Making my Own 3 Season Tent – Part 10: The Build !

The time has come. I’ve made a small prototype and am happy with the design. I’ve made some other items in the materials the tent’s going to be made from. I concluded I’m as ready as I’ll ever be to start on the real thing. And a 4 day weekend seemed like a good time to do it.

But first, I needed the full size pattern.

I set to work using the similar triangles method, and where the triangle didn’t quite meet, I simply iterated until I got it close enough. The hardest thing actually was the sheer size of the piece of paper I was working on – every piece, except the beak, had at least one dimension that wouldn’t fit on the table, meaning there was a lot of moving about.

Having made the beak and side pieces I then ran out of paper. Day 1 of the 4 days, and already brought to a halt. I darted off to the PC to get some more ordered, the choice being driven by speed of delivery and width of the roll. With a forecast delivery of Tuesday, it looked like I was done for the weekend.

However, I managed to cobble together enough smaller pieces of paper to be able to cut out the pattern for the doors. And my cutting out plan meant that although all the other pieces had to be done in a particular order to ensure everything fit, it didn’t matter about the doors. So I cut them out.

Then I decided to hem the doors. For the most part the tent will be hemmed at the end, allowing (hopefully) it to be done in one go. That also allows any slight discrepancies to be catered for too. But the doors and the beak are an exception. Because they essentially meet at a point together with the side panel, it’s too difficult to hem them at the end, and they needed to be hemmed first (you’ll see why when you see the completed join below). Or at least the portion of the beak/door at the join.

I decided to hem the top and bottom of the doors fully now. Then when attached to the side seam, the door would be essentially done. The beak I would hem all but the last 2-3 inches on each side by the top – this would be hemmed once the two sides of the beak are joined.

Anyway, back to the doors. I also reinforced the tie out points on each door before rolling into the hem. It was a simple matter to make some tie outs from grosgrain and linelok side release buckles. These buckles allow me quick release the doors for entry exit, with the other end pegged out, or attached to the main apex guyline.

I finished the doors off by sewing elastic about 3/7 way up from the bottom, one of these also with a toggle attached. Door tiebacks done.

I then turned to the beak and hemmed that, as described above.

With the paper not yet arrived, but forecast for Monday, I ploughed on. My extreme caution in planning the cutting out meant that I had a nice surprise in that the side panels would fit across the width. Indeed they also tesselated much better with the triangular bit left by the doors, meaning I didn’t need to wait for the big back panels, which the plan otherwise depended upon.

By now it was Sunday morning and the paper was due today. It turned up just in time, and I set to work drawing out the large back panels and the extended beak, a recent addition to the design. The back panel was very problematic and I ended up laying it out on the floor. The extended beak was also tricky to get right, but this is a part that simply attaches when needed rather than being integral. It didn’t matter if it wasn’t quite right – the dimensions I’d chosen were arbitrary and anything approximately close would be fine.

I finished Sunday with everything cut out.

Monday, and a big day of sewing lay before me.

There are 2 really hard parts to this build: the final joining together of the tent from two separate halves; and the triple seam where the side, beak and door attaches. And I had to start with the latter.

The reason for doing this complex join first is that if I left it to last, any imperfection caused as a knock-on from the other parts would be so much more difficult to cater for, and also more likely to affect the aesthetics. Better to start at the front and work towards the back, where the large panels are better able to absorb any slight misalignments caused earlier.

Luckily, I knew how to do it, as this is the exact way the prototype was built. It just took a while to line everything up and clip it securely. The slipperiness of the fabric also meant tissue paper needed to be deployed to give the sewing machine something to bite on in feeding the material through. Whilst lining everything up I also added a couple of rings above and below the doors as attachment points for accessories.

I joined everything together down the sew line, then trimmed down the door and side panel excess seam, and rolled the beak seam allowance around the stumps. Then this was felled down, and I had one of the big pieces done.

I repeated the process for the other side, then checked the two pieces against each other to see if I had any significant sizing discrepancies. Everything looked close enough.

Next the big back panels were attached to the side pieces and felled down as before. I also inserted some rings into these seams – a bit higher as these would be to help pull an inner out properly, or attach the top of my bivvy too.

This done and I now had two half tents. Time to see how well they align, by laying one on top of the other. Again close enough, but I did have some spare fabric on one side that would need to be dealt with.

The centre seam is a problem though. If I do a flat felled seam like I did on the sides, this will put the seam off centre. I’d decided earlier to do a different seam here ( I first saw it called a counter seam, but it’s a sort of flat felled seam on both sides, with no trimming down of one side, and also seen it called a double lap felled seam). This, however, is very problematic to do, especially with slippery fabric.

Before doing any of these approaches, I felt I needed to measure the two open sides of the back panel triangles, and I was glad I did. The left panel was out a bit and would have caused a very noticeable problem if I’d just gone with where I originally marked the fabric up. I remeasured the bottom of the triangle and the seam I still had to join. A painstaking process of lining the centre seam parts up paid off with the new measurements. Now I just had to find a way to keep it all aligned whilst joining it together.

Clips weren’t really cutting it, and I resorted to some temporary tape. I weighed this down with an assortment of drinks bottles and went out for a walk.

The next day, I returned, and found the tape had not stuck, making it extremely risky to attempt the double lap felled seam as I’d never get everything aligned and keep it so. I decided to revert to the same flat felled seam I’d been using all along, but to do it in a way that would ensure the mid point lay between the two sew lines, so that it wouldn’t be off-centre when done. This worked fine and soon I had the whole tent in a single joined piece.

Now for the beak…

A mere 51cm of seam to join, but it took 4 attempts, and even then I’m not over the moon with the results. I unpicked it several times. Part of the problem was I didn’t have much excess fabric here, unlike the back seam, so I had to aim for precision. I kept losing alignment, and in the end decided to stabilise the whole thing with a serious of crossways stitches at 4 inch or so intervals. That way, any problem I had in felling the seam would at least be contained to just one section. This sort of worked, but it was still a bit ruckled up near the top. But it would do.

I hemmed the last bit of the beak front edge, and structurally it was all done. Now I just needed to reinforce the stress areas, hem the bottom of the tent and add tieouts.

The reinforcements were made out of a large square of the tent fabric, then folded diagonally twice to leave a 4-ply triangle. The open edges of each patch were then tacked down – these open edges would then sit in the hem so there was no need to hem them individually.

For the two frontmost reinforcements where the beak tapers to a point, I folded the patches again to make a very narrow triangle.

For the peak reinforcement, I made a square 4-ply patch and sewed all round the edge to make a sort of cushion, pressed any air out of it and then sewed it to the centre/beak seams across the diagonal of the patch. I then added a loop of grosgrain across this whole diagonal, with a hang loop at each end. The backmost to suspend an inner from, and the front most to help secure the extended beak to. This grosgrain also, obviously, provides even more strength to the top of the tent, where the trekking pole will rest.

The front of the beak was reinforced with another such square, but here I wrapped it diagonally over and under the beak edge and sewed it down. I then sewed a loop of reflective grosgrain with a linelok on to the front apex of the beak over this patch.

I sewed each tie out reinforcement to the tent, then began rolling the hem and sewing down, doing a section at a time. Once done, I then sewed the bottom edge of the hem to neaten everything off – this was done in (almost) one go, as nothing was in danger of slipping.

Nearly there. I made up 7 more grosgrain loops with lineloks on, just like the beak one. Then I made up 5 more loops of grosgrain, sewing down a beastie ring at one end of each, and a linelok side release buckle at the other. The buckle being at the top, and the ring at the bottom. These will give a variety of options for inner attachment.

These 5 inner tieouts go on the frontmost seam (bottom of beak), the two back corners and the back centre. The two tieout points where I didn’t end up putting a seam, didn’t have these inner attachment fittings.

Each of the 7 outer tieout points then was sewn onto the outside of the tent – outside as simpler than integrating with the inner tieouts, and also by putting on the outside they helped hide some of the sew lines for the reinforcement patch and the inner tie outs.

These done, and the tent is finished.

I went and weighed it – 421g. I still need to add guylines to that though, and it obviously doesn’t include a stuff sack yet.

In the next part, we’ll pitch it for the first time and take a look…

5 thoughts on “Making my Own 3 Season Tent – Part 10: The Build !

    1. Yes. Left that for the weekend when there’s more time and better weather. However, I’m going to see if I can tidy up a couple of aspects before sealing.

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  1. You did it! I’ve really enjoyed reading along with this project so far, as a casual camper and sewist who takes on projects I know I’m out of my depth doing (at least initially!). I loathe working with this type of fabric, understand how tricky this was, and really admire your tenacity in seeing it through.
    I’ve used double-sided fusible webbing (like Bondaweb) on this slippy stuff before, in lieu of the impossibility of pinning/ clipping/ taping to then sew a more satisfactory seam. With the iron on a v low setting its fine and a sanity-saver. Not all types of webbing adhered properly, so ymmv. I didn’t find a walking foot much more beneficial than frequent breaks & swearing either.
    Fantastic work!

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    1. Thanks. Actually I think it was the motivation of finally getting a tent that meets my needs/wants that has kept me going. Plus I have enjoyed the process itself, which obviously helps. The fabric is a pig to work with and if you take your eye off it for a second, it will slide off the table onto the floor, undoing all your work to line things up. I’ve been too scared to use an iron on even a very low heat. Next time I’ll be looking at DCF, which I nearly did this time, but which would have been a lot more expensive to mess up.

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