Last summer, I helped trouble shoot some problems with the reading tent at 826's in school room at James Lick Elementary. It was a fun project and involved hula hoops, rope, and grommets. Off of that exciting experience, I was deemed a tent expert, and while I would say that I am far from an expert on building reading tents, I am more than willing to help in any crafty project. I was asked to help another lovely volunteer in taking down the original reading tent, a corner stone of the 826 Valencia Pirate Store and Writing Lab. It was a nerve racking project as I know how pivotal this piece is to the whole feeling of the room and store. It is one of the signature things in the space. The original tent was seven years old, and after that many years of kid usage, it was time for a revamp and lift. I took several pictures of the original tent for comparison and notes in the rebuilding process to get the same look with the new and recycled fabrics.
The tent is laced onto a cording and then artfully draped to several points on the ceiling. The makers then clipped the tent sides together to make it billowy and look like once sewn piece of fabric. The center pole is an old tree trunk.
From there, we moved out the furniture, donned our dust masks, and began taking down the structure. After all the years of hanging there, you can imagine how much dust was trapped in the folds of the fabric. A reading tent is not something you can easily dust or clean. As we dropped each fabric panel, a huge snow storm of dust would come down on top of us. After a while, it began to look like a stereotypical girl pillow fight, only replace the feathers with huge tufts of dust bunnies. There were all sorts of surprises for us as well. Old erasers and sometimes small game pieces would come down with the fabric. Finally it was all collapsed.
After it was all taken down from the center pole, we took the fabric off of the wire and decided what we could keep and what we had to throw. The keep pile got taken outside and was shaken vigorously to get as much dust out we could. The other keeps that could be washed came home with me and went into the washer. After this dusty job, we ended for the night because the dust needed to settle out of the air before we could clean it up.
Wednesday's process started with my running around to get fabric for the replacement panels. After all the fabric was purchased, and 45 minutes on the Muni system for a 10 block trip, I made it to the writing center. I found that the wonderful intern staff had already cleaned up our mess that we fled the night before. It made starting in on the next phase all the more enjoyable. We started by cutting the lengths of fabric and then sewing in the channels for hanging. From there we fused velcro on the edges of the fabric pieces so there would be less gaping issues that the old tent had. This was a brilliant plan for the most part. The gossamer panels did not take to the adhesive very well, so there is some hot glue gunning or something similar to happen after the tent settles and the fabric stretches. We hung fabric and draped into the late night hours, finally wrapping up the job with Dan's help around 11:45 pm. Here are the two quick pictures I took right before we left.
I like the addition of blue to the tent and the replacement of the antiqued looking gold with the bright gold gossamer. We also shifted some of the panels around to bring more light into the tent area by placing gossamer strips where light sources outside of the tent are. While not exactly the same, I think it stayed true to the original and looks great. There are still some gaps that have to be fixed, and that will happen in two weeks. After that, I think I can declare this a finished project and wonderful success. I would not have been able to do it though, without my partner in crime, Lily. She had such a good eye for the colors and panels, where they should be placed, and how it all should be draped. I had so much fun with the project. Thanks so much Lily!