Zander’s Tent + Window Valances

I made this tent (and wrote this blog) back in February, but I somehow inadvertently forgot to hit “publish,” so here you go, better late than never. I am pleased to add that not a day goes by when Zander does not spend a significant amount of time playing inside his tent. I love that it’s roomy enough for me to go in and join him, or for several of his friends to hang out with him. Sometimes, we lounge together on the cushions and read books; sometimes, we play musical instruments or dance and kick our feet in the air; and sometimes, we pretend to “nap, mama, nap,” but every moment spent inside this tent is precious, and I feel so happy knowing how much he loves it and how proud he is to have his own special little nook! 🙂

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I’ve been wanting to make Zander a tent ever since I saw this adorable tent on Pinterest. I saw lots of other designs on Pinterest that I loved, as well, but because we will be moving soon, I really appreciate the fact that this one can be taken apart for storage and then reassembled with ease. I wanted Zander’s tent to be a little more enclosed than the one from Pinterest, so I sewed on a front and back and made a few other modifications, such as adding to the height and overall footprint. I also made a large duvet in a color-coordinated fabric (chocolate brown and blue, so it won’t show stains as easily) to cover the floor of the tent and make it feel more nest-like. Below are step-by-step instructions for how I did it. It was relatively inexpensive to make, and believe me, if I can make this tent, so can you!

MATERIALS NEEDED:
4 pieces of whitewood moulding (1″ x 2″ x 72″)
3 dowels (3/4″ x 48″)
drill with a 3/4″ spade bit (I borrowed one from a friend–thanks, Laura!)
sewing machine (again, borrowed from a friend–thanks, Andrea!)
measuring tape or ruler
marker or pencil
scissors
fabric

1. The pieces of whitewood moulding came in 8-f00t lengths at our hardware store, so I had them cut 2 feet off of each piece before bringing them home. Then I lined up the edges, measured 6 inches down on each one, and made a dot in the center with a marker so I’d know where to drill the holes.

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2. Using the drill with the 3/4″ spade bit, I drilled 4 holes. I then used my husband’s Dremel tool to sand the insides of each hole and smooth them out (but not too much, because you don’t want these to be loose around the dowels). As you can see, most of my holes are slightly off-center, but it doesn’t seem to have any impact on the stability of the tent.

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3. On the other end of the mouldings (which are at the bottom of the tent), I measured about 2 inches up and drilled holes, but I only drilled these halfway through. These holes are intended simply to hold the dowels in place that will stretch across the left and right sides of the tent and keep the walls from sagging.

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4. This is what the frame of the tent looks like once it’s fully assembled, but without the fabric added. All you do is push the dowels through the holes. It’s as simple as that!

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5. Here is a close-up of a bottom dowel inserted into one of the holes that was drilled halfway into the moulding.

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6. And here is a close-up of how the dowel runs through the holes on top.

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7. The next thing I did was hang some fabric over the frame and wrap it loosely around the bottom dowels so I would know approximately how much I needed to cut.

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8. I had originally planned to just use this one large piece, but when I draped it over the frame, it became immediately clear that I would need to cut it in half and sew it across the top unless I wanted the owls and trees to be right-side-up on one side and upside down on the other. If you are using a solid-colored fabric or one with a pattern that does not require this corrective measure, then (lucky you!) you won’t need to cut it in half and sew the pieces together at the top, and you can skip those steps.

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9. I then chose the angle at which I wanted the tent to stay in order to achieve the right height and footprint size, and I cut a piece of paper to create a pattern for that portion of the fabric.

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10. With the paper pattern taped in place, I held the fabric for the bottom half of this panel to be sure I had enough length and didn’t need to make the top triangular piece a little larger. As it turns out, I had the perfect amount of fabric to reach the floor after hemming. I cut the fabric for the front wall in half down the middle to create the opening, allowing a little extra fabric for hemming and a slight overlap at the top.

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11. After cutting the main piece of fabric in half, I lined it up so that the owls would be upright on both sides and then draped them over the frame again to secure the edges with straight pins before sewing.

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12. Here is a close up. (I later did the same thing with the rest of the pieces of fabric, pinning them all into place before I took it downstairs to sew the pieces together.)

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13. Then I used a marker to trace my paper pattern onto the fabric to be used for the triangular panels of my front and back walls.

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14. I drew the triangle about 1-2 inches larger on the fabric so there would be room to sew the edges to the side walls.

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14. I then spent about an hour reading the sewing machine manual and figuring out first, what a bobbin was; second, how to put my brown thread onto one and get the machine threaded; and third, how to use my friend’s machine to actually sew. After a bit of trial and error, I somehow managed to eyeball everything and get it all sewn together. Precision is clearly not all that important with this tent, because my fabric is far from precise, but it seems to work just fine anyway. It’s another reason I like the flexibility of this design; it allows for some wiggle room, whereas nailing, gluing, or stapling the frame together might not.

15. Once assembled, I put the fabric onto the frame. I realized while doing so that I would need to cut a hole in the top of each triangle in the front and back in order for the dowel to pass through, so I took the fabric back off the frame and cut a small hole, then sewed around the edges of the hole by hand to keep them from fraying.

16. I was originally planning to use velcro to secure the fabric at the bottom of the tent (back when I was toying with the idea of using wood glue to secure the dowels to the moulding rather than making the tent completely disassemblable–is that a word?), but I decided instead to just fold the edge under and sew a line straight across the bottom of each side leaving a little pocket that was big enough to slide a dowel through.

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17. Once the two bottom dowels were inserted into the fabric pockets, I pushed them into place in the bottom of each piece of moulding. Having the fabric secured in this way keeps the walls from sagging, prevents the frame from sliding around, and ensures a consistent shape and footprint. This might be good or bad, depending on what you are looking for. For example, it means you cannot expand the footprint of your tent by simply sliding the legs further out. However, it also means that your tent will not collapse on you if the legs accidentally slide out too far.

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18. Below is the finished tent, being inspected by one of our two cats.

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19. It must have passed with flying colors, as the cats now call this tent home, as well. Whenever Zander is not in the tent, one or both of them like to crawl in and have a little snooze on the cushions. 🙂

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20. Speaking of cushions, the final step was to make a duvet cover for the floor of the tent, using the blue and brown fabric pictured below. I really just eyeballed this by laying the fabric out inside the tent, folding it in half, then sewing two of the edges together. I hemmed the third edge and left it open (with strips of iron-on velcro to secure it) so that I could insert a foam pad or stack of blankets inside for padding. This system seems to be working well and made more sense for me than stuffing it with actual pillow filling and sewing it shut, because it will be easier to clean if/when Zander spills things on it.

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21. Here is the tent complete with the duvet in place.

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22. And here is a close up of the cushion.

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23. For the finishing touch to make it extra snuggly, I added a couple of large brown pillows.

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24. And finally, before returning Andrea’s sewing machine, I used the same fabric to make 3 window valances (using this amazing step-by-step how-to-guide) for my friend Megan’s art studio where our toddlers all hang out each week. I had never made valances before, but this guide made it incredibly simple and straightforward. I highly recommend it. 🙂

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25. Here is a close up of one of the valances. I am glad to be done sewing for a while, but thrilled with the outcome of these projects!

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About Kim McCoy

Kim McCoy is a passionate animal and environmental advocate with a B.S. in Business Administration from UT Knoxville and a J.D. specializing in Animal and Environmental Law. She graduated with honors from Lewis & Clark Law School, where she served as Editor in Chief of the internationally acclaimed Animal Law Review and interned with the National Center for Animal Law and the International Environmental Law Project. Kim is a member of MENSA (the “high IQ society”) and previously worked for Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in a variety of roles, including Executive Director, Director of Campaigns, and Director of Legal Affairs. Kim is also the former Executive Director of the One World One Ocean Foundation and the proud mother of a healthy, thriving son who has been vegan since conception. Currently serving as Executive Director of Big Life Foundation, which protects wildlife and wild lands in Eastern Africa, Kim remains deeply committed to the defense of animals worldwide.
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