Tuesday, 24 May 2011

All-weather multiway literary playtent

A large project has been completed. Sound your trumpets for: the playtent. 

This lovely playtent (second row down) from Heather Ross' 'Weekend Sewing' inspired me, I talked more about this beautiful book in this post. Also, like most human beings, I love Shirley Hughes and there is the part in 'Alfie Goes Camping' where his mum throws a sheet over the washing-line to make a tent. 

But, this is England. What happens for the 300 days a year when it is too cold or wet? Well, there was this almost too-brilliant Etsy seamstress. And this more minimalist take on the table tent. I loved this concept: a little kitchen den for rainy days. But this would require us to have a table free of clutter and dried bits of cereal. And that would be an impossibility.

So. It had to be able to go around a table but not over a table. It also needed to go over a washing line, a clothes drier, and maybe even hammock-style between two trees. In short, it had to be multiway

Technical drawings began. I knew the key to unlocking the design conundrum lay in the extensive use of velcro. It usually does. I came up with two identical rectangles, each the size and shape of our kitchen tabletop edge and down to the floor. 

Each piece would have a window with curtains that would be able to close for privacy. By sewing velcro along the long and short sides of the rectangle the tent could be short sides or long sides together.

But, what about the curtains? This caused me no end of scratching my head. All fine when in table mode, but what about washing-line mode? I did not want awkwardly flapping curtains. The lightbulb moment came when I decided to make them sewn permanently down onto a thin strip of velcro, but with tie-backs for opening (above). That way they could be placed along the short or long side of the window, or removed all together.

Above shows the eyelets I added in the corners for pegging it down when in tent-mode. I realised too late that I should have reinforced the corners before putting the eyelets in.

This Elmer fabric was the ideal weight, a little canvassy and heavy. And crucially, it had Elmer on it. 

Gingham ribbon helped to trim the windows and make the tie-backs. The drunken advice of Emma, Jackie and Lucy during a sewing evening where no sewing at all got done helped with this bit.

And that was it really. A space - I hope - for playing, plotting, reading and dreaming. A room of their own. 

Shirley Hughes and Virginia Woolf: a most literary multiway playtent.


  1. I LOVE this Mim! A most literary of playtents indeed. And it has something of the Rachel Whiteread 'House' about it too. It's very sturdy. Perhaps you should cast it in resin? x

  2. It's pretty amazing - pretty and amazing - beautiful, so practocal, and so logical! And judging by the shapes of the bodies and lengths of the legs, people of all ages want to play in it. Love it!

  3. Just wondered where you got the Elmer fabric from. I've been looking but can't find it anywhere!


a year above the shop

a year above the shop