Home » Guest Contributor Crystal » Collapsible Fabric Play Tent…for kids!

Collapsible Fabric Play Tent…for kids!

I can’t say enough “thank you’s” for all the sweet comments on my post last week about our newest baby, little Oliver!  Oh, how we adore him!  And we’re all adjusting really well… thanks for all the well wishes. This week, I have several things that I’ve been saving up to share with you (as well as some posts from some contributors), while I, ahem, snuggle little Oliver to pieces! :)
And first up……..this great Play Tent tutorial by Stitched by Crystal.  She noticed that many of you wanted to see it and voted on it a month or so ago, but it didn’t win the final vote.  So……she went ahead and tackled her own version.  And I LOVE IT!!!!  It’s absolutely perfect for inside play, outside play, a reading nook, tea-party time, anything…….and it stores away beautifully!  
. . . . .
Hello again Make It & Love It readers — it’s Crystal again from Stitched by Crystal!  I am so excited to be here today to share my tutorial for a DIY play tent with you!  
What kid doesn’t love playing with forts?
This little tent is a step up from the sheet thrown over the dining room table and it makes a perfect spot to read, nap, or pretend.  
It can be assembled in minutes and it will provide hours of fun for the kiddos!  When the kids are done playing, it will fold flat and can be set aside or the whole tent breaks down quickly and it can be easily stored away. 
Traveling somewhere?  Once broken down, this tent takes up very little space — so take it along with you!  I am planning to take this one on our beach vacation next month.  It will make a perfect shady spot on the beach for my kids.
The tent is a simple A-frame, made from some wooden 1” x 2” boards and wooden dowels.  Not handy with power tools? Don’t worry! You can have the folks at the hardware store cut your wood and the only power tool needed for this project is a drill.
Set the tent up inside on rainy days or it could be a fun spot for backyard adventures on sunny summer days.  (The tent probably won’t weather too well so make sure you bring it indoors when the kids are done.)



Do your kids need a play tent too? Let’s make one!  


To make this tent you will need:
  • 5 yards of fabric.  (I picked up a Queen sheet set for $1 at a thrift store and had more than enough fabric for my tent.)
  • Four 1″ x 2″ boards that are 4 feet long (They sell these in 8 foot boards at the hardware store so you can buy 2 of them and have them cut in half at the store.)
  • 14 yards of ribbon (or bias tape) cut into 16 pieces, that are 30 inches long each.
  • Three 4 foot long wooden dowels that are 1/2″ in diameter.
  • A drill with a 1/2″ drill bit.
  • Sewing machine and basic sewing supplies
The construction of this tent is pretty simple but you are working with a LOT of fabric, which can get frustrating.  This isn’t a project you can do in one nap time.  I sew pretty fast and it took me a little over 3 hours of uninterrupted sewing time to get this tent done. This tutorial has some diagrams to help illustrate the steps.  In all the diagrams, the pink color is the right side of the fabric, the grey is the wrong side of the fabric and the blue color is for the ties.


a collapsible frame fabric play tent (
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Start by preparing your A frame.  On all of your 1″ x 2″ boards, mark 2 inches from the ends in the center of the board and drill a 1/2″ hole in both ends of all four boards.  (I found wood stain in my garage and put a coat of stain and two coats of varnish on my wood boards and dowels, but that is not necessary.)


From your fabric, cut one large rectangle that is 96 inches long and 45 inches wide. (If you buy fabric that is only 44 inches wide, it will work fine; just use all of the fabric from selvage to selvage, you won’t miss that inch in your finished tent.) My sheet wasn’t quite long enough to cut 96” from, so instead, I cut 2 pieces that were 48.5 inches long and 45 inches wide and sewed them together with a ½ inch seam allowance.  


Also cut 2 rectangles that are 29″ wide and 38″ long.  On one of the rectangles, measure 3 inches over from the top left corner and 3 inches over from the lower right hand corner and cut a diagonal line between those points.  Do the exact opposite with the other rectangle, so that you end up with two sets of mirror image triangles.  You should now have 4 pieces with an angled side, which will be the front and back of the tent.  (Even though they aren’t truly triangles, I will refer to these pieces as the “triangle pieces” throughout this tutorial.)


Hem the top and bottom of all of your 4 triangle pieces by folding the raw edge ½ inch towards the wrong side of the fabric, then folding another ½ inch towards the wrong side and then top-stitching along the folded edge.


a collapsible frame fabric play tent (
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If you are using bias tape for your ties, sew the bias tape along the open side.  Tie knots in both ends of all of your ribbon or bias tape pieces to prevent fraying.


a collapsible frame fabric play tent (
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Find the center of the large rectangle piece of fabric, then mark 9 inches from the center, 23 inches from the center, and 36 inches from the center on all sides. Fold your ties in half and baste them to the right side of your rectangle at those marks.


Pin your triangle pieces to the edge of your rectangle with angled edge along the edge of the rectangle.  Place the short side of the triangle piece 1.5 inches from your center mark.  Your ties should be sandwiched between rectangle and triangle pieces and the pieces should be right sides together.  Sew the triangles in place with a 1 inch seam allowance.


Press the seam allowance towards the rectangle piece; also press the end of the rectangle piece and the small section between the triangles over 1 inch towards the wrong side of the rectangle.  Then you are going to create a flat felled seam to give a durable and clean looking finish to the tent.  To do this, fold 1/2 inch of the seam allowance in, tucking the raw edge under the seam allowance.  Press the seam and top-stitch along the folded edge.


The last 4 ties go on the inside of the tent to create tiebacks for your kids to tie the door open.  Place the center of the tie on top of the seam where the rectangle and triangles meet on the inside of the tent, position it about 2 inches below where the middle tie is attached on the outside.  Top-stitch the tie in place.  To use the tiebacks on the finished tent, you will simply push the tent door to the side and tie the tieback around the side of the tent frame.  


Create a casing at both ends of the rectangle.  Fold the raw edge 1/2 inch towards the wrong side of the fabric and press, then fold another 2.5 inches towards the wrong side of the fabric and top-stitch along the folded edge.


Fold the tent in half along the center of the rectangle.  Line up the raw angled edges of the triangles and sew from the top of the short end down 9 inches with a 1″ seam allowance.  Back stitch at the 9 inch mark.


a collapsible frame fabric play tent (
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Press the seam open and continue to press the raw edge below the seam, 1 inch towards the wrong side of the fabric.  Finish the edge by tucking the raw edge under 1/2 inch and top-stitching along the folded edge.
a collapsible frame fabric play tent (
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The stitching at top of the tent doors will get a lot of tugging from little ones going in and out.  We are going to reinforce that spot with a little strip of fabric to keep the seam from ripping open.
Cut a rectangle that is 6 inches by 3 inches.  Fold the 6 inch sides in towards the wrong side of the fabric so they meet in the middle of the rectangle.  Then fold the raw edges on the ends in 1/2 inch.


a collapsible frame fabric play tent (
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Center the strip over the seam and pin it just above the opening.
a collapsible frame fabric play tent (
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Top-stitch all the way around the strip.
a collapsible frame fabric play tent (
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The tent is done!
Check out the photos below for instructions on assembling your tent!
a collapsible frame fabric play tent (
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I just know your kids will squeal with delight when they see what you have made!  Now set up your tent and start making fun summer memories with your kids!
a collapsible frame fabric play tent (
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Thanks for reading! Swing by my blog sometime and check out some of my other fun tutorials!
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Check out Crystal’s blog here.  Her darling shop here.  And her Pinterest page here.
Isn’t it great to create something that helps our kids use their imaginations? Here are a few more tutorials to help them keep up their creative play!
DIY Toy Fishing Pole (that actually reels in) with Magnetic Fabric Fish --- Make It and Love It
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DIY Take-Along Chalk Mat...for kids!! --- Make It and Love It
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magnetic pattern blocks-002
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  1. Þòr says:

    1. Regarding the tent opening apart too far, you can drill holes near the top and tie some clothesline or similar cord across to max opening width.
    2. I used 1 x 3 inch boards a little wider and a 1 1/4″ dowel for the top. It added more cost (due to the dowel)
    3. I extended the “tops” of the wood V so that that I had room to cut a decorative head stock like a viking tent. I then wood burned some nice designs.

  2. Lynn says:

    Worried about it opening too far apart and flattening the kids LOL. I picture adding 4 corner ties to an old blanket to make a floor to the tent, with the 4 legs tied to the rug, so the legs can’t spread out any further than the blanket.

    Regarding the legs falling off the top dowel, I imagine some of those super spring clips from the hardware store would hold it, or something else really easy to rig.

    The worst that could happen here is a bonk on the head, don’t you think? This is not architecture. If you don’t like it, make it your way. Very adorable project.

  3. Kristen says:

    Hi, I’m making this tent currently and directions are pretty easy. I opted to serge the seams where it made sense which made it go by much faster! The most time-consuming task, I found, was making the 16 ties, no joke.

    1. Carla says:

      Make two long ties then cut them the length you need instead of making 16 individual ties.
      I made about a hundred tepees years ago this tent idea is awesome to make a different type for the boys versus girls ideas. thanks!

  4. Kristen says:

    I love this idea but I’m not able to print from this webpage. Can you add a print button?

  5. Marcia says:

    This is extremely wobbly. It needs some sort of a brace or it will fall over. Pinterest fail :(

  6. Lei says:

    do you make these and sell them?

  7. amy says:

    I’m planning on making a tent for my daughter to use indoors. Love your instructions but not sure I can follow the sewing directions. They are great, but I’m a bit dull when it comes to sewing. I too would love a video should you ever make one. Thanks for such a cute tutorial.

  8. Peggy says:

    i made a tent for my grandson following your pattern. I can not get the triangular flaps to hang straight. They hang at an angle with the tips, inner sides that meet in the middle of the opening, dragging several inches on the floor. Have any idea what I did wrong? I am an experienced sewer and baffled why this is not closing with the triangular pieces even and straight with the sides.
    Thanks, Peggy

    1. Abigail says:

      Peggy, It sounds like you did what I did wrong…you sewed the wrong side of the triangle panel on. You need to switch the panels (from right to left and left to right side) and sew the opposite side of the triangle (the other straight side).

  9. Natalie says:

    Made this for my two kiddos ages 3 and almost 2. Instructions were easy to follow even for a rank beginner seamstress like myself. Toughest part was wrangling such a large piece of fabric. Thanks for a great tutorial!

  10. HW says:

    I made this for my two boys, ages almost 5 and 2 years old, and they love it. The tutorial was well-done and easy to follow. They love having the flaps for doors and being able to tie them open or leave them closed. Thanks for a wonderful tutorial and idea!!!

  11. Audra Iona says:

    The flap instructions need to be modified. If you cut them as shown you have 2 sets of right hand side flaps. Fortunately, I was able to turn the miss cut material into a pillow. Twill tape works better than double-fold bias tape.

  12. Sara says:

    Thanks for the great instructions. In the big panel, I used one fabric for 72 inches of it and 12 inches on either end to add a different color. I also added about 1 inch to all the measurements so I could put a clean hem along all the lines. My nephews will love this!

  13. Carrie says:

    I have made two so far and they turned out really well! Thank you for the clear and accurate directions :-) I also tried a more “simple” version from someone else and it was a disaster, haha.

  14. olivia says:

    Hi, I am in progress with making an A frame tent for my son, and a friend for Christmas. The problem we are running into is the dowel slips right out of the top part causing a collapse. We used the 3/4’s dowels and a 3/4s bit. However snug the fit it relaxes just enough to slip off if the kids bump it just right (we were testing out the stability). Have you had this issue and what solution did you come up with?



  15. Mar says:

    I just made this for my 2 yr old daughter.
    I used a light pink duck cloth so it was nice and strudy. This pattern was so easy to follow and gave clear instuction.
    I’m an intermediate sewer and it took me several hours to complete. But, it was worth it! I adore it and so will my daughter!
    Thank you for the tutorial!

  16. Amanda says:

    I’m very new to the sewing machine and am in the process of making this for my niece…although I’m struggling lol. Have you thought of doing a video tutorial. I currently have all the cut pieces but I do believe I messed up on the triangle pieces as well :(

  17. Adrienne says:

    I’m in the process of making this, but I can’t get the doors right. One side shows the right side of the fabric and the other side shows the wrong side. In looking at the cutting directions, all 4 triangles are exactly the same instead of having mirror images. It seems that the instructions don’t work for fabric with a pattern on it. :(. Any suggestions?

    1. Jamie says:

      I am having the same problem!! I’m stumped, will be trying to fix it this afternoon. I’ll post back if I have any suggestions.

    2. Adrienne says:

      I figured it out. You need to cut the second set of triangles in the opposite direction. Then they will be mirror images. It would be helpful if this were explained in the directions. Unfortunately I have no more fabric, so I can’t cut a new one. :(

    3. Crystal says:

      I am so sorry about that! The rectangles need to be cut opposite for the mirror image triangles. I am going to update the instructions, so so sorry!!

  18. May says:

    Hello, I made one but the wood keeps coming apart from the dowel?? It was hard to get the dowel through the holes… But once I have it up it moves away from the dowel… And then came off while I’m trying to screw the two bottom dowel…?

    1. HW says:

      My husband was thinking of using a cotter (sp?) pin on the end of the dowel to keep the wood from moving too far out of place.

    2. jolene says:

      I had so much fun making this tent! Thank you for the tutorial. After a little brain storming session, we came up with the idea of using a 3/4 in PVC pipe, cutting it into 1/2 in pieces, drilling a hole through the side and sliding them over the 5/8 in dowels in front of the wood then securing them using a small screw. This takes care of the issue and is very low cost. Hope this helps.

  19. Cindi says:

    Awesome! I have a card table tent for the grandsons (I have them 12 hrs a day lol) in the house. But I bet they would like something like this outside! Of “girly” material allowed rofl..

  20. Jackie says:

    I love it! I have been eyeing these play tents but hadn’t had time to search for a tutorial. I love this one. Thank you so much for doing this.

  21. LauraRose says:

    I’m not a super sew-er but I think I could even follow these awesome directions. Does the fabric itself stop the whole thing from collapsing flat down on the heads of the kids? I don’t see anything to the wood construction that would stop the bottoms spreading out if they got pushed from the inside.

    1. Crystal says:

      Thanks LauraRose! Yes, the fabric keeps the tent from collapsing, since it is sewn above the door, it can’t open any wider. You could add 2 more 1 X 2’s across the bottom in the front and back if you wanted it to be a bit sturdier, but this way holds up well with my 2 kiddos!

  22. Jess says:

    Cool tent!

  23. Anne says:

    Awesome!! I’ve got a Craft Gossip post that links to your tutorial here:

    1. Crystal says:

      Thanks Anne! I love it when you link my projects :)

  24. Paula says:

    Thanks for the great idea and instructions! It seems quite affordable to make, and easy to manage and store I’m thinking it would be a little more weather resistant if made with nylon fabric or lighter weight tarp material.

    1. Crystal says:

      It is really affordable, especially if you go the thrifted sheet set route. All my supplies cost under $15! The nylon is a great idea too!

  25. Linda T says:

    This is a great tent! The directions are amazingly easy to follow. Thank you so much. My 2 yr class will love it.

    1. Crystal says:

      I am sure the tent will be a hit in your 2 year old class!

  26. Patricia says:

    This is so cute. My grandson is only 10 months and will love it. Going to make it soon!
    Thank you for the instructions!

    1. Crystal says:

      Oh, a 10 month old would have a ball with this! Thanks Patricia!

  27. Cherish says:

    I have a photography prop Etsy shop. Can I make these and add them to my shop??

    1. Crystal says:

      I am so glad you love the tent Cherish! If you do want to make and sell them, I would prefer if your put your own spin on it somehow.

    2. Cherish says:

      Not a problem!! I will put my own creative touch to it! Thank You!!

    3. Anonymous says:

      You could use velco strapping and put a window in by using clear plastic “fabric” and/or zipper openings.

  28. Sarah says:

    Love this! I’ve been wanting to make something like this for a while now but haven’t been able to find clear instructions anywhere. This is great. Thanks so much.

    1. Crystal says:

      Thanks Sarah! I am glad I could help, the tent really comes together easy once you get through the cutting of 5 yards of fabric!

  29. Sharlyn says:

    So cute! My kids are tween to teens, so I will be saving this idea for future grand children * gasp! * ;-)

    1. Crystal says:

      Thanks Sharlyn! I am sure your future grandchildren will love a tent :)

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Hi, I’m Ashley—the DIY-enthusiast behind this crazy blog!

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