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How-Tuesday: Backyard Teepee

Aug 30, 2011

by ziggityzoom handmade and vintage goods

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, 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?

Materials Needed:

  • 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
  • Scissors
  • String
  • 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.

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  • MootiDesigns

    MootiDesigns said 9 years ago

    Great post. THank you

  • purposedesign

    purposedesign said 9 years ago

    I was looking for something just like this- thank you!!

  • LizzieMade

    LizzieMade said 9 years ago

    This is a great post - I have wanted to make a teepee for a while; now I may be able to do so. This would even make a semi-permanent play-house for the garden. Thanks!

  • Parachute425

    Parachute425 said 9 years ago

    Sweet! What a cool grandma.

  • TheIDconnection

    TheIDconnection said 9 years ago

    This looks like fun!

  • myvintagecrush

    myvintagecrush said 9 years ago

    So fun!

  • BlueRoseRetro

    BlueRoseRetro said 9 years ago

    I want to be a kid again! What fun.

  • CaliforniaMutts

    CaliforniaMutts said 9 years ago

    Is anyone else thinging how romantic a candle lit dinner would be in here? Large fluffy pillows, music, etc...

  • desertwestpillows

    desertwestpillows said 9 years ago

    Love it Love it! Great presentation, with the kids putting teepee together and painting on it! I want one too!

  • StudioZen

    StudioZen said 9 years ago

    My sister gave my son a similar teepee when he was a kid. He loved it and would play for hours in it. We still have it...maybe one day his kids will play in it too.

  • Luv2Have

    Luv2Have said 9 years ago

    This is awesome, my son would love this!!! Definitely something we will have to try!

  • myAvonlea

    myAvonlea said 9 years ago

    Totally want to make this with my 2 sweet peas <3 Thank you so much for posting.

  • MegansMenagerie

    MegansMenagerie said 9 years ago

    This looks like so much fun! My daughter would love this!

  • jodieflowers

    jodieflowers said 9 years ago

    My son and I LOVE teepees!!! ♥

  • Zafirah

    Zafirah said 9 years ago

    This will definitely come in handy soon!

  • BeatificBijoux

    BeatificBijoux said 9 years ago

    FUN!! I love this kind of stuff. It's pretty much why I had kids. When my 5-year-old son mentioned baking soda volcanoes last week, I was all over it. I rummaged through the recycle bin for newspaper and a largish sheet of cardboard, and within minutes we were splattered in flour paste as we papier-mached our way to geothermic bliss. Crafting with your kids is priceless!

  • Share310

    Share310 said 9 years ago

    It was such a fun project ... the granddaughters added their painting to the teepee when they visited last week. And amazingly ... the teepee stood during the hurricane ... it actually stayed DRY inside! I love looking at it and the cat loves it too.

  • jammerjewelry

    jammerjewelry said 9 years ago

    Crazy Cool Fun for kids. Thanks!

  • VintageEye

    VintageEye said 9 years ago

    I want one...for me!

  • scoutandrescue

    scoutandrescue said 9 years ago

    This is so cool. And I love that you built it together and the kids decorated it themselves. So much better than buying something. They will never forget this experience. Wonderful! scout xo

  • rarebeasts

    rarebeasts said 9 years ago

    This will be a great weekend kid project.

  • opendoorstudio

    opendoorstudio said 9 years ago

    HEY... I WANT ONE! Thank you for posting this. I want to make one NOW!

  • EmiliaFaith

    EmiliaFaith said 9 years ago

    How fun !! Gonna have to try this with my kids :)

  • trafalgarssquare

    trafalgarssquare said 9 years ago

    WOW! I used to make teepees in the backyard when I was a kid and I'd get so annoyed because it wouldn't look right. Thanks so much for the post, now I can make one with my littles!

  • artXchic

    artXchic said 9 years ago

    awesome! i'm going to do this with my niece and nephew, they'll adore it! thanks for the post :)

  • lemondear

    lemondear said 9 years ago

    wow... this made me relive for a few minutes my rocking childhood, thanks

  • blancahelga

    blancahelga said 9 years ago

    Wow, just fantastic!

  • sparrowgrey

    sparrowgrey said 9 years ago

    Such a great idea, the kids look thrilled. Thanks for the instructions!

  • VeniVidiVintage

    VeniVidiVintage said 9 years ago

    such a great tutorial! I cant wait to do this with my husband! I love that little kid inside us all :)

  • 4amani

    4amani said 9 years ago

    This reminds me of the giant teepee my mom made when when we were little. She used about 5 drop clothes and broke several needles on her sewing machine. The best part was running an industrial extension cord out the kitchen window so she could sew the teepee in the driveway. We cut down small trees for the poles. Oh the memories!

  • FruitOfMyHands

    FruitOfMyHands said 9 years ago

    What a great grandma. Thank you for sharing your teepee pattern.

  • LittleWrenPottery

    LittleWrenPottery said 9 years ago

    Wow that looks like alot of fun! I used to make my tents out of pillows and bedsheets when I was a kid :)

  • ikabags

    ikabags said 9 years ago

    Such a wonderful post ! We had couple of time with my sons and slept inside :)

  • jungledread

    jungledread said 9 years ago

    I've seen these at festivals and it's sat in the back of my mind to give it a try Thanks for the pattern - I"ll be giving it a try next fest ^_^

  • TheScarfTree

    TheScarfTree said 9 years ago

    That is a great idea and great for the kids......I would go in there to! Thanks for sharing!

  • Ragsoul

    Ragsoul said 9 years ago

    thank you ! just great

  • lemongrassjewels

    lemongrassjewels said 9 years ago

    awesome idea, you're the greatest grandma ever:) what wonderful memories for you and your family!!!

  • blissfulturtle

    blissfulturtle said 9 years ago

    My backyard teepee remains one of my favorite childhood memories. Thanks for bringing them back. Now I need to make one for my daughter.

  • stepbackink

    stepbackink said 9 years ago

    This article brings sweet memories.

  • salvageshop

    salvageshop said 9 years ago

    how fun! :)))

  • breadandroses2

    breadandroses2 said 9 years ago

    I"d love to have one. Thanks for the post!

  • laurastark

    laurastark said 9 years ago

    And it's fun for adults too!

  • ziggityzoom

    ziggityzoom said 9 years ago

    I want 4 teepees in my backyard- one for each of the boys and 1 for me. Maybe I need a work teepee!

  • riverstar

    riverstar said 9 years ago

    great photos of TP project. check out my Native American Inspiration treasury.

  • sunshinepetals

    sunshinepetals said 9 years ago

    I never pay attention to these posts others write but i just could not resist yours...being an old girl scout i found your article interesting, useful, it held my attention and well worth keeping for later use! I LOVED IT

  • Grannysea

    Grannysea said 9 years ago

    Thanks I copied for some cubs that I work with, hope to make one with them. Reminds me of the one I made with girl Scouts; I thought the poles had to be attached so sewed each one onto the material. I did not have any needles at the time so I made a needle with a paper clip. Have a great day.

  • SweetandDandyVintage

    SweetandDandyVintage said 9 years ago

    This is so awesome! I'm dreaming already! Thanks for the tutorial!

  • mylenefoster

    mylenefoster said 9 years ago

    What a fun activity for the kids!

  • GwenDelicious

    GwenDelicious said 9 years ago

    i had one of these as a much fun!!!

  • TandJsoaps

    TandJsoaps said 9 years ago


  • fireyvalkyrie

    fireyvalkyrie said 9 years ago

    Love this collection very earthy!

  • AuroraVk

    AuroraVk said 9 years ago

    Sounds like a fun project!!! I would put one of those even inside of my room! ;)

  • Iammie

    Iammie said 9 years ago


  • BraveTurtleCreations

    BraveTurtleCreations said 9 years ago

    One day I plan on making a full size legit teepee for camping and general awesomeness but I think I'll try this one first. I know my sister would love it.Thanks!

  • oldworldapothecary

    oldworldapothecary said 9 years ago

    How fun!!! LOVE IT

  • cupcaketutus

    cupcaketutus said 9 years ago

    LOVE IT! My cousin has a grandpa on her mother's side that is a full blooded shashonee indian Chief. He no longer lives on a reservation but still is very active in the native American community. He builds true Tepees and for years I've been wanting one. Haven't got one yet, but one day I'll own one of his lovely teepees. Thanks for this how to, I'll have to try it out myself, until I can affordable a real built one.

  • bhangtiez

    bhangtiez said 9 years ago

    Sounds like so much fun! Thanks for sharing!

  • lilinspirations

    lilinspirations said 9 years ago

    I remember when my boys had a teepee! It was so much fun!

  • TheMillineryShop

    TheMillineryShop said 9 years ago

    My favorite hideout was two chairs a few feet from each other, backs facing in and a blanket thrown over the top. I haven't thought of doing that in decades but think I'm gonna go make one now and crawl inside. It's been way too long...

  • ConfettiWestern

    ConfettiWestern said 9 years ago


  • leilalou

    leilalou said 9 years ago

    Fabulous! I have just bought a pattern to make one for my children for Christmas and yes...I'll be putting my feature doll Tallulah in for them :-)

  • inlovewithpink

    inlovewithpink said 9 years ago

    What wonderful memories you've helped create! Thanks for sharing!

  • BetaVintageCasual

    BetaVintageCasual said 9 years ago

    I want to make one too!!!!

  • RotemZ

    RotemZ said 9 years ago

    Made one last year and again this year with my boys ! Instructions from the web were challenging !! These are much easier :-) Bamboo canes we sourced at a local farm supply store and used them again this year and we used a roll of disposable tablecloth fabric . You have to decorate before you attach it though and through it away at the end. It's very warm here so it was perfect and not stuffy.

  • lululiilii

    lululiilii said 9 years ago

    I did this with my nephews for a day out and used a king bed sheet that I got at the thriftstore for $3 I let the children decorate it with finger painting and hand prints which was great since one is two and cant really draw anything yet.

  • ile1974

    ile1974 said 9 years ago

    WOW! great^_^ I will try it with my kids!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • edgertor

    edgertor said 9 years ago

    check these out for decoration ideas! great post of actual tepees from the turn of the century.

  • MadeinMogotes

    MadeinMogotes said 9 years ago

    How fun! We had a tent when we were kids but never a teepee and not one we could decorate!!

  • Zalavintage

    Zalavintage said 9 years ago

    Can't wait to try it out!

  • lmouer

    lmouer said 9 years ago

    I don't even have kids, but I want to make one!! Great blog!

  • littlebugjewelry

    littlebugjewelry said 9 years ago

    OH, I totally want to do this!

  • amusebeads

    amusebeads said 9 years ago

    Thanks for the inspiration. I'll have to try this with my little monkeys, they have almost destroyed their fridge box cottage. Time for a new (and different!) playhouse!

  • Eternalelfcreations

    Eternalelfcreations said 9 years ago

    great project!!

  • CattailsStudio

    CattailsStudio said 9 years ago

    I want a backyard teepee for myself!! Forget the kid! You think I'm kidding but I'm not. :)

  • GraceFilledHands

    GraceFilledHands said 9 years ago

    What a fun project! The kids will love this! Thanks for sharing! The Indian in me wants to make one for adults!

  • OnlyOriginalsByAJ

    OnlyOriginalsByAJ said 9 years ago

    How fun! I think I'm going to do this with my nephew! He'd love it!

  • siennaorlando

    siennaorlando said 9 years ago

    Absolutely adorable! I've been infatuated with the idea of living in a teepee for sooo long! Love this project!

  • BowMoBBB

    BowMoBBB said 9 years ago

    Awesome! Thanks. . . can"t wait to have fun with grandkids & neighbor kids.

  • designlab443

    designlab443 said 9 years ago

    I made a teepee awhile ago for my daughter. I need to get that out again, it's been awhile. The kids love it!

  • MishaGirl

    MishaGirl said 9 years ago

    I LOVE the looks like so much fun :-)

  • sweetharvestonline

    sweetharvestonline said 9 years ago

    Teeppes are great idea indoor and outdoor! My son loves to play trucks on a rainy day in his! Thanks for the post :)

  • acuriousbrood

    acuriousbrood said 9 years ago

    I bet our dog would love one of these as a hideaway. Interesting project to do with the boys before school digs in too deep.

  • AliceCloset

    AliceCloset said 9 years ago

    Soo cool!!!

  • bananastrudel

    bananastrudel said 9 years ago

    When I was a kid, I loved visiting my cousin because she had a teepee in her backyard. And parts of it were made of animal skin, too. I officially made her my 'favourite cousin', simply based on her having a teepee. So if you build a teepee, I will come. And you will be my new best friend.

  • serenabythesea

    serenabythesea said 9 years ago

    Something like tthis tepee project is very therapeutic, as well as being load of fun!

  • BanglewoodSupplies

    BanglewoodSupplies said 9 years ago

    I need to make one of these and put it in my house. And, when everyone sees me go in the teepee they will know to leave me alone. I am having my teepee time...

  • styleforlife

    styleforlife said 9 years ago

    So darling. :-)))) XXXXX EL Vintage

  • adoodle

    adoodle said 9 years ago


  • HoldTheWire

    HoldTheWire said 9 years ago

    Oh, a canvas drop cloth! What a great idea! Thanks!

  • helloambition

    helloambition said 9 years ago

    oh wow. I would have loved this as a child. there were so many countless days of fort making with my brother.

  • RanchDressingOnline

    RanchDressingOnline said 9 years ago

    How fun! I will definitely do this with my future grandchildren.

  • fqcouture

    fqcouture said 9 years ago

    Ooh, that looks like so much fun! I used to make forts all the time, and I always wanted a teepee.

  • pouch

    pouch said 9 years ago

    I used to love sitting in my teepee as a child, my mum made one out of old sheets and bamboo canes - I have been meaning to make one for my daughter for ages, will have to give it a go now I've seen this!

  • PyxusPassionProject

    PyxusPassionProject said 9 years ago

    Exciting! I need to make this for my niece and nephew next summer.. looks like so much fun to build.

  • Woodzart

    Woodzart said 9 years ago

    Fun! I would love to make one, thanks for posting.

  • Share310

    Share310 said 9 years ago

    Thank you all for such fun and lovely comments ... I can't begin to tell you how much enjoyment the grandkids and I have already had from making this TeePee. Happy TeePee making!!!

  • rinnyc

    rinnyc said 9 years ago

    When i was younger my days would be looking forward to be building a teepee with my sisters brothers and cousins! We would all go tramping in our woods and my oldest sister you be in charge of the teepee building. We would take huge sticks la them against a tree and voula you got a teepee! As a seven-eleven year old you can imagine anything you want too. We soon built other teepees so we had a town, elected a mayor, have bottle caps as money, we had a resteraunt with real food too. We tried to plant a garden but that really didn't work out. Soon the other neighbors helped us build the town and we made more towns. We had a teeppe city! But we are all older and teepee making is a memory of the pass i guess. Sometimes when i walk in the woods i remember that fun time, probably the funnest time building teepees.

  • FrogBlossoms

    FrogBlossoms said 9 years ago

    What a great set of instructions. I will have to do this with my grandchildren when they come visit next summer! They will love it!

  • Marieva

    Marieva said 9 years ago

    Thanks for the inpiration and the totorial. I whant to do this with my grandson next summmer.

  • HoboeJane

    HoboeJane said 9 years ago

    ok i have no kids but i totally want a teepee for me! lol oooo it'd be fun to lay a blanket and read a good book in :)

  • gretchenmist

    gretchenmist said 9 years ago

    how great is this! makes me want a big back yard to play in and build in! thanks for the instructions.

  • WJFlintstone

    WJFlintstone said 9 years ago

    I am always searching for fun things to do with the Grandsons when they come. I know these days of loving MeMaw's house will pass all to fast and they will move on to wanting to spend time with friends. So thanks for a project ideal that we will both love! I wanted to be an Indian brave when I was a little girl. Couldn't manage that so I married one!

  • fanciestrands

    fanciestrands said 9 years ago

    Oh MY! This is so awesome. This would be a great addition for the kids on my 4 acres. What fun!

  • VillaCollezione

    VillaCollezione said 9 years ago

    what a wonderful post! so nice when two different generations get together & do something fun!

  • cazhoffy

    cazhoffy said 9 years ago

    my son would love this and my hubby to tell the truth!!

  • HardlySimpleDesigns

    HardlySimpleDesigns said 9 years ago

    I love love love this idea! I cannot wait to make one with my nephew. :) Such a wonderful way for kids to spend time outdoors and with family. Thank you for sharing!

  • sandrassatchels

    sandrassatchels said 9 years ago

    Great tutorial. Thanks!

  • sofisticata

    sofisticata said 9 years ago

    LOVE IT!! :) Thank you for sharing!! I'll have to share with my sister! She is the one with the kids!! :)

  • girliepains

    girliepains said 9 years ago

    aww the canoooooes!

  • IrisTse

    IrisTse said 9 years ago

    so lovely =)

  • jewelkingthai

    jewelkingthai said 9 years ago

    Love to try this

  • AlpineGypsy

    AlpineGypsy said 9 years ago

    Complete & utter RADNESS!!! Thanks, Heidi

  • eastmeetswest

    eastmeetswest said 9 years ago

    amazing :)

  • earlgreymorning

    earlgreymorning said 9 years ago

    Hey I don't know if you pay much attention to these comments and this post is kind of old but I'd just like to gently point out that this is kinda cultural appropriation :/ I recommend taking a look at this zine for a little more information. It focuses on appropriation of the head dress but the it's short and simple and addresses issues of erasing individuality and diversity of native people and various tribes: Some other ways to present this idea would be to link readers to actual information on local tribes so that they could teach their children factual information about native structures and symbols instead of perpetuating the false assumption that all indigenous people lived in teepees and had the same language and images etc. You could also just steer clear of the whole native bit by not referring to the tent as a teepee at all but a play fort or tent. I hope you take time to think about this and do some research of your own. Have a nice day c:

  • thomasconnor

    thomasconnor said 9 years ago

    This is a great tutorial. I would recommend to consider the willow teepee:

  • markhiggo

    markhiggo said 7 years ago

    I tried to make this but does not seem to work as well as yours, especially near the top. We are wondering do you double over the canvas then cut it out so it is a circle? Then by making a cut on one side to the centre point you would have a cone when you lift up the centre point?

  • WJFlintstone

    Wilma Watkins Barnhart from WWBSimpleWonders said 4 years ago

    Thanks so much for this! The Grandsons and I had such fun two summers ago, making a TeePee together! You can see picture on my page if you like:

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