Home » You Can Accomplish This Before Your Effing Head Explodes: Wee Tee Pee

You Can Accomplish This Before Your Effing Head Explodes: Wee Tee Pee

Way back ’round Labor Day or was it the (Fourth of July?), I had an itch to make a tee-pee for Mac.

Ok, you’ve got me, I wanted a tee-pee for Me that Mac would also hopefully like.

Chris wasn’t completely anti-tee-pee; however, I got the impression his level of interest in such a project was way below my own exuberance.

So while I researched a few tutorials online and got all jazzed dreaming about breakfasts and story-time and puppet shows and sleep overs in the tee-pee, reality started bringing me down.

I had plans for a BIG tee-pee. . .Like maybe 8 feet tall.

Chris quickly pointed out the circumference of the base necessary to support an 8 foot-tall tee-pee would eat up nearly half the width of our house.

I’ve never been good with math. . .Or logistics really.

So I placed my ideas on the back burner and we’ve gone about our fall – birding, and. . .oh crap, all we do is eat, sleep, bird. . .

However, a few days ago I had a stroke of above-average IQ.

I’m still working on getting the house in order and slowly but surely I’m deliberately going through every item in the house and debating whether it’s useful, beautiful, or just taking up space and I’m acting accordingly.

When I determine something is just taking up space, I start my disposal process by placing it in front of the house with a sign that says “FREE” (sometimes I’m more clever, but the message is always “Please for the love of little baby Jesus, take me because the person that lives here is lazy!”)

Yes.  I have no shame.  I put that crap proudly on my sidewalk in the early morning and hope it’s all gone by the time darkness falls and I have to drag it all back inside and beg my Husband to hurry up and drive it to Goodwill the next day.

Friday, I put out a few items.  Some of them were quality items (don’t tell my Mother.  She’s a salvaging and repurposing machine!). Some of them required more vision to see their potential.  You can imagine what I was left carting back into the house after our sunset trip to Marshy Point.

Amongst the few items I brought back into the house and jammed beneath the sofa by the front door, were about 8 wood dowel rods.  (The kind you can purchase super cheap at any craft store).

I stuck them under the sofa and didn’t think much about them until this morning.  And that’s when it occurred to me:  I could use them to make a really inexpensive, modestly sized tee-pee!

And I did it too!  FAST!

Here’s how:

NOTE:  These directions are intentionally ambiguous with regard to size because you can make a 5 foot tall tee-pee this way or a 5 inch tall tee-pee.  Just depends on your needs.

1.  Gather the tops of 3 wood dowel rods in your fist vertically and level the ends on a horizontal surface so all the bottoms of the dowels lie flat against the surface.

2.  Keeping the rods firmly in your grasp, twist a fat, sturdy rubber bad very tightly around them all approx. 3-4 inches from the top (keeping size of the intended tee-pee in mind.  If you tee-pee is only 5 inches tall then the rubber bands will be maybe 1/2 to 1 inch from the top).

3.  Splay the bottoms of the rods outwards so you create a conical tee-pee form.  Make sure all the rods rest securely on the level horizontal surface.

4.  Once you have the rubber band adjusted at the appropriate place on the dowel rods, collapse them all, keeping the rubber band in the proper spot.

5.  Take a piece of laundered, ironed painter’s drop cloth or other fabric and fold in half.  Place the fabric on a solid surface with the fold at the “top.”

6.  Place the collapsed frame on top of (parallel to) the fabric fold.

7. Put the “bottom” of the tee-pee frame against the right side edge of the fabric.

8.  Make a small mark with a fabric marker on the fabric where the “top” (rubber banded end) of the tee-pee frame ends.

I realize this could be a little unclear and I didn’t take photos of my insanity while I was doing it but if you think of the fabric as the bottom half of a round clock and the tee-pee frame as the hour hand with the top of the tee-pee in the center of the (half) clock, you start with the hand pointing directly at 3). 

9.  Keeping the top of the frame on the mark (the “center” of the clock), slowly move the entire frame around the fabric in a clockwise motion marking the fabric every few spaces with a fabric marker. Basically you are marking out a 1/4 of a circle on the fabric. (From 3 o’clock being the starting point, down to 6 o’clock position.)

10.  Carefully cut out the 1/4 circle.  Start cutting at 6 o’clock straight up as if you are headed towards 12.  Cut through the fold where you originally marked the “center” or top of the frame).  Then come back to 6 and cut counter-clockwise in an arc from 6 to 3 leaving the fold that runs horizontally from the center of the clock to 3 untouched.

11.  Pull the fabric open and you should have a 1/2 circle.  On the straight edge of the semi-circle, fold over the raw edge, iron, fold again, iron, and sew so that you have a nice finished straight hem.

12.  Then iron the rounded raw edge so you can hem it as well.

13.  Once you have all the edges finished, place the cloth over the upright tee-pee frame.  You should have a generous surplus of fabric.

14.  Arrange the fabric over the frame until you have a good arrangement.  (The circular part of the fabric touches the level horizontal surface (makes the bottom of the tee-pee) and the “straight edge” of the semi-circle is at the top and draped down the front of the frame – creating the opening of the tee-pee).

15.  Once you determine how the fabric will fit and drape, you can secure it to the frame at the top.  I cut two small holes in the fabric (using the button-hole function on your sewing machine would make it more durable) and tied it tightly with some leather laces I had on hand.

16.  Set up your tee-pee and start playing!


1.  You might have to play around with the fabric to get the drape just so.

2.  If you have issues with the visibility of unfinished edges, you can be more diligent with your hemming (fold over twice) or use some ribbon or rick-rack to finish the hem.

3.  This is a generous amount of fabric for the frame.  There are other ways you can go about cutting and sewing the fabric that would likely use less material.  You just have to think about basic geometry.

4.  If you think the dowel rods will slip on hard-wood floors – and they might, you could use some kneedable artist’s eraser or similar poster hanging stuff on the bottoms of the dowel rods to secure them.  You might even be able to cut the fingers off of dishwashing gloves and slip them over the dowel rods to give you traction.

5.  Obviously, you can embellish the fabric in a gah-zillion different ways.

6.  You can sew little pieces of elastic (or even small, clear hair bands) on the inside of the tee-pee fabric to help it stay tethered to the frame.

7.  If you don’t have leather ties lying around, you can use extra rubber bands or elastic and cover them with ribbon or any other embellishment you deem appropriate.

8.  You can easily make this project no-sew with iron/heat activated hemming tape.

9.  If you are making a very large tee-pee, you might want more than three supports for your frame.  I think it’s more difficult to “level” more than 3 supports but it’s definitely possible.  I’m sure a quick Google search will produce a few tutorials on constructing a larger structure.

I hope Mac squeals when he sees Suddy’s new hang-out.  I might have to refine it a little for a toddler.  I’ll keep you posted.