Sew a tepee play tent.
I really wish I’d had one of these myself when I was younger because, far and above, my favourite childhood game on a rainy day was transforming our living room sofa into a cubby house, using sheets and broom handles to construct a hideaway den. It was a sad time indeed when it had to be dismantled and turned back into a sofa at the end of the day.
I’m convinced that preoccupying every minute of our children’s time leads to their suffering from much shorter attention spans as adults. All kids need a special space to escape to for some time with their own imagination. A place to read, write, play games and dream. Or just to sit and enjoy some time quietly contemplating things, sans grown-ups.
Set this tepee up in the corner of a child’s room or in the backyard on a sunny day. Let them drag whichever toys and games they like inside and check on them occasionally, perhaps to offer snacks like strawberries with cream or fairy bread. Encourage time without TV or video games and long stretches of imaginative play.
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You Will Need
Lay calico out on the floor or a large table, and use your tape, ruler and chalk to measure and draw a triangle that is 90 cm ( 351/2 in) across the base and 140 cm ( 55 in) high from base to apex.
Cut out the triangle with your scissors.
Fold down the apex until the top folded edge measures 15 cm (6 in) from side to side. Press the fold line with your fingers to mark it, then open out the fabric again and cut off the top of the triangle along the marked line. The shape you now have is a triangle with the top lopped off – a bit like a volcano.
Use this piece as a pattern to cut four more ‘volcano’ pieces from calico, and one ‘volcano’ piece from each of your coloured fabrics – eight pieces in all, including your original pattern piece (four calico pieces for the lining, and three coloured and one calico piece for the outer tepee).
Measure halfway down the side edges of four of the calico triangles and make a small mark at this point.
Cut four 70 cm (28 in) lengths from your piece of ribbon and fold each piece in half crosswise. Trim the cut ends at a neat angle to prevent fraying.
With right sides together, pin two of your calico triangles together along one side edge, matching your halfway marks. Slip the folded end of one of your ribbons in between the layers at the marked point, so that the folded end extends about 1 cm (3/8 in) beyond the raw edges and the angled ends lie between the calico sides. Pin in place.
Allowing a 1.5 cm ( 5/8 in) seam, stitch the sides together from top to bottom, sandwiching the folded end of the ribbon in the seam and reversing back and forth over the ribbon a couple of times for extra strength.
Press the seam allowance open (snipping through the extending fold on the ribbon) and stitch down each side, about 12 mm ( 1/2 in) from the seam. This will make the seams sit flat upon the dowel.
Following Steps 7–9, add the three remaining calico triangles, one after another, sandwiching a folded ribbon between each seam. When you’ve sewed all four triangles together, you should have a funnel-shaped tube.
Take hold of one of the triangles in the tube and fold it in half lengthwise, aligning the seamed edges. Press along the fold with your fingers to mark the centre line. Open it out again and cut along the centre line, from top to bottom – this is to create the opening flaps in the tepee.
Using your iron, press under 1cm(3/8in) on each raw edge on the flaps, then press under another 1 cm ( 3/8 in) and stitch this double hem in place close to the inner edge.
Press under 1 cm (3/8 in) around the upper raw edge, then press under another 1 cm ( 3/8 in) and stitch this double hem in place.
Finally, press under and stitch a double hem around the lower edge.
Repeat Steps 7–14 for the outer layer of the tepee, omitting the ribbon ties in the seams.
Cut four 35 cm ( 14 in) lengths of ribbon and trim one end on each into an angle.
From the top, measure 40 cm ( 16 in) down the opening edge on each outer flap and mark with a pin. Measure 30 cm ( 12 in) further down from this pin and mark with another pin.
Sew a ribbon tie at each pin mark, turning under the raw edge of the ribbon before you sew.
Place your two tepee layers together, wrong sides facing, and pin the upper edges together. Topstitch around the upper edge to secure.
Lap one edge of the flap over the other by about 5 cm (2 in) at the top and pin. Secure this opening by making a 4 cm (11/2 in) square of stitching through all four layers, with reinforcing lines along both diagonals as well. Sew again on top of your first line of stitching, for extra strength.
Pin the lower edges of the tepee together, leaving the flap sections unpinned. Top stitch the edges together.
Set up your dowels by tying the remaining length of ribbon around all four, about 30 cm ( 12 in) from the top, securing all four pieces together.
Pull out the bottom ‘legs’ of the dowel to form the corners of a square, creating your tepee’s frame, then lay the tepee over the frame, aligning the seams along the dowels.
Tie the lining ribbons to each dowel on the inside and adjust the legs until the fabric is neatly stretched over the frame.
Your tepee is finished – let your little ones know they can keep whatever toys they like inside and let them keep the inside as messy as they like. The front flaps will hide whatever they have strewn about, and this lets children savour their first, non-parentally organised space without driving mum loco.
This is probably the trickiest project in this book, but only because it’s the most time-consuming and so requires more patience and careful measuring to get the dimensions right. However, the tepee will look fantastic even if you are out by a few centimetres in different places.