Basic Collapsible Play Tents

Basic Collapsible Play Tents - The Ribbon Retreat Blog

Hello again, Ribbon Retreat readers! Sky here from Capital B. I’m so glad to be part of this month’s Oh Boy! Series…cause, if I do say so myself, boys are kinda my specialty. When you’re surrounded by them, they pretty much hafta be, ya know? I use the hash tag #boysrule a lot… because they just do. 🙂 For real though, the project I’m sharing today is one I’ve been wanting to make for a long while. And my little men have been loving them!

Basic Collapsible Play Tents - The Ribbon Retreat Blog

Boys and forts just kinda go together, right? They’re the most popular form of boredom control around my house for sure. 🙂 I wanted something that I could take outside, or set up quicker than normal inside. Something that I wouldn’t necessarily have to take apart when it wasn’t being used, but could still store easily. I think these basic collapsible play tents hit the mark! They fold together to be stored at the side of a closet or (in our case) under the bed. They are big enough with just a few yards of fabric to give my little guys lots of room for fun inside. And super easy sewing and frame construction- anyone can manage these! 🙂

So let’s do it, eh?!
Measuring tape
Fabric Scissors and pinking shears
3 yards total of fabric from The Ribbon Retreat 
1/2 inch PVC rods
1/2 inch PVC 90 degree elbows (like above)
It may be helpful to complete the fabric portion first and then purchase your PVC- see why below. 🙂

I used 2 yards of one print and one yard of another for my forts in this tutorial. The print pictured most is part of the Life in the Jungle Collection by Riley Blake– I love this Blue Hexagon print- so stinkin’ fun! Same goes for the Orange Damask from the One for the Boys Collection by Riley Blake, I used for the other tent. 🙂 I pretty much felt like I was creating with treasure sewing these fabrics! (I’m goofy like that…)

If you choose to use a solid three yards of one fabric, you won’t need these next few steps where I combined my two coordinating fabrics. If not and you have two prints as well, then start by marking and cutting across the center of the fabric you’ll have be the bottom portion of your fort. I have to mention here too that The Ribbon Retreat ladies do an amazing job of cutting your fabric- their lines really were straight to begin with and I didn’t have to shore anything up at all- love that!
With that cut done, you now have two pieces of one fabric and one piece of the other. Put your width seams right sides together and sew across to create one solid three yard piece again, with your cut portions on the ends (like below). Because these forts aren’t lined I used pinking shears on all of my inside seams once sewn. Lining would be simple, just require double the fabric.

So here’s what you have now- one big piece of fabric again. 🙂 Normally I’d iron my seams open to give it a really crisp look, but for this purpose, I actually ironed the seams down- this will make it easier to catch in your side hem and help it not stick out when you’re all done. I’m kinda an iron fanatic, so I actually ironed over the whole thing at this point, just so it would be smoother to work with. But really, that’s not necessary. (Yet again, I’m just goofy like that!)

In sewing my play tents, I actually utilized my selvage edges rather than trim them and have to double fold on the sides. If it bothers you that your kids will see the selvage (like above) inside their tent, then trim it off and fold over twice to create your hem. I just bought a little extra room by utilizing it is all. 🙂
So, along both of your long sides, fold over your selvage (if you’re doing it like I did) and iron, then run a big long straight stitch up the whole side, repeating for the opposite side too. To give you an idea of what you’ll be dealing with, here’s the fabric in my lap as I sewed:

My trusty beginner sewing machine may or may not have been smelling a bit hot by the time these seams were done (reminded me of sewing a baby blanket)! With your sides hemmed in, now we’ll finish up the bottom…

Fold up the bottom piece of your fabric about half an inch and iron, then fold again and measure at about 2 1/4″. Then stitch along the upper portion of that hem. This is creating both a finished bottom edge and a pocket for the PVC of your fort. 🙂

Basic Collapsible Play Tents - The Ribbon Retreat Blog

You’re pretty well done! You’ll be draping this fabric over essentially two large PVC squares, so to keep it snug, I did attach a simple strap to each side of the fort fabric (seen above). This will help it be a lot more sturdy. To make the straps:

Cut four identical strips of fabric (I got mine by cutting a big long strip off the end of my main tent fabric before sewing it originally). My strips pictured here ended up being way too long. A measurement of 4″ x 5″ for each strap is what you’ll want instead. I doubled my work.. because, ya know, I thought it’d be fun… 😛

Anyhow, iron the short ends of each strip, them fold in half lengthwise and iron. Stitch up the long end and turn your tube. Don’t worry about stitching the short ends- you’ll catch  those when you attach to the body of your fort.

Iron your turned fabric flat again and attach velcro to the short ends to create a circle of your strap (pictured center above). Then fold the strap in half and iron. All of that four times over. 🙂
(Pssst… some 1 1/2″ wide ribbon from The Ribbon Retreat could make this part hecka lot faster!) 

Find where you’d like your strap to lie and stitch in place, one on each side of your main fort piece. If any of this is confusing in reading it, please just know that it’s seriously simple in the actual execution- it will all make clear sense as you are doing it. 🙂

With the fabric portion done, you’re ready to get your PVC frame done. I let my hubby take over at this point in all honesty! But it was nothing I couldn’t have done myself, for sure. 🙂 He used this PVC hand cutter tool. I know this isn’t something many of you will have, so I’d recommend sewing your fabric portion first (what we just did above) and then heading to the store for your PVC, with the measurements of your fabric in hand. Fold your main body in half and that will tell you how tall you need four pieces cut. And your fabric width measurement will tell you how long you need another four pieces cut- the store will cut it for you on their machine for free and it’s super fast!
The reason I chose to go with PVC for these forts is because it’s really cheap and really easy to use- no nailing or sawing or worry of slivers involved. 🙂

If you do cut yours at home with a cutter tool, you can use one piece of each measurement as a pattern to clip all the rest, like above. 🙂 With both of your frame sides complete, you’ll attach the two together. I used some basic cord and tied mine like below. I played with several ways to get them attached and this was both the easiest and the tightest for me.

Using a PVC elbow with two angled ends and one 90 degree would be a good option too, just that you wouldn’t be able to adjust the pitch of your tent. For that reason, I chose to tie my rods together instead…

With all your pieces done and tied together, take apart one elbow of the bottom and slide a rod of PVC into the bottom hem pocket you sewed. Re-attach the elbow and drape your fabric across to the opposite bottom and do the same for the other end- getting so close to totally done now! Attach your straps to the sides and that’s it! Such a good feeling, right?!

A few pics to clarify the fabric adding process. 🙂 And, here they are all collapsed…

Basic Collapsible Plat Tent - The Ribbon Retreat Blog
My boys were frothing at the bit as I was creating and we took ours outside immediately! A whole new little world opened up in that moment it seemed like. 🙂 My six year old is one that really appreciates his own little private corner sometimes and this was so wonderful for him!

Basic Collapsible Plat Tent - The Ribbon Retreat Blog
They brought out their blankets and pillows to make it more comfy and shady. 🙂

Basic Collapsible Plat Tent - The Ribbon Retreat Blog
Along with popsicles, naturally. 🙂

Basic Collapsible Plat Tent - The Ribbon Retreat Blog

Hours of fun and happiness. 🙂 I love that these will serve us well all year round, inside and out. Our house is rather small and they take up less space and resources than our usual blanket forts, so I am happy about that! And they are nestled well under our bed whenever I just need them out of the way- perhaps the best feature! I hope your kiddos enjoy them too if you make one!

I’d love to have you join Capital B on Facebook or Twitter– most always some boy goodness of some kind going on there! And thanks again, Michelle and everyone at The Ribbon Retreat- I love working with you!
PS… I can’t go without mentioning again that #boysrule! 🙂

Wow, Sky! Those are so incredible and fun! I think I now have an idea for my kiddos for Christmas. I love your fabric choices. The Ribbon Retreat has AMAZING boy fabrics…(along with others). Thank you for sharing your talent for creating amazing and imaginative things. Those play tents are amazing! Sky has terrific ideas that are really fun and crazy creative! In fact, do you remember this super fun and innovative tutorial from a couple weeks ago?…

Water Fight ShieldsSimple Water Fight Shields - The Ribbon Retreat Blog

Yep…it is all Sky!

Sky is FABulous, and we LOVE her being one of our Crafty Contributors. Check out how great all of Sky’s tutorials are by paying her adorable blog a visit at Capital B. Thanks again Sky and thanks to everyone for visiting today!!!

Happy Creating!
Signature - The Ribbon Retreat Blog

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
This entry was posted in All About Boys, Just for Kids. Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.


  1. Posted August 20, 2013 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    Such a great idea!! Love the fabrics!

    • The Ribbon Retreat
      Posted August 20, 2013 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

      Hi Lindsay! Thank you so much for your sweet comment! These are so much fun! Sky did a great job!!! Thanks again Lindsay! Have a wonderful day! Michelle 🙂

  2. tanisha
    Posted August 20, 2013 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    thanks for the tutorial. love it. definatly something i need to make for the kids.

  3. Kristy
    Posted September 13, 2013 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    I just finished making this but the rods wouldn’t fit into the pockets! I made it exactly like you said. you said to use one and a half inch PVC, I only used one inch and it still wouldn’t fit, even the tabs wouldn’t fit around the PVC…..did you use the 1 1/2 inch PVC?

    • The Ribbon Retreat
      Posted September 16, 2013 at 9:00 am | Permalink

      Hi Kristy! Thank you for your question. It looks like you have actually found a slight typo for us. Thank you so so much for that, and we truly apologize for that! Sky actually went and measured again and it looks like her PVC was actually 1/2″! (The correct size has been updated in the post) For the sake of not starting back over at the beginning with all the PVC, we think the easiest thing to do is to pick the bottom stitch that created the pocket and fold it up another inch or so. Then re-stitch to create a pocket big enough…the four side rods of PVC would then need trimmed shorter. Hopefully that can be a reasonable solution- SO sorry for the mix-up and headache! Thank you again so much Kristy! Have a wonderful rest of your day! Michelle 🙂

  4. Christie haggard
    Posted July 31, 2015 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

    love it! FYI for non sewers like myself, I used a cloth drop cloth, it already hemmed! I did sew some ribbon to tie it to the pipes. That’s the extent of my sewing!

    • The Ribbon Retreat
      Posted August 3, 2015 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

      Hi Christie! Thank you so much for your tip. I love hearing tips and tricks from our readers so thank you again for sharing yours! Have a wonderful day and thank you again! Michelle 🙂

  5. Darlene Horton
    Posted August 29, 2015 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    Hi Michelle, I noticed that the fabric you used is no longer available online, they seem to just sell ribbon material. Can you tell me what kind of material you used? Was it light, medium or heavy fabric? I like the idea from Christie, wish I had seen it earlier as I just bought my material. I am making three tents for my three grandsons. Thank you for the great idea, your tent seem like the easiest to replicate and the directions are great. Thank you! Darlene

    • The Ribbon Retreat
      Posted September 16, 2015 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

      Hi Darlene! Thank you for your question! Sky used really nice fabric that is medium in weight! Aren’t these adorable tents so much fun? Good luck making yours and thank you for sharing! Have a wonderful day! Michelle 🙂

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>