Monday, August 8, 2011

Make a Children's Play Tent with a Hula Hoop & Curtains!

Hello all, hope every one's having a wonderful summer so far. I have been super greedy with my time and spending it all with the kids outdoors as much as possible in this great weather we are having. As summer is coming close to an end, we have to find ways of entertaining children indoors and that can be challenging sometimes. I try to have little play areas all over the house so that where ever they roam, there are toys and books to entertain them. I always wanted to place a play tent or some sort of tee-pee for them near their books and toys but I was amazed at the prices of these things!

Of course, I thought, I can make that myself and here it is. I went from trying to figure out how to build a tee-pee the easiest way possible and decided that it was way too complicated for my quick, easy, cheap, crafting style. Let me show you what I ended up with. A play tent made with a hula hoop, umbrella and curtains!

Things you will need:
  1. Umbrella (average sized)
  2. Hula Hoop (average sized)
  3. 2 Curtain Panels (54"x84" each)
  4. Sewing Machine
  5. Bias tape (optional)
If you want to make the tent a specific size, it all depends on the diameter of your hula hoop. To cut, the hula hoop, use a serrated steak knife to EASILY cut through. Simply rejoin and secure with wide packaging tape. 
Since I ruined my yellow averaged sized hula hoop for demonstration purposes, I had to cut my red one to an average sized hula hoop :\
Above, I removed the fabric from the metal structure of the umbrella which was only held together by thread. For the top of the umbrella, I used a scissor to make the smallest possible opening to detach it from the plastic top.

First, sew the two panels together on one side creating one giant wide panel. MAKE SURE not to sew the curtain rod opening shut. Your hula hoop needs to go through both panels of course :)

I took one curtain panel and pinned it to the umbrella fabric that's folded in half. Pin the other panel to the other half of the umbrella as shown above. I marked the curtain illustration above in 4 to show how evenly the umbrella's quarters matched up perfectly. Thank god. 
My little helper insisted he sit and watch patiently as his play tent came together! Sew the umbrella a half inch onto the curtain as shown below. Depending on the size of the opening where a curtain rod would normally enter, you can determine how much room to stitch your umbrella onto it. Make sure to leave enough room for your hula hoop to enter...
Almost done! Notice the one side left open or un-sewn?  That's our tent "door"
To make windows: 
First hang the tent up or hold it up high so that the fabric is not dragging on the floor. Measure your child against the hanging tent and determine how high you want your window to be (their eye level). I suggest not making it any wider than 9"x11". Smaller the better. As I found out after making the window sketch below, its easier to sew bias tape to a round or oval window. Sketch out your window, cut it out and keep that piece of fabric for later.
With that extra fabric, cut a 2"x5" square out of it and sew together on the wrong side. Turn inside out to create a soon to be loop to hang your tent with.
Turn your umbrella inside out and insert your loop as shown below.
Hold together leaving about an inch or so inside. See below. Stitch repeatedly to ensure a strong stitch. There will be lots of tugging on the tent and the loop needs to be strong.
Almost there...I inserted the hula hoop and after closing it, I secured it with tape to make sure it would not open up during rough tent play...

This is my almost oval window with bias tape.
My loop as it turns out, was way too long and when hung from the ceiling, it caused my tent to drag on the floor. I adjusted it by sewing another stitch halfway onto the loop itself. I used a ceiling screw kinda shaped like an upside down question mark. They come in many sizes and thickness and are very strong. I have them screwed in, in two different areas in the home. This way, the tent can be moved around for a different scenery...
Needless to say, they could not get enough of this tent. It's now called "Castle" and I'm OK with that!
Yes, that's me taking a photo of us inside the tent...

More Tips
  1. I used darkening curtains.
  2. You can cut and make a very small hula hoop and use 2 panels of curtains to make an over bed canopy or crib netting.
  3. This tent is great for outdoor, garden parties. Hang on a tree.
  4. To make a cushion as shown in the above illustration. Fold any wide enough fabric or extra curtain panel in half and trace the hula hoop. Cut out. Sew the 2 circles together and stuff with batting or any other stuffing material. You can place a non skid mat under if necessary.
  5. Hang battery operated lights inside, high out of reach.

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  1. Awesome!!!!!!!! Great idea Trish, I wish I knew how to sew ;-)

  2. Love your work!!

  3. That is just too cute!! How much do you sell them for :)

  4. Thanks for sharing, very cute!

  5. Using 2 panels of curtains is definitely way too cute as you create an overbed canopy! I love how your creativity resulted to a nice creation! Great job!

  6. This is wonderful! I'm adding it to my list of future projects. :)

  7. This is great! Thank you for sharing! Do you have any ideas about an alternative to hula hoops? I want to mail one of these tents to my nephews across the country.

    1. AnonymousMay 18, 2012

      you could send it without the hula hoop and have the mom add it when she gets the tent.

  8. Not sure if any other alternative would be as practical since a hula hoop is plastic, hollow, cheap, easy to find and very lightweight...If you do come up with something else please do share with me!!

    1. AnonymousMay 18, 2012

      you could put together some pvc pipe which would still be lightweight, but maybe a little stronger. if you wanted to use wider pipe, just make sure the curtains have large enough place to put it through.

  9. This idea is so awesome and creative Trish. I am so glad to have found your tute. With winter upon us it is a godsend. I too have been disappointed with commercial play tents. We had to return one whose fiberglass spars were shattered before I opened the brand new package and I had been leery of buying one since then.

    Thank you so much for taking the time to record your steps. Now I know what to do with our favorite broken umbrella! =)

  10. Such a brilliant design! As for mailing... I suspect you could mail only the fabric construction and let the recipient pick up a hula hoop to thread through it himself... or even some heavy plastic tubing from Home Depot... or even a section from a garden hose!

  11. This looks wonderful. I wonder if there are bigger hula hoops available--so more children (and older children!) can fit inside such a 'castle...'?? You did a beautiful job with the sewing...

  12. Thankyou for such an extensive article with pictures! Really appreciate it!

  13. AnonymousJuly 27, 2012

    I made the tent very full with lots of panels hung on the hula hoop,sewed them together...then you can spread tent out and lay rocks or bricks around it. Tie to closeline or tree limb.This way you can make it a long tent and not have to worryabout getting right length as it is spread out to make the tent taut on the sides. I have also made a tent out of an old baby swing frame, if you have one of those available. Used old sheets for the sides.

  14. Thank you for sharing this!!!

  15. Great article. Even though i tried this once and failed miserably, the kids still played in it. I ended up caving though and went for some WOW factor.. got a couple of play tents and tunnels from and the kids were happy as clams! Thanks for the article!


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