How to make your own livable teepee

Updated April 17, 2017

Tepees can be convenient and cosy dwellings, if you plan to live a simple life on the plains. Rich in Native American heritage, tepees have a specific design, one that has been preserved through recent generations. Although it takes time and effort, a well-built tepee complete with a warm fireplace can be a comfortable place to pass the time year-round.

Cut your tepee cover into the shape of an elongated semicircle (its length measurement being about double that of its width measurement). Cut two half-circles in near the edges on the straight section, and allow two triangular protrusions in the middle of the straight edge. The latter will serve as smoke flaps, according to the diagram provided.

Using a large sewing needle (size 16 or 18) and heavy-duty thread, sew triangular pockets (about 6 to 8 inches in length on each side) to the centre of the straight side and the tips of the flaps, with the open side of each flap facing the rest of the canvas.

Using rope, tie three of your wooden poles together into a tripod about three feet from the top of the poles, and spread the base of the poles to match the desired circumference of your tepee. Attach eight of your other poles across the tripod, spacing evenly, and secure with rope over the tripod knot.

Attach the end of the final pole to a corner of the tepee cover by hooking it into a sewn flap and placing it on top of the the other poles, opposite from where you want the door to be.

Wrap the cover around the outside of the poles, and use long, wooden pins (about 1 ft. in length) to secure the two sides of the tepee cover. Peg the bottom of the tepee cover to the ground on each side. Stretch the cover by pushing the pole bottoms further apart.

For a door, cut another piece of canvas in a circle and sew to one side of the opening as you have sewn the pockets, inserting a short pole into the hem to provide firmness, hinging it to the tepee with a rope attached to the end of the stick and one of the wooden pins holding your tepee together.

To stop rainwater from dripping inside your new home, fasten a cord around each pole just below the tepee cover, tie the cords together and connect to a small bucket or tin can. Any rain that drips down the poles beneath the cover will accumulate in the bucket or can, instead of on your tepee floor.

Use two more long poles to make your smoke flaps by inserting them into the sewn pockets on each of the top two corners. Adjusting the position of these poles will open and close your tepee smoke flaps, which operate as a chimney.

If desired, decorate your tepee by stretching out the canvas, wetting it thoroughly and then applying your paint.

Things You'll Need

  • 14 18-ft. wooden poles
  • 15 by 30 ft. of 227gr canvas
  • Large wooden pins
  • Utility knife or strong scissors
  • Large sewing needle (size 16 or 18)
  • Heavy-duty thread
  • Paint and paintbrush
Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author

William Jackson has written, reported and edited professionally for more than 10 years. His work has been published in newspapers, magazines, scholarly journals, high-level government reports, books and online. He holds a master's degree in humanities from Pennsylvania State University.