Let me preface this post with this; going into most DIY projects I think “This shouldn’t be too hard” and then it ends up being a beast that I can not conquer and it sits 90% finished in our office/craft room closet for years. With this DIY Doll House Tent I went into the project not expecting great results but promising myself that I would finish it because it was July 26th and Elise’s birthday was July 28th and I refused to pay $85 on an American Girl Doll Tent that had previously been listed at $35. I was surprised how quickly it all went together.
So yes, this one time I would say that this DIY project is easier to make than it looks. So go for it!
- Fabric for base. 20″x20″(I used duck cloth. It is cheap and sturdy and cleanable)
- fabric for tent pole loops: I used the same as the base so I just bought extra of the base fabric. 1 yard is enough for the base and the loops.
- Tent fabric: 2.5 yards There will be extra but you will need this much if you have a patterned fabric and want the pattern to go all the same direction. I had a solid fabric so I used a little less yardage. I also used duck cloth for the tent walls for the same reasons as above.
- contrasting fabric for window curtains: 1/4 yard
- ribbon: I spool of gross grain ribbon was enough
- tent poles: 3/8 pex tubing found in plumbing department
- tulle for window screens: 1/4 yard of sturdiest tulle you can find
- tacky glue
- sport/coat zipper 14 inch
- sewing machine
First I cut the base. I wanted it big enough for two dolls and for any future AG dolls. Right now Elise has a set of the BItty Twins which are 15 inches tall but the bigger dolls are 18 inches tall so the base of the tent is cut to a 20 inch square. That gave me a 1/2 inch all the way around for seam allowance and room for error. I figured a 20 inch tent would be big enough for the taller dolls and their sleeping bags.
I designed this tent so that there were two windows on opposite sides, the door had a 14 inch zipper and the wall opposite of the door was solid. I felt like one wall needed to be solid in order to keep the tent more sturdy.
It wasn’t until the entire tent was sewn together that Tim pointed out that the zipper was in upside down. Because of that I will skip any photo pics of how I put it together because I did it wrong, you don’t want to mimic me doing it wrong!
Back to the tutorial. Your tent poles need to go somewhere and even though it would have been easiest to just sew a long hem along the inside of the tent to snake the poles through (think curtain rod but on inside of tent) I opted for tent pole tabs so it looked more like a real pop up tent and to give the tent poles a little more room to flex.
And this is where my photo taking stopped. I know. I suck. I was running out of time and everything was going easier than planned and I just got excited and forgot to take photos of every step. I will do my best to describe what I did to finish off the tent with a few photos I have.
I made 4 more tabs but this time I sewed them so they would be the “pocket” that the end of the tent poles would sit in.
Next is sewing the four walls together. Pin your pole tabs evenly spaced along the edges of the tent walls. Pin you bottom pole pocket in place. Sew together. This will be used as the top tie support. Do this for every wall taking care to piece the walls together in the correct order so you don’t have two windows walls bordering each other. Ripping seams out is my least favorite thing. It completely derails all momentum and makes me want to quit and abandon my projects.
Note: on one of the seams you need to pin a piece of ribbon folded in half to the peak of the tent. This will be used as the top tie support. (finished tie on top)
When all four walls are sewn together you can then sew the base to the walls.
Start about 6 to 7 inches from the zipper and work your way around all three walls and then finish by only sewing 3 to 4 inches on the other side of the zipper. You need room for the zipper door flaps to open but you also need to secure the wall in place.
*note: If i were to do this again I would have hemmed the front of the base piece of the tent so there wasn’t a raw edge at the zipper opening. I will have to sneak the tent away from Elise now and do something to stop the fraying.
As recommended by another DIY doll tent maker I bought this for the poles.
I did not have good luck. It stood but didn’t hold it shape well at all. It barely stood up to the cat so I knew it wouldn’t hold up to our 4-year-old camping with her dolls.
I went back to Menards, this time with Tim and we picked up two 5′ Pex tubing. We used the 3/8 inch and it works great!
Feed the tent poles through the tabs and trim to the correct length.
I wrapped my tent poles in a fun duct tape to cover up the terracotta color. It took 2 roles of that duct tape to wrap the poles.
Tim feeding the new taped up poles through the pole tabs.
Tie the top ribbon in place and you have a tent!
With any luck, you’ll have a tent and a very happy kiddo. The boys love the tent just as much as Elise!
Sleeping bag tutorial coming soon.
More photos of the process here.