If you have read my blog about our Awning Experiences you will realise why we have gone to the effort of making our own awning. It stemmed from our desire to have a simple fast up and down canopy that was versatile enought to shelter us from bad weather, give us shade and outdoor space in good weather and offer a bit of privacy on busy sites. Like all good designs the final result was a bit of an evolution and it may get the odd adaption in time. We often use it in conjunction with a Kyham pop up toilet / shower tent that serves as utility and drive away store and we take a Kyham winbreak with us for just in case.
So here I will explain what it is about and how we made it;
For the uprights we had already bought a few Robens telesopic tarp poles, these are about £15 each and readily available from a number of ebay stores. These work by extending them to the length you want and then twisting them to lock them. They are 950mm long and exted to 2300mm. That way you can level the canopy as you want. We have enough to do 5 uprights so the canopy fully extended but with a bit of a breeze.
In order to support the ridge I had already bought a fiberglass telescope ridge pole from an Isabella awning from an ebay trader. These extend quite a way so I had cut off a bit of excess and I bought some new quick release fittings for it. Since then I have found that our favourite tent material shop has started doing a nice telescopic aluminium ridge pole that looks like it would do the job for €17.
The next thing to look for was the fabric itself. On the internet we could find plenty of variation of PU coated ripstop nylon which, while it might have done the job, tends to be fragile and not wear well and is prone to leaking or condensation. It would need a lot of reinforcing and be difficult to sew. After a lot of research we found ESVO Camping Shop on the web. A Dutch tent maker and materials supplier. They have everything you need to make tents and awnings and they know what they are doing because they make their own qualty tents. After a few email conversations with them we settled upon some TenCate polyester fabric in 2 shades, a mottled grey for the main canopy and a plain grey for the drop front. It is quite heavy at 235gm/m2 but we ascetrained that Sue’s Singer sewing machine with big denim needled should be able to handle layers of heavier poyester tent material. The widths of the fabric are more than sufficient for our needs so we ordered 3m of each. Along with the fabric we ordered threads, reinforcement (that we didnt need in the end) eylets and a long open ended 8mm zip for the drop front.
While we were collecting materials togther another important consideration was the keder strip to connect the awning yto the van. We had VW California rails fitted to the new van, they look better than the Reimo ones and they are half the price. However the slot in them is slightly to big for the normal 6mm keder found on most awnings. VW sell a rubber insert that slides in and has a 6mm slot which would be great if you were going to use a drive away tent as you would have only one adapter to remove that is more stable than the figure of 8 type and won’t leak. as we were making our own awning we were able to fit the correct 7mm standard keder for the rail. It comes from Kayospruce in Fareham for a couple of quid a metre. It is worth mentioning that some people refer to it as kador and cant find it on the web whereas it should be keder and is easy to find. Also from Kayospruce we bought some more bungee hold downs.
Assembling the canopy is simple but requires a bit of patience. Particularly the fabric we used needed 2 people to hold it and feed it through the sewing machine. First the main canopy making sure it was square we cut it 200mm longer than we needed and then folded both ends 50mm twice and sewed through all three layers of the fold. The first a few millimetres in from the first fold and again next to the second fold. At this stage we decided against using the strengthening tape as it seemed pretty robust without. Next we folded the outside long edge 75mm twice and again sewed through all three layers of the fold. This time the first about 25mm millimetres in from the first fold and again next to the second fold so that we left room to insert the zip. We cut the zip to length from the bottom and finished the cut end to stop the slider coming off. Then we inserted the zip into the 25mm left in the long fold and put 2 rows of stitching in to hold it.
To attach the keder we inserted the top unfolded long edge of the canopy between the 2 layers of the keder and put 2 rows of stitching along it to hold it. We trimmed the ends so that there is a fabric tag left to help pull the canopy through the awning rail and stitched and sealed it. Finally we inserted the 10mm eyelets. One 900mm, and another 1200mm to give us flexibility, away from the keder into the folded short edge . We put one in each of the keder tags, Lastly one into the folded edge in each outer corner and the middle of the long edge. It is worth getting a proper fabric punch rather than the eyelet kit to cut these thicknesses.
Next there is the drop front that zips on and off as needed. The method of assembly is similar except that instead of a keder it has the half of the zip and an extra hole along the bottom edge. We have made it 100mm high plus a short flap at the bottom to help close it to the ground.
As you can see it can be configured in a number of ways depending on our needs and the weather. Ordinarily as a porch it only requires 3 bungees along the long edge to hold it down but we also have 3 storm straps to use when it is a canopy or in strong winds. The ridge can be 900mm or 1200mm from the van and when we use the drop front it is pegged to the ground. Raising the ridge helps with rain run off and is necessary if we have it as a canopy. The fabric easily packs into a bag 600mm x 150mm, the poles into a bag 1200mm by 150mm and the pegs, bungees, mallet and so on into a small plastic box.
So there it is. We are pretty pleased with the finished result and at a couple of events we have attended several folk have admired it and asked where we got it from. And before anyone asks – no we aren’t going into production.