DIYdiy projectsUpholstery Basics

Upholstery Basics: Circus Tent Kennel Cover

by Amanda Brown

My cutemeter is on overload after a month full of cuddly cats and darling dogs on Design*Sponge, so when I started brainstorming this month’s Upholstery Basics project, I consulted my cutest and furriest friend for some inspiration (though the clown collar was not her idea). For years, Pixie’s kennel has been a focal point and an eyesore in the corner of my bedroom, but after a few modifications, one striped sheet set transformed her ugly metal cage into Big Top Pee-wee, I mean Big Top Pixie. Don’t have pets? Choose your fabric and follow along to make a dust ruffle for your bed. — Amanda

Read the full how-to after the jump . . .


  • kennel
  • plastic funnel
  • permanent marker
  • scissors
  • wooden dowel
  • measuring tape
  • saw
  • duct tape
  • washable fabric
  • square
  • yardstick
  • white or yellow chalk
  • hand plier stapler or t-pins
  • sewing machine
  • thread
  • iron
  • masking tape
  • decorative trim (optional)
  • curved needle


Don’t forget to check out Upholstery Basics: Tool Time to learn more about the tools we’re using today.

Tips and Tricks before You Get Started

  • Pre-shrink fabric by washing and drying before you draw and cut out your pieces.
  • Use a square and yardstick to keep corners square and stripes straight.
  • Match the stripes from piece to piece as you draw.



1. To pitch the tent, center a large plastic funnel over the top of the kennel. Mark a line where every wire intersects the perimeter of the funnel top.

2. Use scissors to cut out a notch at every marked line.

3. Slip the kennel down and around the wires. If your funnel is not as tall as you’d like, insert a wooden dowel (cut to the desired tent top height — mine is 8.5″) into the funnel. To keep the dowel from slipping through the top of the kennel, duct tape the connection between the plastic funnel and wooden dowel.

4. Measure from the top of the dowel to one of the top corners of the kennel. If the funnel and dowel are centered, the measurement should be the same to every corner.

5. The cover is made of one piece of fabric covering the sides and back of the kennel (main body), four triangles that make the tent top, a front flap and ties to keep the flap open. To determine the size of the main body, start by measuring the width, depth and height of the kennel.

6. On every sewn side, add 1/2″ for seam allowance (S.A.). We will fold the main body piece in half so the inside of the cover is fully lined, which is why the height of the fabric is twice the height of the kennel. The width of the main body is the distance around the right, back and left sides of the kennel, plus 1.5″ to wrap around each front corner of the kennel. I’ve also added an additional 4″ at every corner to make a boxed pleat.

7. Below is an overhead view of the dimensions and how the boxed pleats fold at every corner.

8. For the tent top, use the measurement from step 4 and the width of every side to draw the triangles. To fully line the inside of the cover, we’ll need two sets of four triangles. If we were in geometry class, the measurements of these pieces would calculate to fractions of whole numbers, but for simplicity’s sake, we’ll round up. With the angles of the triangles, we actually need 1″ instead of 1/2″ of seam allowance in the corners, so be sure you add enough extra fabric.

9. The fabric from the main body covers a total of 3″ of width on the front of the kennel. The rest of the front will be covered by the front flap. Draw out the front flap at twice the height of the kennel (so it’s fully lined) and to the width of the kennel minus 3″. Add 1/2″ of seam allowance on all edges.

10. We’ll make one long tie and cut it in half to make two ties for the front flap. The height will be the same as the front flap plus an extra 1″ for seam allowance, and the width will be 2″ (1″ of finished width, 1/2″ on both sides for seam allowance).

11. When all pieces are drawn on the fabric, cut them out.

12. Fold the main body in half widthwise (with good sides facing) and sew the right and left sides shut. Repeat this step for the front flap.

13. Sew the four triangles together, side by side, to make the top of the tent. Repeat this step to make the lining for the top of the tent.

14. Iron the tie in half lengthwise. Open up the tie, and iron each half in half.

15. Fold the tie in half and iron again with the 1/2″ seam allowances folded inside.

16. Open up the end of the tie and fold over the raw end.

17. With the end folded to the inside of the tie, fold the tie back in half.

18. Sew down the length of the tie. As you approach the other end, repeat steps 16 and 17 and continue sewing to the end. Cut the tie in half to make two ties.

19. With wrong sides facing, iron the main body and front flap in half widthwise. Keep the stripes aligned from front to back.

20. Using the diagram from steps 6 and 7, measure and iron all of the pleats in the main body. I tape every pleat after ironing to hold it in place while I work.

21. If you’re adding trim, attach it to the top edge of the main body with the hand plier stapler.

22. With good sides facing and stripes aligned, staple the bottom edge of the top of the tent to the top edge of the main body.

23. With good sides facing up, neatly fold the main body and lay it on the tent top.

24. Lay the tent top lining face down on the main body and staple it to the other tent top and main body.

25. Sew from one front corner to the other around the perimeter of the tent top. The front edge should be left open.

26. Center one tie, the front flap and the second tie (in that order) over the front edge with the trim attached.

27. Be sure the bottoms of the ties and front flap are inside the tent. Then staple the layers together to hold them in place as you sew.

28. Just like a pillow, we need to leave the tent partially open so we can turn it right side out. Sew the flap and ties only to the front edge with trim attached.

29. Use the tip of your scissors or a staple remover to remove all staples.

30. Turn the cover right side out through the opening in the front edge and iron.

31. Hand stitch the open edge at the front of the kennel with a curved needle and thread (see steps 1–24 on Upholstery Basics: Wall Upholstery, Part 2).

32. Since I used a sheet set, I placed a pillow in the matching pillow case for a little extra fluff.

All we’re missing is the flying trapeze!

Make It a Dust Ruffle

1. Follow steps 5–7, eliminating the 1.5″ wrap-around on the front corners.

2. Replace the tent top with two rectangular fabric pieces drawn to the width and depth of the kennel plus 1/2″ seam allowance on all sides.

3. Follow steps 11 and 12, 19 and 20, 22–25 and 30 and 31 (replace the top of the tent with the rectangular flat top in the step above).


Photography by Mel Cole
White and red sheet set from West Elm. Pom pom trim was a thrift store find.

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  • Hilarious and ingenious !
    Thanks for an excuse to laugh out loud with delight.

    The dog’s expression and collar accents are the crowning glory.
    My dog’s pen is so big that the fabric price might be prohibitive, but I would love to see this in my family room instead of the wire version.

  • This is SO cute!
    What a lovely way to dress up a dull old cage :)
    My toy poodle Fifi would LOVE this!

  • Why would the poor dog have to sleep in a cage indoors. What’s wrong with a cushion on it’s own.

    • Mrs. Woo

      A lot of people crate-train dogs and the dogs grow to feel safe in their cages, as if it’s a safe home base for them. I think both are good options, but I think if a dog is properly crate-trained, it’s not a punishment for them to be in their cage.


  • Just found this after the I read your garden cart, and now this project’s going to have to take precedence. I’ve been trying to convince my boyfriend we could do something with his two awful, ENORMOUS dog crates in our kitchen. They are an absolute eye sore! (I’m a cat person.) At any rate, I don’t know if I can sell him on two Big Top Pixies—though I’d love that!—but this post certainly puts us one step closer to upholstered crates. Fingers crossed.

  • What kind of dog is Pixie? She looks just like my 10 lb. bichon poodle cross, Tosca!
    Looking forward to your reply!

  • I really want to do this project but I have had a hard time finding a similar fabric in my local fabric stores that matches the look of your red and white striped fabric. Do you have any suggestions where I could buy it online? (The only things I have found are very thing red and white stripped cloths that are very thin) Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated, I look forward to completing this project soon.