Monday, February 15, 2010

Classic Card Table Tent--with Variations

I am so excited to be a part of Care's Tent Week at Obsessively Stitching!

One of our favorite playthings when we were small was a fabric tent that fit over the card table--I think it originally came from a church bazaar. The tent was appliqued with circus animals and had a pointed roof, held up by a (glass) soda bottle.

My kids had a card table tent of their own, and it was part of a lot of creative play. I've been working on making a tent for each of their families, so I've accumulated an assortment of materials and trims in my 'card table tent' box.

Here's a tutorial for a basic tent so you can make one for the kids you know! Be sure to check my notes at the end for thoughts and variations.

You will need:

--a standard card table, 34 by 34 inches and 27-1/2 inches high--if yours
is different, you will need to adjust my measurements.
--a 2- or 3-liter soda bottle to hold up the roof--a full one is more stable!
--for the ROOF: 2-3/4 yard of 45" or 60" fabric, OR equivalent if you plan to use a sheet, curtain, or other recycled material. You may be able to
use less fabric if you don't mind piecing as below.
--for the ROOF TRIM: 20 inches of 45" fabric, or 15 inches of 60" fabric or its equivalent makes a flat roof trim. For a ruffled trim you would need more.
--for the WALLS: 2 yards of 6o" fabric or 4 yards or 45" fabric,
OR the equivalent if you plan to use recycled fabric.
--additional trim, appliques, or bindings as desired
--sewing machine and thread

1. Tent Roof: we'll draft a quick pattern--don't worry, Pythagoras has already done the calculations for you. You will need:

-a piece of newsprint or tissue paper
-a pencil or sharp marker
-a yardstick, or another straight-edge and a measuring tape

Place the paper with the short edge toward you. (Mine is a small sample, yours will be big.) Mark a point on the long edge, 22-3/4 inches up from the lower right corner, and mark this edge 'foldline'. Now, mark a point on the short edge, 18 inches from the lower right corner, and mark this edge 'bottom'. Connect the two points you have marked to make a triangle, and mark this seam 'roof seam'. Mark the top point 'top'. Label the pattern piece as shown, 'Card Table Tent Roof, Cut four on fold', and cut it out. You did it! This piece includes 1/2 inch seam allowances. Let's mark that on the pattern, as well!

a. Using your pattern, cut out four pieces on the fold of fabric. (They will be twice as big as your paper pattern.) As you can see, it would take half as much fabric if you don't mind piecing a seam in the sections you cut off along the selvedge.

b. With right sides together and a 1/2" seam allowance, stitch two of the roof pieces together along one roof seam, and repeat for the other two. Pin the two resulting pieces along their roof lines, matching seams at the point, and stitch. (If you want to bind the seams on the outside as I did, sew them wrong sides together and bind the seam with double fold bias tape--see my hints here for working with bias tape.)

2. Roof Trim--for a flat (not ruffled) trim, cut and seam together 5-inch strips of fabric to make a piece 5 inches by 14o inches, and finish one long edge. Your trim could be straight, scalloped, pointed or ruffled.

On the tent shown, I cut scallops by making a pattern and moving it along the strip as I cut. I bound the edges with bias tape--you could avoid binding points or scallops by cutting them to shape, and then treating the cut edges with Fray Check from your fabric store's notions aisle. (I LOVE Fray Check!) Or, you could leave the edge straight and stitch on fringe or ball fringe or just hem it. You might cut separate shapes and stitch them on in a row, or make pennants--whatever suits your design.

Stitch the roof trim to the roof: decide which panel of the completed roof is the front, fold to find the center of its raw edge, and mark the center with a pin. Fold the long trim strip along the raw edge to find its center, and mark with a pin. Match up these two pin marks, right sides together, and pin. Matching the raw edges, pin the trim strip around the roof, overlapping any extra at the back. Stitch with the trim strip on top, using 1/2 -inch seam allowance. Important tip: as you go around a corner, clip into the seam allowance of the trim strip as shown--this allows for a smooth seam!

3. Walls: cut and seam together 30" wide sections to make a piece 30" by 140".
Finish one long edge with a 2-inch hem, then finish the two short edges with a 2-inch hem. These will be the door opening--add trim along the door opening as desired.
Pin the raw edge of the tent piece to the raw edges of the roof and roof trim, right sides together, matching the raw edges. Begin and end strip at the center front to make the doorway. Stitch, using a 1/2" seam, and finish the seam if you like. Turn and drape over the card table and soda bottle. Done!

That's the basic tent, with unlimited scope for themes and variations! Some thoughts:

FABRIC: I recommend a sturdy fabric--sheets, curtains, and other recycled materials would work well if in good condition. Broadcloth or quilting fabric is probably not heavy enough. I like duck or twill.

ROOF: --if you don't mind making seams in two of the roof panels, you could use half
as much fabric. (See the picture under #.1-a above.) Consider whether the pattern of your fabric would be interrupted.
--to leave a hole for a flag or pennant as in the pink pavilion tent below, begin and end all the roof line seams just short of the point of the roof.

ROOF TRIM: --If you plan to make gathered tent walls, like the pink pavilion tent below, be sure to add a straight roof trim panel over or under the ruffled wall. Voice of Experience: it's needed to add structure!
--To cut waves or scallops into the trim, make a pattern and move it along the strip
as you mark, as in the photo below #2 above.
--You could make the roof trim strip a little
longer than needed, and simply overlap the extra at the back--easier.

WALLS: --You can make walls for two tents from 4 yards of 60" wide fabric by cutting the fabric along the fold--as you can see, Steve's house (from Blue's Clues!) and the circus tent's walls are the same.

--For the Steve's house tent, it was easier to leave the wall piece slightly longer
and overlap it at the back--this also makes a nice back door for easy exit in case
of emergency!

--The walls of the pink tent are made from a very long drapery swag that a friend
gave me, and the roof from scraps of a wedding sewing project. All the ribbon is
from my stash. Free project! I do think the pink tent will need more embellishment--it's not yet fabulous enough. Maybe swags along the roof, or more dangling ribbons. Festoons of silk flowers?

--the white satin pennant is glued to a ribbon-covered 1/4" dowel, and stuck through a hole left in the point of the roof, into a soda bottle partly filled with beans for weight.

--The circus tent is made from scraps of the Steve's house tent, plus the harlequin print left from my nephew's nursery. The bias tape and trim was all on hand, except for the piece of blue, which I was forced to buy. (Sigh--but I used a coupon and spent only $2.50!) The elephants and balloons are polar fleece appliques, and were added using Care's great technique here--big fun! I zig-zagged black yarn around the edges to outline.

EMBELLISHMENT: --With the exception of the Steve's house tent, I have been adding
decorations and trim on the walls after construction--its seems easier to place and
center them accurately. (Voice of Experience again!)

--Doors: For an added door like Steve's, after hemming the strip of wall fabric, place doors or windows on the center of the strip,then stitch to the roof. Be sure to allow for the area the roof trim will cover.

--Windows: cut out and hem or bind the edges of the windows. Steve's curtains are stitched flat onto the tent, and pulled back permanently with a stitched-on loop. Yet another Voice of Experience: this time a genuine safety caution--Steve's windows were open holes in the wall, until we discovered a small child trying to climb through the window. I stitched a sturdy piece of sheer organza in the opening for safety--I'm sure other fabrics would work, and it prevents the window from gaping as well.

I'm sure my ideas barely scratch the surface--have fun making an imaginative play space for the kids in your life, and let us know about your own creation!


  1. Hooray! Thanks for contributing to Tent Week, Mom! :o)

  2. Fabulous tents!! I linked to your tutorial on Craft Gossip Sewing:


  3. Wow...this is totally awesome! Thanks so much for sharing. I have a my very first grand baby on it's way....I think they will definitely need one of these! Elaine

  4. How Cute! Thank you so much for sharing! I have an 18 month old daughter who would eat this up!!! Kirsten

  5. So cute!!! I was thinking I might make one for Christmas for the great grand daughter!

  6. I love this idea! My daughter would LOVE this as well!

  7. Wonderful idea! wish I had the time to make something like this

  8. Oh goody! More fun stuff for the grandkids! Thank you for this tutorial! Way cool and CUTE! :D

  9. This is so great!! Yay, I love it. Thanks for sharing!

  10. I had one of these as a kid and loved it. I've been planning on making one for my kids before they get too big. Thanks for all the ideas and tips!

  11. Oh man!!!!! These are sooooooo stinkin' cute!!! I am totally going to make one out of scraps for my girls. Thanks for the fun idea!!!!

  12. This is awesome! I would love to tackle this for my kids someday. :)

  13. I never thought that tents are as technical as this. Just like a real house, with proper measurements and alignments. I remember when I made a tent for a commissioned camping, I just made one using old sacks and tarps. ( Without technicalities and aesthetics like yours). I was amazed with your works and you even called it basic. You're a pro, man! Your works are like those from classy tent rentals. California inner streetways have arrays of great cloth artist and you should join them! I am not kidding, you are fantastic!.

  14. is so so cute!!!!i have to do one for my kids...kiss

  15. Thanks! Be sure to let me know when you post a picture!

  16. espetacular me podrias pasar bien las medidas en centimetro te paso mi correo es gracias

  17. I'm so thankful for this. We have just been hit with a $20,000 foundation emergency and all my Christmas plans are down the tubes. I have 6 children and 13 neices and nephews that I'd like to give to. Thankfully I have a lot of fabric stash and with your tutorial can take care of 6 of them without spending a dime. Life-saver!

  18. Hi Wendy, I love this post. I am doing an alphabet series on my blog. One of the features is: "C is for...Card Table Tents". I linked this tutorial, and I posted a couple photos of "The Princess Palace" I sewed for my daughter, inspired by the pretty pink and white tent you featured here. Thank you!

    1. UPDATE: The link is

  19. Hey I don't have words to describe this post. I simply want to say that absolutely informative post. It inspires me a lot. Keep posting.
    Children's Play Tent

  20. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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