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Do it Yourself Canvas Tent

Canvas tents re-created for historical reenactment.

Whether you enjoy historical reenactment, you are looking for a good project for scouting trips, or you are just looking for something to do in your back yard, a canvas tent is a fun project to undertake. When made correctly, a canvas tent can stand up to even the harshest weather conditions.


The most important material that goes into the creation of your canvas tent is the canvas itself. A sturdy, all-weather material that can stand up to years of abuse is marine-grade army duck cloth. This cloth should be preshrunk and treated with fireproofing, water and mildew retardant chemicals. In addition to tents, this cloth is used in making boating sails and canvas boat covers. One company that many reproduction tent makers purchase their canvas from is Sunforger. The thread should be heavy cotton as well. Never use synthetic thread with a natural fiber, because it will wear unevenly and the synthetic thread may cut the natural fiber cloth at stress points. Fasteners may be made of heavy duty metal grommets. Tent poles can be made from ash or spruce.

Tent Styles

Consider in advance the type of tent you would like to make and have a pattern with measurements selected before you purchase your fabric. Tent styles that can be made include Viking style wedge tents, French bell wedge tents, medieval pavilions, yurts, wall tents, military triangular shelters (still in camping use as the pup tent), sibly tents, British bell tents, diamond shelters, scouting tents, platform tents and tipis.

Construction Tips

Seams for tents should be flat felled seams. This particular seam is most commonly used for blue jeans because it is a triple-stitched, reinforced seam. You will need a heavy-duty sewing machine to stitch through three or more layers of canvas. Once your tent is assembled, you should treat all seams with a waterproofing substance designed for canvas cloth. Tent pole can be measured and cut to fit the tent size.

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