DIY Bedouin tent

It’s the middle of June, and in my world ever since I was a little kid that has meant that it’s Vacation Bible School time.  I realized this year that I’ve now spent more time as a teacher or helper at VBS than I did as a student (*coughcoughhowlonghasitbeensincemiddleschool?*), but VBS has always been the official kick-off to summer for me.

This year Paul and I are teaching the 11-12 year old girls’ class (and I’m finding that the psychology of tween girls could be a whole different post unto itself).  Our theme is Journey with God, and each night’s stories are about the Israelites’ escape from Egypt and subsequent journeying in the desert before reaching the promised land.  Since we would be spending the week in the desert, I decided this year that I wanted to make sort of a Bedoiun-style tent in our classroom that we could sit in during the story and discussion.  I make absolutely no claims to authenticity here, since this thing is made entirely out of muslin, tulle, old scarves, bakers twine and Command hooks and has been held together all week by clothespins and hope, but it turned out kind of fun on the inside (even if it’s almost impossible to photograph) and the kids liked it, so I am pleased.

(A side note: I’m lucky that my job requires that I have multiple bolts of muslin on hand.  Since I didn’t have to cut it up much, all of this fabric will see another life as mock-ups for Snapdragon Studios’ fall designs, but if you want to do something like this and don’t want to buy a million yards of material I bet you could do something similar with thrift store sheets.)

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For the “roof” I gathered three lengths of muslin about 12 yards long each and six more strips of tulle about six yards long together in the middle and tied them with craft wire, which I then wired to a stretched-out wire clothes hanger.  Paul found a sturdy spot on the ceiling vent to hang the hanger and that was the basis for the tent – everything from there was just spreading out the fabric to make the shape of the walls.

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I didn’t have enough fabric to make tent as big as our classroom, so we used Command hooks on the walls and ran string between them to make a frame for the fabric to sit over.  I draped random scarves I had laying around to cover any holes and finish out the walls when I ran out of muslin.  I’m lucky to be married to MacGyver, so Paul had a lot to do with the engineering of the “frame”.

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Once we had the basic shape, we just spread the muslin and scarves across the strings and clothespinned the heck out of them to keep everything together.

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I spread the tulle out on the inside of the ceiling to make stripes, borrowed a bench from a different classroom, brought our cowhide rug and sheepskin from home and called it a tent.  It’s big enough to seat our 13 students plus me (I get the bench – the tent is definitely not big enough for 13 girls plus the amount of space I require at 8 months pregnant to haul myself up off the floor), and I’m pretty pleased with how it sets the tone for our nightly Bible stories.

So what is the official kick-off to your summer?  Been building anything unlikely lately?  We’d love to hear about it!





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