A Slice of Shade: Creating Canopies
Create a cool spot for summer living with one of our easy canopies.
SourceMartha Stewart Living, July 2004
All by itself, a simple canopy can turn an empty space outside into a "place." While trees might take years to grow, an expanse of cloth goes up in minutes, providing shade wherever you need it most. When the outdoor season ends -- or a storm whips in unexpectedly -- you can take it down, quick as a wink.
Unlike a pricey pergola or arbor, which demands a permanent surrender of ground, a canopy requires scant commitment or expense. For the most basic version, spend a few dollars on a drop cloth from a hardware store, and a few more on the supplies you will need to suspend it overhead: a grommet kit, tent poles, stout cord, and sturdy pegs. These ideas can be modified for other settings and styles.
You can sew a canopy yourself, or have one stitched by a seamstress or sailmaker. You'll need a few things from a hardware store, garden center, or camping-supply store to put up the fabric you choose. The way you erect the canopy depends on where you want it to be -- it can be suspended from poles, or stretched between a wall or roofline and poles.
- Grommet tool
- Plastic tent pegs
- Inexpensive canvas drop cloth
- Stout clothesline or venetian-blind cord
- Wooden pole with dowel pin or bamboo pole with dowel
- Adjustable aluminum tent poles
Step 1 of 7
At a corner of the canopy near the house, a short length of cord extends from the grommet to a screw eye on the house. At its apex, the tent is anchored to the center pole; two cords tied to the top of the pole are pegged to the lawn. There is also a cord anchoring each of the shorter poles that support the sides.
Step 2 of 7
To fashion a patterned tent, sew together two full-size lightweight cotton bedspreads, creating a reinforced 2-inch overlap in the center. Punch grommet holes in the corners, and one on each end of the center overlap.
Step 3 of 7
Cut a third bedspread to make full-length, 6-inch-wide border strips. Stitch one to either side of the fabric, which adds hanging borders.
Step 4 of 7
To put up the peaked canopy, use a tall pole for the center and shorter poles for either side; attach screw eyes in corresponding spots on the house.
Step 5 of 7
If you don't want to secure the canopy to a wall or fence, create a free-standing one with four poles. You'll need four people, too.
Step 6 of 7
Start by installing a metal grommet at each corner of your canopy fabric. Stand four poles with long, thin tips (use tent poles; drill a wood pole so it holds a dowel pin or fit bamboo, which is hollow, with a dowel) on the ground. Hook the grommets over the tips.
Step 7 of 7
Then have each person simultaneously loop sturdy cord around the tip of his or her pole and stake the other end of the cord into the ground several yards away.