There's just something about a covered play area that opens up the doors to a kiddo's imagination. Tents, canopies, teepees and forts all make for special hideouts, and really only require some sheets and rope to put together. But if you'd like something more polished hanging in your home, this canopy-style tent might be just the thing!
I fell in love with this medieval-inspired play home at The Land of Nod, but wanted to make a smaller version in a more classic palette so it could hang in our living room without being too obtrusive. The great thing about this tutorial is not only that it can save you money, but also how customizable it is. You can use a larger hula hoop and any fabric and color combination you like. Check out the step-by-step instructions below.
-fabric for the drapes (6 yards for a large hula hoop, 4 yards for a small one)
-fabric for the top of the tent (approximately 2 yards; Though I pieced together scrap fabric, so I can't be certain.)
-velcro (heavy duty, non-adhesive type)
-hook to hang your tent from the ceiling (I used one of these banana hooks I had on hand.)
-fabric pencil (regular pencil will do)
Cost: Cost will vary depending on the size of hula hoop you use and the choice of fabric. I already had velcro and the white fabric, but if I had bought the white cotton along with the striped jersey knit fabric, this project would have put me at around $60 to complete.
Step One: Cut the drapery yardage into 2 yard sections. For a smaller hula hoop, you will need to connect two of these sections with one middle seam. For a larger hula hoop, I recommend connecting 3 two-yard sections at their sides. Make sure the pattern matches up at the seam. Then hem the bottom and sides of this now very large piece of fabric—but do not hem the top.
Step Two: Create two long strips of fabric for the border of the top of the tent. These strips should be 8" wide, and the length should be the circumference of your hula hoop plus one inch for hem allowance. I made my strips of fabric by piecing together three lengths of fabric rather than buying a long piece of fabric and not using all its width.
Step Three: Print and cut out this border template and trace it onto the length of fabric you made in the previous step. You may need to fudge it a bit by making the template close to the previously traced one or further from it. Because hula hoop circumferences vary, I can't say how many repetitions of this template will fit along your fabric strip.
You only need to trace it onto one strip of fabric—just layer the two strips before cutting in the next step.
Step Four: Layer the two strips of fabric and cut out the zigzag that you just drew in the previous step.
Step Five: Fold over each strip of zigzagged fabric and close the ends with pins. Stitch the ends together to make a big circle. Make sure it will fit around your hula hoop. Make both strips the exact same sized circle.
Step Eight: After making your stitch to connect the two pieces, trim the peaks of the zigzags as shown above, and make a tiny slit in the valleys of the peaks, making sure not to cut into your stitching. This will help your fabric lay better and not pucker in the next step.
Step Ten: Stitch closed the straight edge of these connected strips with a wide stitch about 1/4" from the open edge. This step will keep the pieces from shifting apart when connecting them to the rest of the tent later.
Step Eleven: From the fabric allotted for the top of your tent (mine is white cotton), make the strip of fabric that allows the tent to hang from a ceiling hook. The length of this depends on the height of your ceiling and the length of the hook you use. I suggest making it on the longer side as you can always shorten it later.
I started with a piece of fabric about 24" long and 2" wide, as shown above.
Step Twelve: Iron the strip of fabric in half and stitch it closed along the length, about 1/4" from the raw edges of the fabric strip. This will create a tube of fabric. Flip the tube right-side out with the help of a safety pin. Just push the safety pin through the tube and out the other side.
Step Thirteen: Iron flat the little tube of fabric after it is right-side out.
width of the triangle base: 1/8 hula hoop circumference + 1.5"
length of the triangle: 3/4 of the hula hoop diameter
I also curved my triangles a bit to give the top of my tent that swoopy look when finished. I folded a triangle in half before cutting out the curve, to ensure it was symmetrical, and then I used that triangle as a template for the rest.
Step Fifteen: Pin together and stitch four of your triangles to make one half of the tent top. Then do the same to the other four triangles. Keep your hem stitch only 1/4" from the edges of the fabric. Before connecting the two halves together, make sure to add the tent hanger you made in steps 11-13. Arrange it as shown above and stitch it onto the peak of the conjoined triangles.
Step Sixteen: With your hanging strip tucked safely inside still, as was shown in step fifteen, pin together the two halves of the tent top as shown above. Then stitch them together, making a flat stitch at the peak, perpendicular to the the center stitch of the four triangles that make up one half of the tent top.
Step Eighteen: Connect the drapes of the tent to the completed zigzag border. To do this, you must first gather the fabric of the drapes. I did this by hand stitching a loose stitch at the top of my drapes and pulling on the thread to gather the fabric. Then I was able to loosen the gather to the exact circumference of the zigzag border as I pinned them together. After it was pinned in place, I stitched the pieces together on my sewing machine.
Step Nineteen: Now that your drapes and border are connected, you can add the tent top. Pin the right side of the tent top to the right side of your border+drapes. Then stitch them together on the sewing machine.
The circumference of your tent top might be bigger than your border when pinning them together. If that happens, just pin the border a bit inside the edge of the tent top, staying true to the circle of the tent top.
Step Twenty: Stitch velcro pieces to the inside hem where you have connected the tent top and the border together. Make sure they are facing the correct direction, as shown in the above image. This is how you will attach the tent to the hula hoop. I stitched two velcro pieces onto each triangle base to make sure there was plenty of support. The more the merrier!
You may have noticed that I decided to wrap my hula hoop in white tape so that it was less noticeable from the inside of the tent.
I hung my tent from the ceiling with a banana hook with heavy duty adhesive. You can use the hook of your choice, but the banana hook was something I had on hand and it is long, so it gave me some extra length so the curtains could pool on the ground a bit.
I made one mistake when making my tent, but it worked out alright in the end. My triangles weren't quite long enough (I hadn't figured out the formula that I shared with you yet—I had been guessing), which meant my tent top was just barely big enough to reach around the hula hoop's circumference. You can see it is a bit of a tight fit over the hula hoop, but it still fit! Hopefully yours will be a perfect fit if you follow the formula precisely and cut your tent top a bit larger than the hula hoop in step 17.
The other tricky part is making sure the border and the tent top fit together perfectly without one piece being too big or too small for a proper fit. Again—if you make your tent top a bit larger than you need it, then you have a bit of wiggle room here, which I didn't have when I made mine. Oops!
Lucy is genuinely obsessed with her "pway tent," and I must admit, I'm pretty proud that I made it. It seemed complicated when it was just an idea in my mind. But once I laid out the steps, I realized how straight forward and simple its construction really is. A bit time consuming—yes! But if you're familiar with pattern sewing at all, it will be really simple for you to make too! –Mandi
Credits // Author and Photography: Mandi Johnson. Photos edited with Stella from the Signature Collection.