DIY Custom Teepee

I know, I know. Somebody alert the internet: a blogger has made... wait for it... a teepee. I know what you're thinking: I've never seen anything like that on Pinterest before...

But, I really don't care that the teepee trend has been done and done again; after seeing a bunch of toddlers go crazy over one at a very cool friend's house a few weeks ago (like seriously, her whole house could be a Pinterest page), I decided to try my hand at DIYing one of my own. Now we're not nearly as cool as they are, but at the very least I figured it would give us something new to play with while we wait for this frigid winter to end (and give me a new project to work on).

I'm really happy with how it turned out. It feels tidy and well-made, since all the seams are enclosed. I made it over a weekend, during naptimes and after bedtime one evening, so it's a relatively quick project. And inexpensive, too - I think it cost about $50 total when all was said and done. Not too shabby, especially compared to the $150+ that a custom made one goes for on Etsy. That said, I happened to luck out and find some incredibly cheap khaki fabric at Fabricland ($3/metre) - it would have cost more had my fabric been more expensive. Other tutorials call for using canvas drop cloth from Home Depot (which cost about $27 each), so that would probably be a good option if you can't find inexpensive fabric.

I found about a million tutorials and blog posts for making slightly different variations of the classic teepee, but in the end I decided to base mine on this tutorial from My Poppet. I'm sure the bright Australian sunshine in the photos subconsciously helped my decision. (Can you tell it's been a long winter here in Ontario?) I also got some useful tips from Strawberry Swing and Things', who also used My Poppet's tutorial to sew her teepee. So check out those sites for a more in-depth, step-by-step tutorial, but here's a quick how-to based on what I did (including my modifications to their pattern):


  • Five wooden dowels 5/8" diameter x 6' long (we bought ours at Rona for $3.99 each)
  • At least 3 1/4 yards (or 2 m) of canvas or medium weight fabric (I used some sort of sport weight khaki on clearance at Fabricland). You'll need a bit more if you want to use scraps of canvas for the door front (3 1/2 yards should do).
  • Approx. one metre of quilting cotton for decorative doorway panel (I used three fat quarters and a 1/4 metre cut of Cotton + Steel)
  • One package of wide double fold bias binding
  • Ribbon for door ties (or you can just use leftover bias binding)

  • The teepee is made up of five triangular panels. I cut four panels out of khaki fabric, and then pieced together the fifth panel (the one with the door) using four fat quarters and a scrap piece of khaki.
  • If your main teepee fabric is 45"- 60" wide, you can get away with only buying 3 1/4 yards, or 2 metres of fabric. Using the cutting diagram below, you'll have two whole panels (cut on the fold) and two panels that will have to be sewn together down the middle (four pieces cut out). 


Start by sewing the four half-panel pieces together in pairs to make two complete panels. I added a 3/4" seam allowance to each of the half pieces (as you can see in the cutting diagram above). Sew them together using a French seam so that there are no raw edges visible. If you've never done one, here's a good French seam video tutorial. First, place the two halves wrong sides together and sew along the straight side with a 1/4" seam allowance. Press seam open (it doesn't have to be perfect), then fold over along the seam so that the right sides are together. Sew along the same edge with a 3/8" seam allowance, so that the raw edges are encased within the seam allowance. Then, press the French seam to one side and sew it down flat to the panel close to the edge of the seam allowance. This gives it a nice, tidy finish on both sides.

Then piece together the front panel using quilting cotton or other decorative fabric (and I used a scrap of khaki at the top). I laid out my fabric pieces on top of one of the side panels to make sure that when pieced together it would be big enough. 

Then, I sewed the pieces together, again using French seams so there weren't any raw edges inside the teepee. I didn't sew the blue floral and yellow pieces together side by side, because I knew I'd be cutting a slit up the centre for a door anyway. So I overlapped the two pieces by about an inch exactly in the centre (I used the crease in the panel I was using below them for sizing to determine the exact centre) and pinned them together, treating them like one piece of fabric when I sewed the navy below and red above. (I hope that make sense?)

Once the pieces were all sewn together and pressed, I laid a side panel on top and traced it, then cut it out along the lines using my rotary cutter and acrylic ruler. 

I didn't take any photos of the next steps, but they are clearly described in Strawberry Swing and Things' teepee tutorial if you need to see pictures (it helps!). But in the interest of completeness, I'll describe quickly what I did here.

Next is to cut the door slit in the door panel. I used my rotary cutter to cut a slit in the centre of the panel up 38" from the bottom. I then attached the bias binding along the edges of the door opening (up one side, around the corner at the top, then down to the bottom).

Once the door panel is finished, it's time to sew all the panels together. It's done basically using big French seams to make sleeves for the poles that are finished on the inside. First, sew the panels wrong sides together with a scant 1/2" seam allowance. 

Then hem the top of the teepee by folding the edge under 1/2" (toward the outside of the teepee) and then another 1/2" so that the raw edge is folded under. Sew.

Turn the whole thing inside out, and then sew 1 1/4" away from each seam as though you are sewing a French seam. This will create an open sleeve at each seam which will hold a pole. Before you sew the sleeves on either side of the door panel, pin two 16" pieces of ribbon about half way up the door opening. Tuck the end of one inside the sleeve seam, and lay the other on top of where the seam will be sewn, so that the seam will catch the ribbon and attach them at the same point. One will be inside the teepee, and one will be on the outside, and they can be used to tie back the door.

When all the sleeves are sewn, double fold hem the base of the teepee as you did the top, closing up the bottom of each sleeve. It's a bit awkward, but I found that pressing, pinning and tucking the excess fabric at each sleeve made the job easier and neater.

Drill holes in the dowels approximately 10" from the top. Slide a dowel down into each of the sleeves in the cover. Thread the twine or string through the holes, and bring the tops together, wrapping the twine around the dowels and tying in a secure knot once you've spread the dowels out to your satisfaction. 

If you've followed all of those steps, you now have a seriously hip teepee, just like us! It's so far become a cozy place to curl up and read, a dark place for dolls to nap, and a favourite hiding place. And once all this snow melts, I can't wait to bring it out to the backyard for picnics and play camping. But for now, we'll have to curl up in it and dream about spring.

Quilted Easter Basket Tutorial

I've been making these cute little baskets for years. They're quick and make great gifts - fill with little books or craft supplies for a birthday gift, use Christmas fabric for the holidays, or leave them out for the Bunny to fill with chocolate and other goodies at Easter!

Funny enough, as often happens with these things, my own kids have yet to receive their own baskets... I've made about ten of these as gifts or for special orders, while my daughter is the proud owner of one of my first "experimental" versions (which is kind of ugly and floppy because I was trying to figure out the best kind of interfacing to use). What is it they say about the shoemaker's children going barefoot? I haven't even gotten around to making my youngest daughter her baby quilt yet, but that's a whole other can of second child guilt for another time. So, let's talk baskets.

The construction of this simple basket is based on this tutorial from Pink Penguin. I modified the pattern to make the finished basket a bit bigger and to use patchwork strips as opposed to squares, which makes it easier to add a monogram.

Every time I go to make one, I have to search for my scrawled notes, so I decided to post it here mostly so that I'll remember how for next time. I'll show you what I did differently, and then refer you to the other tutorial to finish off constructing the basket - she really explains things so well, there's no point in me duplicating it!

The finished basket measures approximately 4" x 6" wide, and 4" tall.


For body of basket:

Five 2.5" x 8" coordinating strips for patchwork basket sides
Base fabric (solid grey, in my case): one 6.5" x 10.5" rectangle
Lining fabric (light blue, in my case): one 10.5" x 13.5" rectangle
Batting and heavyweight interfacing: cut a piece of each slightly larger than the lining piece

For handles:

One 2.25" x 16" strip from base fabric and a coordinating print (one from each)


Using a 1/4" seam allowance, sew the five 2.5" x 8" strips together width-wise. Press seams to one side. Square up and trim the length so that the finished piece measures 7.5" wide (it should be approx. 10.5" long).

Slice the piece down the middle, so that you have two identical pieces each measuring 10.5" x 3.75".

Now is the time to applique your monogram on to the centre strip of one side of the basket. I ironed a scrap of Heat'N'Bond Featherlite to a roughly 1" x 2" scrap of fabric, then drew and cut out the letter. I then ironed it on right in the middle of the strip and finished it off with a zig zag stitch around the outside of the letter.

Sew the patchwork strips to each side of the base rectangle, being careful to align the letter right side up (with the base of the letter close to the base of the basket). Also make sure to flip one of the patchwork strips so that the fabrics are opposite one another (see how I have orange at the top of one side and at the bottom of the other?). This way, once the basket is assembled, the colours will alternate rather than repeat on the ends. (You'll see what I mean once the basket is put together.)

Layer the outer basket piece, batting, and heavyweight interfacing. 

Using your walking foot, topstitch along the edges of the base just below the patchwork on either side. Then, quilt as desired along the sides. I used my walking foot to add a few wavy and diagonal lines.

Trim the edges and square up the finished outer basket piece.

Then, follow the steps in Pink Penguin's basket tutorial for finishing your basket, noting the following exceptions:

  • If using my dimensions, sew the seam for the box corners 2" from the pointy edge (rather than 1 3/4", as she does). 
  • I've found it works best to cut the lining piece down to 1/4" smaller in each dimension than your outer basket piece before assembling it. E.g., if your finished outer piece measures 10.5" x 13.5", trim your lining to 10.25" x 13.25". This way it won't be baggy inside your basket.
  • I sewed my handles as one piece and then just cut it in half to make two (she sews both separately). 
Fill your finished basket with delicious things and enjoy! 

And please, make some nice ones for your own kids before you go giving them all away to the neighbours. Or, if you must give them away... at least take some cute pictures to show me first.

Fireworks Quilt "No Waste" Piecing Tutorial

I've been hoarding a fat quarter bundle of Wee Wander fabric for my daughter's "big girl bed" quilt for almost a year. Have you ever had fabric that was almost too pretty to cut into? (You're reading a quilt blog. Of course you have.) Wee Wander is one of those lines that is that pretty. Wild horses, blossoms, children exploring, fireflies... it really doesn't get much more adorable. It's such perfect fabric that I was petrified to cut into it until I had just the right pattern.

After months of searching, I finally settled on the Fireworks pattern by Thimble Blossoms. I love their patterns, and this one had everything I wanted: vintage-modern style, lots of white to make the bright colours pop, and blocks big enough to show off fussy cuts of the whimsical illustrations by Sarah Jane.

However once I read through the pattern, I started to panic when I saw the amount of fabric that would be wasted if I followed the cutting and sewing instructions exactly. My treasured Wee Wander! I couldn't bear to waste even the tiniest bit of it (regardless of the fact that scraps are always put to good use around here). There had to be a better way.

A quick Google search told me I wasn't the first quilter to think so. I came across two great tutorials by Two Feet First for parts of the Fireworks block: No Waste Flying Geese and No Waste Long Half Triangles. I used them both, and then figured out my own "no waste" method for piecing the remaining part of the block.

(Edited to add: I changed the "No Waste Long Half Triangles" method a bit by cutting my pieces 1/4" longer than she calls for - I cut the white piece 7.25" x 2.5" and the print 3.25" x 2.5". This way you get a full 1/4" seam allowance when you cut the pieces apart. You'll see what I mean if you read it.)

Using these three tutorials, along with the Fireworks Quilt pattern, you will be able to make a beautiful Fireworks quilt a bit more quickly and using less of your precious fabric than the pattern calls for!

Fireworks Quilt "No Waste" Corner Block Tutorial

This method makes the four "corner blocks" required for one Fireworks quilt block.  (I've outlined what I mean by "corner block" in the bottom right of the block pictured above.)


From "accent" fabric (pink, in my case): Two 4.5" x 5.25" rectangles
From white fabric: Four 2.5" x 3.25" rectangles
From "main" fabric (green, in my case): Four 2.5" x 2.5" squares

(Please ignore the four smaller white squares beside the pink pieces in the photo. They are for another part of the block, and I forgot to move them!)


Start by chain-piecing the 4 main-coloured squares onto each of the 4 white rectangles, right sides together, matching the 2.5" sides. Press seams open.

Arrange the pieces in two sets of two as shown below, with the coloured squares at opposite ends from one another. Place RST and sew each set together. Press seams open. You will have two rectangles that look like this (but sewn together in the middle):

On the wrong side of each piece, use your clear ruler to draw two lines. Align your ruler through one corner of the rectangle, right next to the corner of the coloured square, and 0.5" from the opposite corner, as pictured below, and draw a line using a pencil or water soluble marker.

Repeat to draw the second line 0.5" away from the first, through the other corner of the rectangle and passing just beside the corner of the other coloured square. You should now have two blocks that look like this:

With right sides together, lay this block on top of the "accent" fabric rectangle. They should be exactly the same size (which is why you can't see it in this picture). 

Sew a seam along each of the lines you've drawn. 

Then, line up your clear ruler in between the two lines, leaving a 1/4" seam allowance on either side.

Cut using your rotary cutter, and press seams open.

Repeat with the other set of blocks, and you will have made four corner blocks - with no waste!

I hope this is helpful to someone else! Please feel free to comment or email if you have questions, and I will do my best to help out. 

I still have a few blocks left to sew before I can share my finished quilt top (each one is taking me about an hour to piece). In the meantime I'll likely post some WIP photos to Instagram, and you can drool over Megan's stunning king-sized Fireworks quilt for inspiration. 

Happy Firework-ing!

Modern herringbone baby quilt

My second finish of 2015! This one is a sweet little baby quilt commissioned by a dear friend and longtime patron of the arts (my quilting art, that is) as a gift for her sister-in-law's baby shower. She always gives me free rein ("Whatever you make will be beautiful!" ...did I mention she's awesome?), but as inspiration for this one she showed me the shower invitation, which matches the soon-to-arrive little's nursery.

So, we have: gender neutral, chevrons, polkadots, soft grey and buttery yellow, and one cute little elephant. The design I decided on was inspired by this gorgeous minimalist herringbone quilt made by Ashley at Film in the Fridge, which I think captures the idea of chevrons but is less obvious and more modern than your traditional chevron quilt.

The fabrics are a mix of stash and some new ones picked up from my LQS (the fabulous Greenwood Quiltery). I love guilt-free fabric shopping (custom order, baby)! And the ladies at Greenwood are always excited to help pick out just the right thing - in this case, the perfect buttery yellows to complement my greys and whites. I mixed in some Doe and Widescreen by Carolyn Friedlander with Kona Snow and Ash along with that cute grey check from Happy Go Lucky by Bonnie & Camille (which I also used on the pieced back). And while I'm firmly of the camp that baby quilts don't have to be "babyish" to be beautiful, I couldn't resist tucking in some sun-coloured Birch Organics Mod Basics elephants to tie the whole thing together.

My first instinct for quilting was vertical straight lines, but my friend specifically requested some handwriting be quilted on, so instead I got to practice my free motion skills. I've been working on improving over the past year or so, but I'm still not brave enough to try anything other than stippling on a quilt for someone else. Especially one that someone is paying for! So, an all-over stipple it is (along with some special writing). 

I think the result is a sweet combination of modern and just a tiny bit edgy (asymmetrical! Carolyn Friedlander!) with cute and playful (polkadots! elephants!) ...perfect for a baby who's bound to be just as cool as the family he or she is about to join.

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