Tutorial: Children’s Play Tent

Next in my series of things I have always wanted to buy out of {you know where} catalog, but never did:  The Playhouse Tent! 

Let me just start by telling you that I almost had to admit myself into a mental institution over this thing.  You see that top “tent” part? 
…the cone? 
2 days…..
2 days of thinking and hurting the brain. 
I knew it had to be simple, I just needed a formula…but which one?  Where did I get such a formula?
I made THREE failed patterns all with separate failed formulas.
Finally, a friend’s husband {Hi Blake} came right over and had it figured out in about 20 minutes….
You see, he went to school…and listened  :)
Anyway…It has to do something with Pi, and not the kind you eat.  I won’t bore you with the details, but I do know that I have all the measurements you need to make one just like the one I made….and with no headaches.

You will need:
2 twin flat sheets  {matching, for side walls}
1 twin fitted sheet (or flat)  {for tent top}
1 queen flat sheet {for scallop}
3 packages of 1/2″ double fold bias tape
35″-36″ hula hoop

Start by cutting your pattern piece for the tent top.  Cut a string to 30″.  Take the string and hold it on a scrap piece of fabric to make the pattern.  Hold the pencil at the end of the 30″ length and pull taut. Make a mark to remember where you started.  Holding the pencil, swing the pencil, keeping it taut and draw a line (it will be arced) to the other 30″ line.  Your arc will be 28.75″ in length (run a fabric tape along the arc line to make sure right)
Now take the 2 flat sheets and sew 2 sides together.  Think about that the large hem that is normally at the top of the bed sheet when made, is going to be the bottom hem of your tent.

Fold the sheet in half to make it easier.  Measure up from the large hem 7 feet. 
Cut off the excess.  Set aside until we need it again

Take your triangle shaped pattern piece and cut 4 identical pieces out of the twin fitted sheet (or the third flat sheet, if that’s what you bought)

Sew 2 of the triangles together
Now take the top strap (made one by using a 9″x2″ piece of fabric, stitched RST and turned right side out and pressed) and place it right over the seam you just made.  pin the next triangle down, making sure to sew on strap.  Sew the next triangle in the same manner, making sure not to catch strap
All pieces sewn and strap is lookin’ good.  Set aside until we need it again
Take the queen sheet you are using for the scallop and fold it squarely and straight so it is easier to cut.  You want to cut the longest side (102″) to get the maximum length.  Cut 3 pieces 9″ wide.  You end up with 3 9″ wide and 102″ long pieces.  Trim off the large 4″ hem (the one that is normally at the top of the sheet)  So now your piece of fabric is 98″ long. Your scallop needs to be 120″ long, so take one of the other 9″ piece you cut and cut off 22″ to attach it to this one. 
Make two of these.  You will be layering them together.
Take one of your 120″ x 9″ pieces and start folding it accordion style.  Make sure to press each fold so it keeps its measurements.  Take care to keep the measurement at 3″ every time you fold as seen above 
I folded a piece of paper at 3″ to match my fabric and then made my own scallop as a guide to cut.  Now I own Gingher scissors and they had no problem cutting thru all these folds.  Just make sure your scissors are sharp enough to make this cut.  Also, make sure the orientation of your fabric is the same on both scallops once you cut them both.
Once both scallops are cut, lay them on top of each other with wrong sides together.  There will be some differences in the scallop, so just trim where needed and start pinning the bias tape on, taking care as you get to the points.  I found it easier to open up the tape and get it close and then close the tape back over and pin.
Scallop all sewn up…Progress!
Pin the scallop to the tent top, right sides together, matching up the seams.  I made a decision as to what was going to be the back and front at this point and stuck with it
Sew using a 5″8 seam to allow for room in the future
Now, take the sewn up tent top that has the scallop now sewn to it and place it right side down on top of the tent walls that you had sewn together earlier.  Again, make sure to line up the back wall seam to the back tent top seam here.  You will not pin it to the very top.  Use a scrap piece of fabric cut to 5.5″ as a marker.  Take that marker and measure from the top of the tent wall down and pin the tent top there.  Pin all the way around, using this method.  I pinned about 1/4 way around to one side, then I went around to the front and started pinning.  In the front , you want to gather up the fabric a little to create a drape look.  In the measurement( 120″) I deliberately made it a little longer so we can have that drape effect.
Here is the tent top fully pinned to the tent walls with the 5.5″ excess
(will be used for the hoop pocket)
Now, you will be able to use the original seam and use it as a guide to sew now.  Sew just inside that original seam.  I sewed about 1/4 inch away from it.  It is very important to go slow and check under all the fabric to make sure you are not catching fabric that should not be sewn.  Again, slow and check!
Turn right side out to check your work…..we’re getting there!
Turn back inside out and find the seam you just sewed
Iron that 5.5″ hem under a 1/2″ and then fold it over and using the stitches you just sewed as a guide, pin it to the same seam allowance (the 5/8″ one)
Here we go again, sew in between these two stitches.  Again, making sure not to catch anything under that shouldn’t be there…take your time
Take your hula hoop and cut it to open it up
Fish the hula hoop thru the pocket you just made.  Once you get it all the way in, grab some duct tape and tape it back together
Here’s the view from inside looking up

Stand back and admire your work

I know this is a long tutorial. There are several steps that require some time.  But, I really want you guys to make it!!!!  As I was designing and learning it, I thought it would be perfect for a sew-along.  I can break it down into several weeks that make it easier, and motivating!  Is anyone interested in that?  If there is enough interest, I would love to do it.  Just leave a comment if you’d like to!

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  1. says

    Oh my.. someone else that uses flat sheets!!!!!! (I thought I was some weirdo)

    I am sooooooo making one now that you figured out the cone.. :)

    Thanks so much for your hard work!

  2. says

    I LOOOVE it! You are so gosh darn creative. Put me in a sew along. I want to make a rocket ship look alike from oh, you know, just some catalog. :)

    Not sure if I should say this but McCall’s has a pattern for them too. I bought it and uhhh put it back in the drawer. It still looked complicated! You made it look easy! I’m pumped!!!

  3. says

    I’d love to do this as a craft along. I just need some time to find some fabulous sheets. (The pickings at my neighborhood thrift stores have been really slim lately. Virtually nonexistent actually.)

  4. says

    OK. This is the cutest thing ever. Ever since I saw this in a Land of Nod catalog (like 5 years ago!) I’ve always wanted one…and I didn’t even have kids. Now that my daughter is 4, she would never come out of that thing!


  5. says

    Great job! I just did a tutorial on a play tent too. I Never thought to put the hoop in like that. I have to agree the top was the hardest to figure out for me too. Thanks for sharing!

  6. says

    so very talented; great job! I’m so going to do this for my 3 y.o. Up to 2AM like me??!! we’re craft sisters. Thanks for the tute and taking the time to show us how to make this.

  7. says

    I would love to do a sew along! I was searching for a tutorial for weeks and thrilled when this popped up today! Thanks for sharing and taking the time to help others! My three year old pointed one out a in the Land of Nod catalog to me and I have been thinking about it since then! Sheet shopping this weekend!

  8. says

    I was interested in your sidebar and the blogs on each day. Do you visit them on certain days ? You have such detailed work, I bet they are so interesting for you. i
    have never seen that, but I bet it is a great idea.

    If you don’t mind I left my calling card on your Followers.
    Stop by and visit. I don’t sew anymore, but you have me thinking……

  9. says

    i too saw them in the (you know where) catalog and convinced myself that i could make one. but i have yet to do it! but when i do, i will just have to follow your directions! thanks! (oh, and i LOVE that you use flat sheets…i use them for EVERYTHING!!)

  10. says

    wonderful! i actually have a pattern for this, but i love that your’s is a tutorial, so it kind of eliminates all the hair pulling and word looking up. I can’t wait until i can throw out my boys ratty train table to make room for a tent. i was dreading the amount of fabric i had to purchase, but the sheets is a GREAT idea, i could get those in cute prints from the thrift store! thanks so much!

  11. says

    So how much would you charge to make one for me (seriously) if I bought the supplies? I really want one but I can’t even run a sewing machine!
    melissa (dot) stringham (at) gmail (dot) com

  12. says

    This is so awesome! I have always wanted the Land Of Nod Home Sweet Home play tent.

    I had to laugh about you almost being committed over this project, this is the exact reason I don’t sew often. I have these ideas and they never turn out the way I want them too and it makes me nuts!

    Since I have no patience, I will have to show this to my Mom. Maybe she’ll help me make one!

  13. says

    that’s awesome!! I absolutely love your blog and would love to try this. I’m still pretty new to the sewing thing and kind of scared. lol

  14. says

  15. says

    This is so awesome! My girls would have loved to have one when they were young! Thanks for the great tutorial. I’m visiting with uttad, I hope you visit me too.

  16. says

    Thank you for doing all the tricky (and even painful) math for us! I’m definitely trying this. I love that it’s made from sheets! I always see them in such cute patterns and now I have an excuse to purchase some! You’ve definitely got my vote for Iron Crafter.

  17. says

    Thank you for sharing the tutorial. I needed something for our little girl’s new room and this was the perfect fit! I got it made and even the scallops were manageable – her two older brothers are also enjoying playing in it

  18. Anonymous says

    Saw you on UCreate. Thanks for sharing. I’ve never seen one of these before but now I LOVE it and must have one for the kiddos. Thanks so much! You’re brilliant.

  19. says

    Hopping over from The Girl Creative. Great project! I love it that you used easy to find, economical items, and turned it into something you’d pay hundreds for in the Chasing Fireflies catalog. Very professional, and beautifully laid out tutorial.

  20. says

    I was going to make this but my head started throbbing just thinking about it. You really deserve an award for this one. Those punks better appreciate their Mom’s efforts.

  21. says

    I made this last night for a birthday present for a favorite neighbor. It turned out exceptionally cute!! Couple of notes: my twin flat sheets must have been a different brand. :) Even after cutting about 9 inches off the width, I boxed-pleated a total of about 12 inches in order to match the circ. of the ‘top’ once it was sewn together. Also, I didn’t even attempt the scallop. :) I just did a strait ‘skirt’ and sewed a fat strip of ricrac about an inch from the bottom. Turned out super cute. (I did this mainly for the time-factor, but I think I’ll stick with it next time. Also was able to do this straight ‘skirt’ with a twin sheet, so it saved me from having to purchase the more expensive queen).

    Thanks for sharing the tutorial. Though I vered from it slightly, it was a great jumping-off point!

  22. says

    A very well done tutorial. We’re adding a kitchen to our basement apartment this summer (my in laws live above and sharing a kitchen has been,,,, not fun. ANYWAY! we’re moving things around and instead of 2 rooms we’ll have 3 so (FINALLY getting to the point) my girls will be getting their own room away from the boys. I think they would LOVE one of these for each of their beds!

  23. says

    Susan this is amazing! Fantastic tutorial! I really want to try one of these for my little guy. Thanks so much for sharing. Thanks so much for sahring the cone…I didn’t listen either =) Thanks so much for joining the Sunday Showcase. Hope you have a wonderful week! ~ Stephanie Lynn

  24. says

    when I first saw this I thought how sweet, then I read what you said & thought oh no then I saw the hula hoop & thought am I insane for wanting to make this LOL you did a fantastic job!

  25. says

    my 6 year old loves to have “forts” and “jungles” so this is perfect… I would love a several week sew along to keep me motivated…i guess i need to finish my mario quilt before i start another project huh? eh, maybe not…let’s do it…i’m game :)

  26. says

    geez this is awesome. Thank you so much for making such a great tutorial that is easy to follow! I might just try this! I really do want to make one but i’m still adjusting to 3 kids…enough said.

  27. says

    OK….I just made my play tent. I posted it, and I’m linking to your tutorial b/c there is no way I could do the instructions justice! Thanks again for this precious idea!

  28. says

    Thank you so much for the great tutorial. My oldest son saw the one in the Land of Nod magazine and has been wanting one forever and I didn’t want to spen all that money on one, but now I can make one myself and I think it will be a great Christmas present. Thank you!!!!

  29. Jess says

    Hey — thanks so much for this great tutorial. I took a week off in July to redecorate my kids’ basement playroom, and their new play tent was the biggest hit at the big reveal. Thanks for making it easy. I kind of skipped some steps and didn’t quite pay as much attention to detail as you did, but it turned out pretty well nonetheless. (I also took a couple of tips from one of your other commenters who had a similar tutorial, like the tie-backs.) Thanks so much for sharing! I don’t have a blog but here are a few pics of my tent on my flickr page: http://www.flickr.com/photos/90798365@N00/4943762814/in/set-72157623731218438/

    thanks again! Jess

  30. Anonymous says

    Goodness…I have been attempting to make McCall’s 5827 Play Canopy Pattern and was doing a search for help and found your tutorial & your version of the same thing. I paid way too much for the pattern and the materials. It has turned into a headache and $100+ project! I wish I would have found this first. Sheets! I never thought of sheets! I feel silly now but thanks so much for sharing your idea!

  31. says

    I am kinda new to the whole sewing thing and I have to say that I LOVE LOVE LOVE this idea! I’m going to conquer this for sure :) Thanks so much for this, I look at them all the time in those expensive magazines and now I will be able to make them one without the expensive cost!!! Thanks for helping me save some money!

  32. says

    WOW! I absolutely love this. I’ve been wanting to make one for my little one, but I couldn’t quite wrap my brain around how to make one. =)

    Thanks for doing the hard part!

  33. says

    Have you started the sew along yet? I’d love to do that! I am going to redo my daughter’s room for her birthday in May as a surprise, and this would make the perfect addition! Thanks!

  34. says

    I have a friend that would love this! I read through the whole thing and some things didn’t make sense but I just figure that they will while I am doing it. What kind of hula hoop did you use I know there are different ones and some have the balls in the middle??? Did you buy a set of sheets and one extra or all separate? Did you buy the bias tape or make your own? Thanks for the Tutorial.

  35. says

    Five dollar sheets at walmart! Compared to the 10 or so bucks youd pay for the same amount of fabric, it’s almost a steal. Im making one for my son, and the scalloping is my issue. Should i make banners? Straight or scallop is the thought that keeps running through my head. ALSO. i made one a week ago, but kids are Rough. The hoolah hoop broke. Try two together, duck taped around, then strengthen the top with rope tied around the hoolah hoops all the way to where your ribbon is. My daughter LOVED HERS, but i’ve gotta reinforce it. She tried to swing from it. lol. Great tutorial though. I wouldnt have even known where to start if I hadnt spotted it!

  36. says

    Five dollar sheets at walmart! Compared to the 10 or so bucks youd pay for the same amount of fabric, it’s almost a steal. Im making one for my son, and the scalloping is my issue. Should i make banners? Straight or scallop is the thought that keeps running through my head. ALSO. i made one a week ago, but kids are Rough. The hoolah hoop broke. Try two together, duck taped around, then strengthen the top with rope tied around the hoolah hoops all the way to where your ribbon is. My daughter LOVED HERS, but i’ve gotta reinforce it. She tried to swing from it. lol. Great tutorial though. I wouldnt have even known where to start if I hadnt spotted it!

  37. karen says


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