Making my Own 3 Season Tent – Part 8: Bigger and Better

After my wife’s exertions, and the evolution of planning that came with it, it was now my turn to have another go. Since my first abortive attempt, I’ve practiced sewing seams a bit more, cutting them straighter and seeing the benefit in the end result. The lesson about patiently measuring and cutting has been learned. Or so I thought…

A key concern I’ve had is how easy it is to be out by a significant amount when measuring the panels for this tent. Even at a small scale, it doesn’t take much to throw things out and wind up with alignment issues.

The other week, while Amanda was sewing a small scale prototype (the “I’ll show you how it’s done” one), I played with patterning, and scaling up. It was a disaster. It’s taken a couple of weeks but a better method is emerging.

  1. I’ve switched to only creating 5 pattern pieces, rather than 10. I will now use the same pattern piece reversed for the other side of the tent. This means any error will at least be symmetrical. it also encourages me to to create 5 good accurate pattern pieces rather than 10 crap ones.
  2. The purchase of a giant pair of compasses has helped a lot.
  3. Instead of basing the triangles around key angles, I will instead use compasses to create a smaller triangle that is accurate, and then extrapolate two sides to create a triangle at the correct scale. This uses the principle of similar triangles.
  4. Pattern pieces will be made excluding seam allowance. This makes it easier to mark up the fabric. And specifically to line the pieces up.
  5. I’m using a ruler’s width as seam allowance. This is 3cm, which is way more than really needed, but it’s a simple and consistent measure.
  6. As I cut out each piece, I am actually using that piece (reversed) to measure out the corresponding piece on the other side.

A Step Forward

I used the above method with the aid of the new magic compasses and ended up with a semi-respectable set of triangles. Following my wife’s method I then sewed them together. The method is:

  1. First hem the top and bottom of the doors (ie the two sides not attached to the tent itself). This is done now as it’s a lot harder after they’re attached to the tent. In hemming these, I added a reinforcement patch to the pointy bit, as here will be a tie-out (remember these are zipperless).
  2. I also hemmed the beak – all apart from the 3 inches each side of the top – I will do this when the two parts have been joined at the end of the main build. I could get away with just hemming the bit that attaches to the rest of the tent, but I opted to do most of it now. This is done mainly because the angle of the beak would make it hard doing it when I do the bottom of the tent later.
  3. Now I joined the door, beak and front side panel. Then felled down the loose bit – pointing backwards (they’ll all be done pointing backwards).
  4. Then repeat the process for the main side panel.
  5. Then attach the rear panel in the same way.
  6. Repeat the above steps for the other half/side of the tent.
  7. Join the two halves together along the centre line. Choose which direction the felled seam points.
  8. Complete the beak seam, then hem the top part of the beak’s outside edge.
  9. Add reinforcement patches to each corner.
  10. Hem all along the bottom, making sure to “turn the corners” properly.
  11. Add some loops of ribbon to the corner tieouts, top of beak, and doors. I’m using ribbon as my wife seems to have hoarded them and they need to be reduced. This prototype just needs to stand up so only requires a very light tieout. This way I don’t have to use any of my proper supplies.
Door, beak and front side panels. Notice that the door secures in the seam between beak and front side panel
I’m using mini quilting clips to hold everything down. I could use pins on this fabric but I’ll use the clips on the real stuff, so might as well practice. Actually I found them a lot more convenient than pins anyway.
Even with all that measuring I still ended up a bit off. But it did all join at the top and it appears strong.

I finished it off today by adding some staking loops. these were made from grosgrain ribbon scraps from my wife’s ribbon box. I then headed out into the garden to “pitch it”, but not before taking a tape measure to all my poles to find a segment that was about 50cm long.

I’ll do another post following this one with more shots of the completed prototype.

Next Steps

As you’ll already know if you read my last post, the materials to make the tent arrived a couple of weeks ago. I now have a decision to make: whether to make another prototype at full size, or go for the main build. Either way, I’m first going to make a few small things just to get used to working with the materials themselves.

But really, I’m itching to get started on the real thing…

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