How to Make a Sail Shade for Patio

Updated June 13, 2017

An affordable alternative to a pergola or a patio umbrella, a shade sail is an effective solution for keeping the sun out in your backyard. Shade sails, which come in trianglular and square versions, often are hung in multiples to create a pleasant outdoor space for entertaining or relaxing. Consider hanging alternating corners of the sail high and low, with a minimum slope of 18 degrees, for added visual appeal. Making and installing your own shade sail requires only a few materials.

Trim your shade cloth if necessary so all sides are even and straight. Shade cloth is a lockstitch fabric that requires no hem, but you may hem it for aesthetic reasons.

Place the punch from the eyelet kit about 2 1/2 inches in from a corner tip of the sail. Hit the punch with the hammer to make a hole. Repeat for the other three corners of the sail.

Push an eyelet stem from the kit through one of the holes, then turn it over. Set the pointed end of the kit's eyelet setter on the back of the eyelet, inside the stem. Hold the setter vertically while you tap on it with the hammer. This will secure the eyelet and form a protective rim around the hole. Repeat the process for the other three holes in the sail.

Cut four pieces of rope, each 4 yards long. Thread a piece of rope through each eyelet and tie a knot.

Install the sail by tying each corner to a tree or post, or attaching it to a structure. Attach an eyestrap to the structure using two lag screws, then tie the corner of the sail to the eyestrap.

Adjust the sail's ropes as needed to make sure the sail is taut, with even tension on it.


You may substitute thick cotton fabric for the shade cloth. Just hem it with fusible webbing before installing the eyelets. When deciding where to erect your shade sail, consider the sun's east-to-west movement and the seasonal variation in the angle of the sun's rays.


Keep flames away from your shade sail. Never use your barbecue grill under the sail.

Things You'll Need

  • 108-inch-square knitted shade cloth
  • Scissors
  • Fabric eyelet and punch kit
  • 4 eyelets, 3/4 inch
  • Hammer
  • 16 yards of 1/4-inch nylon rope
  • Lag screws
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About the Author

Ann Wolters has been a writer, consultant and writing coach since 2008. Her work has appeared in "The Saint Paul Almanac" and in magazines such as "Inventing Tomorrow" and "Frontiers." She earned a Master of Arts in English as a second language from the University of Minnesota.