Teepees were a common sight on the American plains, back in the days when the buffalo roamed. Compact, efficient and portable, teepees were a perfect home for nomadic people. Today, they are a symbol of adventure and of a deep bond with nature. Unfortunately, nature isn’t always cooperative, and finding enough long, natural wood poles to make a teepee is not possible. PVC pipe is a good alternative because it is light, sturdy and inexpensive. Making a backyard PVC teepee is not difficult, but if it is over about 4 feet tall, you will need a helper.
Figure out how tall and wide your teepee will be. Make sure you get a piece of fabric that will cover it. Get a lighter, waterproof fabric like cotton duck or parachute silk if this is your first teepee, because it is easier to work with, and less frustrating, than heavy canvas.
Use the hacksaw to cut your PVC pipes so that they are at least 2 feet longer than the height of your teepee. The shorter your teepee is, the fewer pipes you will need to support it, but you should have a minimum of five.
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Tie three PVC pipes together with clothesline cord, 2 feet in from one end. Stand the resulting tripod up, and spread out the three poles so that it stands on its own.
Lean the rest of your poles up against the first three, spacing them evenly but leaving a wider gap for the door opening. Weave the clothesline cord in and out of all of the poles, attaching them together, 2 feet down from the top of the framework.
Measure one of the poles from 6 inches above the clothesline cord down to the ground. Cut a length of clothesline to fit this measurement.
Fold your fabric in half lengthwise, so the top and bottom are open. Have your helper hold one end of the length of clothesline you just cut at the top corner of the fold. Hold the other end at the bottom corner of the fold, with the marker at its tip. Sweep the clothesline and marker out to the open corner of the fabric, drawing a line.
Cut along this arced line. Open the fabric, and you should have a triangular shape with a rounded bottom. Drape the fabric over the teepee framework. Gather the top like a paper bag and secure it with clothesline.
Optional: Make marks on the inside of the fabric at the top, center and bottom of every other pole. Before you tie the top of the teepee fabric closed around the frame, use a sewing machine or fabric glue to attach grosgrain ribbon to the marks, so that you can secure the fabric to the framework.
Have the kids paint the fabric while the adults assemble the framework.
Never build a fire inside of a teepee unless it has been made with fire-retardant fabric, and you know what you are doing.