Sunday, July 6, 2014

A Shower Tent for Pennsic!

First, I should explain. Pennsic, for those that don't know, is a medieval and renaissance festival in which 10,000+ people descend on this one, small, Pennsylvania town for two weeks out of the year. For those two weeks, Pennsic literally becomes it's own city - complete with a post office, restaurants, plenty of shopping, and a transportation system. It's my favorite event and there is something for everyone - all you need is garb.

Because I'm going to be taking up residence, again, at Pennsic, I need to have a place to sleep, cook, and bathe. The trailer works for sleeping and cooking. However, it doesn't have a shower area. So, I have to make a shower tent.

Normally, the group I camp with has all the necessary infrastructure to include a day shade, shower tent, and kitchen tent. This year, the baron and baroness of my household aren't coming. Also, the infrastructure is a bit old. So, new stuff!

To make a shower tent, I first had to figure out what style I wanted. For those on my LJ account, you know I was hemming and hawing at this for a couple of weeks. I couldn't decided whether to buy a shower tent or make a shower tent to start with. I found two that were under $60 but one wasn't period looking and the other, it turns out, has see-thru material based on the reviews. So making my own shower tent it is!

Now, which materials to use? For a while I liked the idea of using PVC pipes to make a nice frame and just cover it. The problem would be cutting said PVC pipes correctly and having the entire thing put together in a way that it stores easily and, preferably, flat.

I also saw the hula hoop shower tents which can be nice looking but didn't seem very sturdy to me. I needed something that could hold some weight for the solar shower bag but would also give me plenty of room to wash my hair. That's when I saw this:

It's from Better Homes & Gardens and I realized that, out in the shed, I still had the old papasan I was planning on throwing away. The papasan is older than I am. I think. I know it was at least 20 years old when I inherited it in college so it's had a very long life for a papasan chair. Rather than make a hula hoop shower tent, I could reuse the old papasan - which would easily hold the solar shower's weight. Even better, this means I don't have to spend any money! The material for the shower tent was already in the stash from making a tent years ago and now I wouldn't have to make a frame either. Woohoo!

So, to start, I measured along the seat edge of the papasan and found it was 144".  That meant that the walls needed to be around 154" in order for the front to overlap.  I also wanted to add in some extra for the seam allowance as I was hiding the raw edges of the material in the seams.  I'd roll one edge, stitch it down and then roll it over again, but this time, encasing the other raw edge.  It's sort of like a flat fled but I'm not sewing it down flat.  I guess it's more like a french seam that way.  

Anyway, the walls!   There is a total of nine panels.  Each panel was cut out at 20" across the top and 40" across the bottom except for the door flap which was half that.  

The walls, lying flat, took up pretty much my entire front lawn.  I used the selvage for the bottom hem so that I wouldn't have to hem the entire thing.  I don't think I could take that. 

The roof, the first time I tried it on the papasan, needed work.  I cut out the bottom hem too narrow and the top hem was way too big.   I ended up adding a gore (See below) and pleating the top a bit.  I'm not concerned about rain because it's a shower tent.  Still, I want it to be able to withstand some weathering.
The gore!  It's just scraps but it worked.  I also wanted the shower tent to look somewhat medieval.  It is Pennsic after all.  This mean adding some sort of contrasting band around the bottom edge of the roof, similar to the tents in this plate from the mid 16th Century.  Notice that the tent on the far right side has a curved top, like this will be and the tent on the far left has only the contrasting band. 
I also added a bit of bias tape to the top of the roof to keep the pleats in place.  It's in the same green.  The green is rather translucent as I learned my first Pennsic, unfortunately.  I had made my tent out of it!  Later, that tent got turned into an interior while the outside became some lovely sunbrella fabric I picked up for $1 a yard.  
The tent finished!   I added loops to some of the panel joints to help stake it properly to the ground.  This will help when it's a bit windy from the tent flying up.  I'm going to probably use the solar powered candles you see in the picture around the tent.  This will be nice to illuminate where it is at night but also have a semi period look since they are candles!
The front entrance.  I put the tent up a bit crooked since this was the lowest reasonable branch I could tie the tent too.  The only other ones are very high up in my backyard.  
Me inside the shower tent.  The red you see is some vintage hem tape I used to encase the raw edges where the roof and the walls meet. 
Another picture of the front of the tent.  It's quite roomy inside - much more than I originally thought.  I'm sure I'll get tons of use out of it and the papasan and keep going on for at least another decade or so.  :-)


  1. Very cool and yay for reusing something you were going to throw away!

    1. Thank you! The papasan will hopefully last a few more years. I broke one of the ribs by standing on it years ago. All I remember is the *crack* and Ginsie looking at me like "Um, Sis? Are you sure you want to do that?" Luckily, it doesn't affect it's use as a roof. :-)

  2. excellent. I just got back from a music festival, where I was talking about needing an ad hoc pee station so we wouldn't have to hike from our camp to the porta potties. You've inspired me to maybe create something

    1. That would be awesome if you made as well. It's not difficult - this went together in a couple of days. Just make sure your machine can handle the heavy fabrics.

  3. I so love this you did a beautiful job Isabella

    1. Thank you! It's been a great shower tent.