pole through. We placed the sheet onto the frame and gathered the excess material between the poles from the inside to make 6 darts, 3 on either side, pinning it to get the correct shape.

This was the more tedious part of this build. After sewing the darts, we trimmed the excess material and sewed the seams down flat. Unfortunately, this material proved to be resistant to this, so we end up with some popped seams.

That being said, I considered it finished.


The kids love it. Which is the most important factor. Also, I achieved my goals of a unique sun shade from inexpensive materials. Would I do it again? You bet. But when the sheet canopy finally gives up, I think I will make one out of slightly heavier material. Also, I think I may make the end pieces slightly more elongated to allow for a larger space inside.

EDIT- Some folks asked for dimensions and material costs. So.......


4 ea. pieces of 10 foot 1/2" PVC $8.00

2 ea. 11.5 inch 2 x 6 boards $6.00

1 ea. old king sized sheet $free (if you used canvas, you would need an 8' by 8' sheet)

2 ea 15 inch pieces of flat stock metal $free

4 ea 8 inch tent spikes $4.00

Total $18.00, not counting what I had on hand.

As far as dimensions go, the end supports are placed 6 feet apart. The pvc goes into the holes and bends over. The sheet will need to be stitched based on the distance between hoops, which is totally dependent on how far you spaced your holes....... so, you'll have to kind of wing it.

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    38 Discussions

    The base looks like a solution to a problem I have had doing a similar project. Great work and idea.

    1 reply

    Nice work, I wanted to build a small tent with pvc pipe, but failed to make it stand up, this is an awesome idea.

    2 replies

    Gush, it's been a while since I signed in since I got laid off from my job. I just tried some square design which didn't really work very well.

    Very nice. Thanks for sharing.

    Very neat idea and well written to be able to follow. I was thinking that both Ikea and Costco sell fabric sun shades ($20. or so) intended to be attached to a building, trees, etc. I thought that might be a good material. Ikea's is a rectangle but Costco's is a triangle.

    1 reply

    That would be excellent and would hold up very well. Thanks for the ideas!

    A thought on your popped seam issue - it looks like you (your wife) opened the seams after sewing and then sewed down on each side. I learned in corsetmaking that this makes it weaker because you're relying on only the strength of the thread to hold against that tension.
    When you make it again, try folding both seam allowances to one side and then sewing it down. Then you will have two seams and two layers of fabric to hold the seam together. That should help solve the popped seam problem.

    For Cheaper canvas. Sign up at joanns fabrics to get half off coupons. Also another idea is to use rip stop. Joanns or fabrics dot com. Google for outdoor fabrics.

    1 reply

    Thank you! The dimensions help a ton. (Yes. Put the ends at, respectively, a pickup bed tailgate and next the back glass and presto: a folding camper top!) Lightweight and inexpensive!

    1 reply

    Funny I was thinking either latex, brushed wax, or a sprayed on acrylic, possibly. Important to get a sealing layer... for an outside rig like this. All that effort and the fine aesthetics... Obviously this design wants to have an operable joint, and can you see it 2 x's taller (or more) with 3 extra joints that complete the "walnut shape" bringing the enclosure to close on the ground? A sort of "open-shut" tent enclosure may be made. Possibly lazy susan table bearings at the side pivots? I've actually drawn a similar model in a building design course when I was thinking of quick deployable habitats for catastrophe victims. But with an inflatable floor, some clear window panels, and.... dare I say flexible solar cloth on the roof with LED lighting at the interior? Concept getting fun yet? The idea progresses... wait until you see a very practical application I have in mind. ;) Need to 3-D model it as it has several moving parts!

    1 reply

    That is one ambitious upgrade! I'd love to see it! One other way you could do the folding portion would be to place the pole on curved metal rod. The rod would go through holes drilled in the pole ends. Keep me posted on how it comes out.

    What a great update to the 1970s "tractor shade" idea! Looks like with a cotton canvas dropcloth, and some bug net, it would make a fine folding camper cover, too! Can you give dimensions and a budget for this build?

    1 reply

    well this solves a project I have been pondering, thanks for the instuctable