A treehouse, a blanket fort, a cushion castle, a teepee…we probably all have memories of building a fantasy fortress when we were young. For this week’s How-Tuesday post, Sharon Pierce McCullough, Chief Creative Officer for ZiggityZoom.com, has created a tutorial for making your own backyard teepee, perfect for daydreaming. More craft projects for kids can be found on Ziggity Zoom.
When my grandkids come to visit during the summer months, we try to plan some exciting and fun outdoor projects. I had been wanting to make a teepee for some time, so last week, while three of our grandsons were visiting, we made one for the backyard. (I’m not sure who was more excited about the project, me or the kids.) We gathered all the materials, trying to keep it as inexpensive as possible — the boys searched for the perfect size branches in the backyard, so we wouldn’t have to purchase them from a store.
A teepee is not hard to make, even if you don’t follow exact American Indian standards and try to keep it simple and fun. We did consult a few websites to understand the basics. This particular teepee can be made in an afternoon. Ours will stay up until the end of summer, when other grandkids come to visit and add their decorations to the teepee. This is a perfect summer or fall craft project that the whole family can help make. So, what are you waiting for?
- Nine 10 foot poles (Bamboo poles are best. Check if you have a neighbor growing bamboo.) We used 1 inch metal conduit.
- 12′ x 15′ heavy duty canvas
- Lightweight cord or rope
- 5 sticks 9 ” long
- 2 sticks 6 ” long
- Garden clippers
- Permanent colored markers or acrylic paint + brushes
1. Collect thin, sturdy branches and cut to size, as stated above, using garden clippers. Collecting branches is a fun activity for the kids. If desired, taper ends slightly by rubbing ends on sidewalk or a piece of sand paper. Once again, the kids will love sharpening the sticks.
2. Lay the canvas drop cloth flat on the grass. Find the center-top of the long end of the cloth and make a mark. Tie a marker pen to the end of a string and then, holding the marker upright at side-top of the long end of the cloth, stretch string to center point, cutting string. Your string should be 7.5 feet long. Hold string at center point firmly, while a second person makes a large arc with the marker, denoting cutting line. The finished cut size equates to the length being twice as long as the width. (For example, 7.5 feet wide by 15 feet long.)
3. Determine location for your teepee and set first 3 poles in place as your teepee base, crossing tips and leaving about a foot above crossed poles at top. You are making a tripod. Now add 2 poles between each of the base poles, paying attention to how they cross at the top, trying to position sturdily. Add the last pole to the backside of your teepee. Spread bottoms of poles evenly around the ground. (You might note that we have an extra pole added — it’s simply because one of the boys didn’t get to add 2 poles, so we just went with the moment and used one extra pole.)
4. Carry teepee cloth to the back of your teepee, determining where the front opening will be. If you don’t have a tall friend to reach up and place the top-center of the cloth near the cross poles, remove the last pole set in place from backside and attach the top-center of the cloth about a foot from top. Since this is temporary, you can just make a ring of duct tape and attach inside of the cloth to the pole.
5. Pull sides of cloth around the poles, overlapping at top of teepee front. Make two slits to accomodate each 9 inch stick, making sure cuts go through both pieces of overlapped cloth. Slits should be about 3 to 4 inches apart. Weave a stick into openings, as shown, securing teepee front. Space sticks about 3 to 4 inches apart.
6. Fold side flaps open and make two slits to accomodate the 6 inch sticks for your teepee opening. These slits should be on either side of your poles at teepee opening (doorway). Stick will attach flap to front pole, keeping flap secured.
7. Use permanent markers, or acrylic paint if desired, to decorate the outside of your teepee. We let the kids decorate however they wanted, after we showed them some Native American designs. We do recommend paint for a teepee you plan to use in the future, as the permanent markers tend to fade. But for fun, you can let the kids use markers.
If you make your own backyard teepee, share a photo with us in the Etsy Labs Flickr group.