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02 Feb 2017
How to Make a Tent for an Indoor Camping Party
indoor tents from Sophie's World | sophie-world.com

I love my older clients.  When I say old, I’m talking about 11 and 12 years old.  Why do I love them?  Because at that age they have strong opinions, and always offer a challenge.  They are savvy enough to use Pinterest, my frienemy, to share their ideas, but not so jaded that they can’t buy into the magical quality of twinkle lights and painted cardboard cut outs.  It remains an age that is about fantasy, play, and giggling.  Which is why, when a dear client of mine contacted me after a 3-year haitus to plan her daughter’s 11th birthday slumber party, I jumped at the chance.

Our birthday girl had actually created her own lookbook. I had to smile.  The page was festooned with images of unicorns, rainbows, flowers, and butterflies.  Her fantasy was to turn her foyer into a summer camp, with all of her friends sleeping in little tents under a starry sky.  The theme - “inside my mind”, and was meant to be a reflection of all the things she loves.

To help make this fantasy a reality I turned to my warehouse manager Steve.  He’s an unbelievably talented handyman, who can basically build anything.  When I showed him the picture of our gal’s dream, he hopped right on it.  Here’s what we did to make 12 tents in one week.


4 - 4 foot sections of 1x2 

1 - ¾” dowel, 4 feet long (you could also do 3 feet long for a shorter tent)

2 - ½’ dowels, 4 feet long (you could also do 3 feet long for a shorter tent)

#16 single jack chain, light duty - 2 pieces cut 15 links long (or longer if you want a wider tent)

4 - ⅜” round head screws

1 - very small cup hook - ½ inch is what we used (optional)

2 - 2” cotter pins

Paint or stain (optional)

1 inch wide duct tape (or the like)

Drill and Drill bits - ⅞” (for ¾” dowel holes),  9/16” (for ½” dowel hole), ⅛” (for cotter pin hole)

Fabric - choose a cotton or non-stretch material at least 45” wide - 3 yards

8 pieces of ribbon - 18” long

Iron (optional)



Step 1 

Cut the fabric to 96” long (make sure the fabric is square at each end and not angled)

Step 2

1. Using a ruler, measure down 2 inches from the edge of the fabric and mark horizontally with pins every 9 inches

2. Fold the very edge of the fabric over about ¼ to ½ inch to make a hem.

3. Fold the fabric over, keeping the hem fold in place, at the pin to make a pocket.  Remove the horizontal pin and vertically pin down the fabric.   Slowly work your way down the fabric in this manner, making sure to remove all the horizontal pins as you go along. (note - this step allows you to sew the hem and the pocket at the same time - if you prefer you can hem the fabric then follow step 3).

4. Repeat on other end.

Step 3 

Sew across the hemmed edge and vertical pins to create a hemmed pocket.  Repeat on other side.  Remove all pins.

Step 4

1. Fold fabric in half lengthwise (so two pocketed edges meet with sewn edge facing in)

2. Measure down 6 inches from the fold and mark with pin on each edge (4 total)

3. Measure down an additional 18 inches (24 inches from fold) and again mark each edge with a pin.

Step 5

1. Fold 1 piece of ribbon in half.  Place the folded end of the ribbon on the underside of the fabric (same side as sewn hem)  ½ inch in from fabric edge. Pin in place.  Repeat for remaining 7 pins/pieces of ribbon

Step 6

Sew ribbons in place.   Make sure to remove all pins

Step 7 (optional)

Iron your finished fabric

Step 1


For all 4 legs 

1. Drill a 3/4” hole 1 ½ inches from the top edge

2. Drill a 9/16” hole 1 ½ inches from the bottom edge

(note, you  may want to mark top and bottom for your own convenience)


Step 2

For all 4 legs -

Cut  the bottom edge of each leg at a 25 degree angle (this is a very small wedge, leaving the hole intact) - this is to insure that the tent legs lay flat when open

Step 3

1. Measure ¾” from either end of the ¾” dowel, and drill a ⅛” hole all the way through the dowel ends (this is for the cotter pins)

2. Wrap a 1 inch wide strip of tape twice around the dowel, 2 ¼” from each end (this is a stopper for the legs)

Step 4 

Wrap a 1 inch wide strip of tape, 2 inches from each end of the 2 remaining dowels (this is the stopper for the legs)

Step 5 - (totally optional)

Paint or stain all legs (and dowels if you wish, however, do not paint the ends from the tape out to the ends, only paint between the tape).  Be very careful to not excessively paint the holes in the legs, the dowels are a tight fit as is.  Let dry overnight.  You may need a second coat if your lumber, like ours, bears stamps or markings.  (note - if you get excessive paint in your hole, wrap some sandpaper around a thinner dowel and sand the inside to remove paint.)

Step 6  

1. Pair up the legs so that the bottom ends are angled away from the center and stand nicely when splayed.

2. Measure down 9 ¼” from the top end and mark each piece. 

3. Attach one end of chain at this mark, using a small screw.

4. Attach the opposite end to the 2nd leg.

5. (optional step) ½” below the chain on one leg, attach a small cup hook (this is so you can make the tent smaller)

6. Repeat this process with the 2nd set of legs.

Step 7

1.  To assemble your tent - line up your first chained pair with the holes overlapping (we did left leg over right leg - as you look at it)

2. Slip the ¾” dowel into the holes to until the cotter pin hole is visible.

3. Repeat with the 2nd set of legs - make sure that they match the front legs (left leg over right).

4. Open legs so your form is standing (like a sawhorse)

5. Slip one of the ½” dowels into one side of the bottom holes. 

6. Slip your fabric, with the hem side in, over the dowel.  Slip free end of dowel into the opposite leg hole.

7. Take fabric up and over the ¾ inch dowel and repeat step 6 with other side of fabric.

8. Slip cotter pins into place in the top dowel.

9. Tie ribbons around tent legs to eliminate any swag in the tent fabric.

10. Adjust tent width, if you like, by attaching the chain to the cup hook. (optional)

11. Crawl inside and take a nap...you’ve earned it!


Now I must warn you, this project takes time!   Making 12 of them for the party took Steve and I about a week, but the effect, when everything was set up, was charming.  Our birthday girl was thrilled, and the mom reported that every single girl took home her tent as their goodie!  So maybe it was a little “in-tents” at the office for a few days, but when all was said and done, it was well worth it!