A Handmade Gift
I decided that my only handmade gift for Christmas 2015 was to be a tepee for my daughters. They love making dens, but usually under the dining table which almost always results in bumped heads. I did think about sewing one for them for Christmas 2014, but I don’t think Phoebe would have been interested back then!
There are tepee tutorials all over Pinterest, but I went with one that was featured in Simply Sewing magazine. To be honest, I wish I hadn’t bothered, I could have drafted a better one myself. Which is annoying as this literally was just a tutorial so I had to draw all of the pattern pieces myself anyway!
The tutorial calls for 6 metre of fabric, so I went and bought this lovely bright one from IKEA:
A bargain at £4 per metre and hard wearing too, perfect for a project like this 🙂
Too Many Scraps!
There seem to be a glut of people selling children’s tepees on Facebook over the past 2 years, and most have a square base and four sides. The pattern I used was six-sided so I figured this would make it roomier for the girls. The tutorial called for 6 metres of fabric, which I didn’t question, but it only used approximately 5 metres and the amount of large scraps left over are ridiculous.
Of course, I knew there were going to be scraps because of the shape of each panel, but I could sew another not-much-smaller tepee (maybe for the cat?) with the amount of fabric I have left. Maybe I should make a bean bag out of the scraps, but that’s something for another time. So, my first annoyance with this project was having a load of leftover fabric. I’m just glad it wasn’t expensive fabric!
The tutorial had instructions for adding a circular window from PVC. I omitted the window for two reasons. Firstly, time, as I finally got around to sewing this two nights before Christmas. Secondly, I knew the girls would like it to be darker to play with the projector torches we’d bought them. I figured not putting a window would save a bit of time and make it easier. I was only partially right; it was easier but it still took a while.
Sewing a Tepee
I didn’t like the tutorials way of sewing it together and then adding the channels for the canes on the outside of the tepee afterwards. It seemed time-consuming and fiddly. At least in a sleep-deprived state. Without changing the shape or size of the finished thing, I decided to use French seams. Then I left enough space for the canes to slide in from the top.
I sat down to sew and realised I’d made a mistake: I hadn’t bought any white thread! Typical. So I used the white thread I had left on the bobbin and bright orange for topstitching. It went nicely with the fabric so I can pretend I meant to do that!
The sewing of this was straight forward, it just took a while sewing every seam twice. Of course, as the panels were being added on, the whole thing was getting heavier and more unmanageable. My new Juki was meant to come with an extension table, which would have made this easier, but I’m waiting for it to be delivered. Aside from the general unwieldy-ness of the whole thing, the Juki sewed it with no problems. I even embroidered a little tag to go on the inside of one of the doors. I know, it’s a little messy.
Not A Happy Ending
Finally it was all sewn together. I was exhausted, it was 1am. We slid the canes in, and boom! To be honest I almost cried from frustration. The bloody thing was so heavy and the gaps at the top were so big (as per the tutorial) that it started to slide down the canes.
Arranging the canes so it would stand properly was a nightmare. There was no help for that in tutorial either. Whenever I sew something and it doesn’t meet my expectations, I automatically assume it’s my fault. Always. But you know, this time I’m not taking the blame.
I looked again at the photo in the magazine and realised that the top of theirs didn’t look right either. (By “right” I mean the canes look like they’re collapsing in on each other.) I’d also bet that if they’d taken a photo of the sides or back of theirs the fabric would be all scrunched up near the bottom like mine. To make the fabric taut we ended up using pegs to pull the fabric in behind the canes at the top. Not exactly what I had pictured in my head, but I’d given up at this point.
You can see what I mean about the massive gap at the top here. The problem with letting the canes kind of slump together (like in the tutorial photo) is that it makes the space inside the tepee smaller. Argh. Since Christmas, we’ve figured out doing some complicated tying with string helps.
Never Sew A Gift On Christmas Eve!
You know when you’ve put lots of effort into something but just feel underwhelmed at the result? That. I absolutely will revisit this and adjust it so it’s how I imagined it, but I could have saved myself a lot of time, wasted fabric and stress if I’d gone with four-sided tepee and self-drafted it. I guess that’s the problem with sewing something like this, you don’t get to make a muslin like you would with clothing, you almost go in blind and just trust that the pattern or tutorial is spot on. Sigh. Anyway, here it is, in all its “glory”:
Still Worth It
All annoyances aside, I am pleased to report that the girls loved their tepee. That kind of makes my stress melt away, just watching them have fun in there together. On Christmas morning they lined up all their new cuddly toys inside, including a pretty awesome R2D2 and C3P0 from my brother, and sat watching Christmas films with some snacks. The cat is a big fan too, and jumped inside every chance he got! Their enjoyment makes it all worthwhile 🙂