A Slice of Shade: Creating Canopies

Martha Stewart
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All by itself, a simple canopy can transform an empty outdoor space. A cloth canopy goes up in minutes and can be taken down just as quickly if a summer storm approaches. 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.

A canopy.

Tools and Materials

  • A grommet tool to punch sturdy holes in the corners of fabric
  • Plastic tent pegs to anchor lines from the tops of poles into the lawn or planting beds.
  • An inexpensive canvas drop cloth 
  • Stout clothesline or venetian-blind cord to keep canopy in place. 

  • Wooden pole with dowel pin or bamboo pole with dowel

  • Adjustable aluminum tent poles that can be raised or lowered to fit your setting.

 Attached to a Wall or Fence How-To


At a corner of the canopy near the house, extend a short length of cord from the grommet to a screw eye on the house. Anchor the tent at its apex to the center pole; peg two cords tied to the top of the pole to the lawn. Anchor the shorter poles that support the sides with a cord.

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. 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. 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.

 Freestanding Canopy How-To 


If you don’t want to secure the canopy to a wall or fence, create a freestanding one with four poles. You’ll need four people, too. 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. 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.

Tips

  • 
Cut openings that allow wind to circulate through
  • Grommets at the corners of the fabric fit over poles in front and are tied to screw eyes on the house
  • Loop cord around the poles to keep the fabric in place and attached to pegs in the lawn for added stability
  • Tie extra fabric to the cords to make them more visible so no one will trip over them
  • Canopy poles get added stability by fitting them into lengths of PVC pipe and sinking the pipe into soil-filled terra-cotta pots
  • Painted wooden dowels and colored cord make the canopy’s mechanics part of the picture
  • Take the tent down when not in use to discourage fading

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