Here’s how to make a colorful backyard playhouse (no sewing necessary)
story by Lauren Bonar Swezey
1 of 11Photo by Gary Parker
How to make a backyard tipi playhouse
A cheerful red tipi on the back lawn inspires hours of outdoor fun and imaginative play.
The ripstop nylon red shell, cut from 60-inch-wide fabric, is decorated with yellow cotton-fabric forms attached with iron-on adhesive.
Shoelaces threaded through grommets secure the tepee to bamboo poles.
Click ahead for the step-by-step photos and instructions.
2 of 11Photo by Gary Parker
Tipi playhouse: Materials
3 1⁄3 yards 60-inch-wide ripstop nylon
1⁄2 yard 45-inch-wide yellow cotton
1 yard iron-on adhesive
Twelve 1⁄4-inch grommets (kits include grommet tool)
Nine 27-inch-long black shoelaces
Six 8-foot-long, 1-inch-diameter bamboo poles
Six 1-foot-long, 1⁄4-inch steel rods (cut to size if necessary)
One roll 30-inch-wide heavy paper and masking tape (optional)
One 54-inch-long bootlace
Six tent pegs
Pencil, fabric measuring tape, iron
Drawing compass, string, pushpins
Scissors, hole punch
Hacksaw (to cut steel rods), hammer
Electric drill with 13⁄64- or 1⁄4-inch bit
3 of 11Debra Lambert
Tipi playhouse: Cut out the fabric
When you purchase fabric, it’s folded in half lengthwise. Unfold the nylon and refold it in half crosswise (cut ends together) to create a 60-inch square.
To make a 60-inch-radius halfcircle for the tepee shell, mark a quarter- circle on the folded fabric using a pencil and measuring tape: Lay the measuring tape down between two diagonal corners and draw a 60-inch-long line measured from the folded corner (this is the radius).
Then, starting from the adjacent folded corner, draw a quarter-circle, arcing around the end of the line and ending at the opposite corner.
It may help to mark the curve of the quarter-circle with string secured by pushpins. Cut out the quarter-circle and unfold the fabric.
4 of 11Debra Lambert
Tipi playhouse: Mark places for poles
To mark where the poles will go, draw five more 60-inch radii: mark the first one 15 inches from one straight edge of the fabric and the second one 15 inches from the other straight edge, then mark off the space between into five equal sections.
Cut a half-circle (with a 5-inch radius) at the center of the straight edge of the fabric, where the radii meet. If desired, zigzag or hand-stitch (with a blanket stitch) the curved edges of the tepee.
5 of 11Debra Lambert
Tipi playhouse: Make decorations
Following the package instructions, apply the iron-on adhesive to the back side of the yellow cotton. At one edge of the fabric, draw two 12- by 3-inch zigzag shapes on the backing of the adhesive (see figure E).
Cut out the shapes, saving the triangles (shaded on the pattern) to line the tepee’s top edge. Remove the paper backing from the zigzags.
Place a zigzag along the top of each opening edge of the tepee as shown in the photo on page 126 and bond with an iron. Next, bond the small triangles (saved from zigzags) along the tepee’s top edge:
For the first row, lay seven triangles point to point and bond. Apply the second row of triangles (six) in alternate spaces over the first row’s touching points (see figure F).
6 of 11Debra Lambert
Tipi playhouse: Make the decorations
Cut out two 1½-inch-diameter and two 8-inch-diameter yellow-cotton circles (figures B and C); they’re easier to cut if you fold the fabric into quarters. Remove the paper backing.
Bond the 1½-inch circles onto opposite sides of the tepee opening, 22 inches up from the bottom and 11 inches in from the opening edges (on radius marks). Bond the 8-inch circles 10½ inches (on center) away from the little circles as shown.
Cut out twelve 3-inch-tall yellow triangles (see figure D). Cut one triangle in half lengthwise and apply the halves to the two opening edges at the bottom of the tepee; bond. Apply the 11 remaining triangles to the bottom edge of the tepee at the six radius marks and halfway between each pair of marks.
7 of 11Photo by Gary Parker
Tipi playhouse: Attach to poles
At the top of the tent, punch 15 holes 1 inch apart through the yellow triangles, starting 1½ inches from each opening edge.
Weave one full-length black shoelace through the holes to tie the tent to the poles.
8 of 11Photo by Gary Parker
Tipi playhouse: Lace up opening
Using a hole punch, punch two holes in each full triangle at the tipi bottom, 1⁄2 inch up from the bottom and 1⁄2 inch in from each side.
Cut 6 black shoelaces in half (to secure the tepee to poles and tent pegs); knot cut ends. Thread a shoelace end through each of the 11 sets of holes (so ends are inside the tepee).
Place a grommet in the center of each small yellow circle. Thread a black shoelace through each circle to use as ties for the “door.”
9 of 11Debra Lambert
Tipi playhouse: Paper guide
To make installation easier (otherwise you need two people), make a paper guide for installing the poles (see figure G): With masking tape, piece together two 30- by 60-inch sheets of heavy paper so you can cut a 60-inch diameter circle.
Mark the edge of the circle into 6 even arcs.
Align poles so the thick ends are down. Trim poles to equal lengths. Drill a hole in each pole 62 inches from the bottom. (You'll use these holes when tying the top of the tipi together.)
Hammer a steel rod into inside the base of each pole, leaving about 4 inches protruding from the bottom of the pole. These will act as tent stakes.
10 of 11Photo by Gary Parker
Tipi playhouse: Tie the top
Thread the red-and-black bootlace through the holes in the poles, then cross poles on top of one another to make a fan. Tie the bootlace tightly around the tops of the poles.
11 of 11Photo by Gary Parker
Tipi playhouse: Put up the tent
Lay the paper guide on the ground and push the poles’ metal ends into the ground at the marks on the paper.
Wrap the tipi shell around the poles and secure ties around the tops and bottoms of the poles.
Insert tent pegs into the ground at the triangles between poles. Tie laces to tent pegs. Tie openings around poles so kids can run in and out.