Tag Archives: yurt making

Canvas Troubleshooting


If you have canvas tents or are thinking of getting some, you need to know something about canvas care as well as looking after tents in general. Some site owners avoid tents because of the maintenance – one should remember that they are tents after all and you can’t just put them up and not think about them when the Weather Gods are playing or let them sit unheated through the winter. If you want something with lower maintenance, best go for something more solid like a hut but personally, I think the romance, beauty and simplicity of nomadic tents, such as tipis and yurts, is well worth the effort.

tipi drip strip

Looking up in a tipi

So canvas…first I would advise you NOT go for cheap canvas however tempting it seems. A lot of the imported Mongolian yurts are made from a heavy canvas which is made for the dry climate of Mongolia but doesn’t adapt well to damp European climates and the canvas will quickly leak. Our main work is making yurt covers, and have re-covered many a Mongolian yurt barely in its infancy.

spirits intent

Sewing yurt covers

The usual canvas used in the UK is 12oz FWR (flame, water and rot-proofed) poly/cotton, Before 2007 it was cotton that was more popular, but the rot-proofing agent used in the proofing was banned, so a new one was used which was actually water-soluble! It meant that there was a batch of bad canvas around that time and we heard horror stories of canvas rotting after a year. Although a new rot-proofing agent was developed, the industry had moved into poly/cotton as it is more rot-resistant and stronger, with 50% polyester content it’s really a game changer.

It’s hard to say how long canvas lasts as it depends on many factors, so we don’t offer any guarantee on its life, but if looked after, one can expect 5-7 years for a tent left up all year. One consideration in pitching your tents is the choice of location. If pitched under trees, the canvas gets dirty from falling leaves and the run-off from tree sap and this can contribute to it perishing. Trees to be extra careful of are pine and willow. Also, obviously, if pitched in the shade the canvas doesn’t dry out so quickly and generally in the UK, the damp is more damaging than UV (although this summer has challenged that trend!) In hotter climates, such as Southern Europe the UV exposure continent, damages the cotton element of the canvas so it is worth thinking about alternatives to poly/cotton (see below about acrylic canvas).

Our Yurt and tipi garden in Israel

Next …general maintenance… we recommend reproofing the canvas once a year which can greatly increase its longevity. Before reproofing one should clean the canvas with a soft brush and warm water, no soap, no scrubbing, no pressure washing, but as long as you reproof the canvas well it should be OK. Remember that any cleaning will remove some of the proofing. (Obviously, white canvas shows the dirt and mould more than other colours, so many of our customers, when replacing yurt covers are choosing to replace white covers with darker colours, such as sand).

Reproofing is usually done with a paint-on solution when the tent goes up for the season – various products are available, but mostly only contain waterproofing and rotproofing agents. Recently the FWR proofing solution used by the manufacturers themselves has become available. (We can supply this at manufacturers cost). We have heard stories of tent covers being sent to professional cleaners, who have little experience of canvas and come back unproofed and sometimes perished although there are now companies who can clean and reproof for you.

Another consideration in canvas care is if the tents are left standing through the winter, they should be heated at least every few days, usually with a wood-burning stove (or open fire in a tipi) and, if the tents are not being used, they should be taken down when the canvas is bone dry and packed somewhere dry and rodent free. The summer before last we had a mice invasion on our site in Italy and we were surprised to discover that the mice chose to eat through the proofed canvas of the yurts rather than the wool blankets and mattresses inside. No accounting for taste. (Troubleshooting rodents and creepy-crawlies is for another chapter).

More yurt covers

There is a common perception that cottons are more ‘natural’ than synthetic fabrics, but people forget that they are proofed with chemicals. Our customers are choosing to go for acrylic fabrics as an alternative to poly/cotton as, although much more expensive, it is a better investment longterm, it greatly outlasts the poly/cotton as it doesn’t rot and it’s also stronger. The acrylic proofing isn’t in a coating but in the thread itself, thus doesn’t need reproofing the same way. It is a woven fabric so looks almost identical to the poly/cotton, yet feels nicer to touch and stays clean and new looking for much longer.

Acrylic canvas wedding pavillion

We are Spirits Intent, expert makers of nomadic tents and specialists in the canvas side of things, call on us if you need any advice on canvas or need new covers for your structures.

On the Other Side of The Yurt Makers’ Heart: The Libra Yurt is born.

The Libra Yurt is Born: the next yurt of The Zodiac Tent.

Having been clearing and flattening the site all summer long, a lot of the ground was bare and the new grass has not caught yet, so we were worried that an increase in rain will turn the site into a mud bath. We spent a few weeks getting the place up and together with the help of some friends and relations: we first made a large workshop area near the Zodiac Tent site.

Workshop space

Next thing we rigged up the tents again: the Scorpio yurt was up all summer long, but we had taken the Sibley tent down (its a type of hanging tipi) so that had to go up again.

Luckily we had some friends to visit just in time, and it was lots of fun putting it all up, and it  felt like the event was already on.

The Sibley tent is a tent we made earlier this year, it is traditionally pitched with a tripod, under which one has an open fire, but we just hang it from a friendly oak.

sibley and yurt

Sibley Tent and Yurt pitched for the event


Sibley Tent

The last tent to go up was the latest addition to the Baker Tent Family, the ‘Kitchen Tent’, which is a double sized Baker Tent.

kitchen tent

The Kitchen Tent

So, the group  arrived,  a few of the participants had already made a yurt before, and one friend was a professional yurt maker.

Breakfast in front of the Majella

Breakfast in front of the Majella

Everybody where keen to get into it, we started the week by going into the forest and cutting poles.

tammy cutting poles

Tammy cutting ash poles

We than started the peeling and steaming process, every body getting into peeling and shaping rafters, tying trellis poles, and glueing the wheel.

busy bees

Busy Bees

All through we were introducing group work and inner focus, but with little emphasis so not to make it too emotional for the group. However it seemed, at times, that there was so much people were going through because of the ‘open psychic space’ around, and working together out in nature. at one point an Israeli participant even commented, “wow where is all this emotionality coming from I thought we came here to make a yurt”! (He was just joking, trying to keep things light).

The community making process, was taking place and it was interesting to see the group going through the motions, how the first high of coming together was replaced by disillusion and how harder feelings started coming up, it was amazing to witness some of the things people went through. The weather mirrored this process with more rain than we’d had all the summer in a couple of days. The collective mud-bath did bring the group together.

Campsite in rain

Campground in rain

At one point it seemed the whole gathering was falling apart, but that too was part of the community making process, than out of that harder space something amazing started to bloom, a real sense of togetherness. Seeing people pitch in, working until the evening making the yurt parts, sharing the fire-heated bath water, and more than all some real life change was starting to take place in all it was the perfect balance. We were afraid the rain would be too much, or the winds, or that being so far out in nature without comforts, mobile phones or chocolate would prove hard, but it wasn’t. (The food came out more than amazing,  with 3 meals a day cooked on the fire!)

It proved that group process work could be maintained simply by intent, and our job was simply to hold the process and the place together.

in the wheel

Happy Yurt makers, after steaming the yurt wheel

There is simply too much to say and the inner processes that took place are too private to share here, but it was a deep experience seeing a little tribe form and go through it together facing the elements together, at moments even crying together.

Face in the element

Face in the (watery) element

In a way some of the best things to come out were the resolutions people came up with at the end. We got some amazing thank you’s, and were told by one woman that it was a life changing experience and she has decided to up it and go into a new life within the year, that coming back home after all the nature was trying.

At one point in the middle of this gathering we were sitting by the fire, and Lucy said we need to look for an omen to find out which sign this yurt will represent. With the Scorpio Yurt, we had a clear sign when a Scorpion crawled out of one of the door posts whilst it was being made.) Her feeling was that this yurt was the Libra yurt as this gathering started as the Sun moved into Libra on the Autumn Equinox, going until the Super Harvest Moon Eclipse the night before the yurt went up. As she said it, we were all outside looking at the sky for Libra and there was a collective gasp as a shooting star shot through the sky. We knew this one was the Libra yurt.

Libra Yurt next to Scorpio Yurt

Libra Yurt next to Scorpio Yurt

yurt makers

Yurt Makers (with T-shirts)

Here is an article by Dayana Piccoli, who participated in the event,  in ‘Chi si dicie’, the magazine of Torricella Peligna, our local town. Amidst the pages of town history and rural life,  Dayana’s article (page 17) shines through, and says much of what I was gonna share here, and a little more! Better polish your Italian.

Contact us if you are interested in participating in a similar event. We are also starting to look for people that want to get involved on a more regular basis, help with the work while living in nature for longer periods, or even help us run events.

And here is a little Video that shows some nice moments from the gathering.

The Yurtmakers’ Heart – A Nomadic Craftsman’s Gathering

From this coming Autumn Equinox until the Harvest Moon, we will be delving into the realm of the inner yurtmaker, discovering  this ancient art of making nomadic structures that has been passed from generation to generation of nomadic craftsman.

From its very origins nomadism depended on the art of making movable dwellings and the aim of this one week workshop/gathering is to get us back in touch with that simplicity, as a way of being, and so we intend to construct more mobility into our life too.

At this one week workshop, not only will you learn how to make a Turkmen yurt, going through each of the frame components one by one, we will also be living as a small tribe, working together and creating what we call the group mind, and a tribal way of being as a whole.

yurt wheel in Italy

Making Yurts in the Wilds of Italy

The setting of this tribal yurt makers’ camp is at our site in the centre of Italy, in front of the majestic Majella mountain, where we will be living around the fire, getting up early every morning and working on waking up our inner selves, then making breakfast together, and walking out to collect the yurt poles from the land. There we will then be cutting the ash saplings by hand, then using draw knives we will be peeling them, and bending them into the various yurt’s component.

The aim of this week is to teach each person to construct a yurt frame (with the option of staying on to learn the art of cover making) and we will be also doing some inner energy work alongside the outer work, so each participant can take a deeper look at his or her life, to become more fluid inside at the same time.

We will be using hand tools only, cooking on the fire, and living in tents, in order to maintain the tribal feel. You are welcome to bring your own tent or you can stay in one of the structures we provide, but space in these is limited. so book in advance if you intend to stay in one of these.

Our Own Tents

Scorpio Yurt sleeps 5-6 people

Sibley Tent: 3-4

Baker Tent: 1-2

Australian Swag/Bedroll: 1

As part of the “Yurts for Free” school of yurt-making, we are also aiming to show how you can make your own yurt for free, at home. The idea is that you too can create a workshop teaching others the skills you have learnt, and letting the workshop fee pay for the materials needed for the yurt. In that manner, not only you are learning how to make your own yurt, at the end of this week you have the tools to pass on a similar workshop and teach others how to make their own yurt for free.

At the end of this one week workshop you have the option of staying on for  3-4 days of yurt cover-making tuition, but this would be a separate workshop.

Yurt fireside cooking

Yurt Fireside Cooking

We will be living in Nature and cooking our own food, so each person will need to take part in gathering wood, food preparation, lighting fires and washing pots.

You will need to be comfortable with washing outside with a bucket or in a fire heated bath, and going to the toilet in a hole, cleaning your behind with water and without paper, and generally being wild and close to the earth. We may encounter wild animals, like snakes, scorpions and wild boar and deer roam the land on daily basis, so if you are scared of nature, it,s probably best to avoid this workshop.

Dates: 22nd-29th of September: frame-making workshop. (We ask that everyone arrive      and leave on those dates).
29th September – 3rd October: cover-making workshop.

Price: 150 euros would cover your accommodation and food for the week and the cover making course to follow is 70 euros for the 3-4 days.

Languages spoken: English, German, Italian, Hebrew

Bring: Sleeping mat, bedding, good clothing for the wilds, a bowl and spoon (although there will be some available), your real self.

Watch this space and our Facebook page for more information.

And contact us to book on spiritsintent@yahoo.co.uk

0044 7895-019028 (UK Mobile)

0039 338-8622686 (Italian Mobile)
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The Busy Bees of Tent Making

It’s that time, once again, when the people wake up from their winter hibernation, look at the daffodils and say, “Crikey it’s spring – better get moving”.

For Spirits Intent, and our now sister, Wild Canvas, this means making yurts, tipis, Bushcraft tents and custom covers ready for the season. Much of our work is the sewing side of things, and many have already designed their campsites over the winter, but there’s always a few calls that go : “Hi, just dug my 2 yurt canvases out of the barn, and realise that they have holes in them, and it may rain this year, so we probably need new ones. I know it’s a bit late but is there any chance you can get them done by the end of the week?”

We like challenges and somehow it all happens.

The next delivery of canvas

The next delivery of canvas

Yurt Felt
Yurt Felt


Swimming in the P V sea...big camp roof cover for Wild Wise

Swimming in the P V sea. Camp cover for Wild Wise

Sand and Khaki Canvas Mountain

Sand and Khaki Canvas Mountain


Yurt Canvas and Felt linings for Henry Dowell (www.yurtmaker.co.uk)

Yurt Canvas and Felt Peak going to  Henry Dowell


2 more of those Wild Canvas Baker Tents - ready for the wilds

2 more of those Wild Canvas Baker Tents – ready for the wilds

Stormy Yurt Making and the Winds of Change


White horse returns

If you remember we went into the myth-ontological of the white horse  a while ago. A few days ago I went with the South Wind (traditionally regarded as the door) to get the some chestnut to make the door for the yurt making.

On the way back we stopped for fuel behind this van and I was smiling to see this gorgeous white horse smiling back at me. The white horse speaks to me directly as a symbol, it was funnier as the van ended up belonging to Tipi Jean .

The South Wind and I have been bringing the door home, as you can see in the pictures below.


Making the long wall grooves in the door



Yurt trellis gets into the groove

Today is meant to be the stormiest weather since the UK 1987 storm, so I lit the fire and used the west wind to blow the flames, not unlike a forge, to heat up the pick axe to burn through the Yurt wheel holes, the act is called – stormy yurt making, the forging of weather into your craft!


Pick head warming, aided by  the West Wind


Burning the wheel holes


I hope this yurt will not end up being too windy, but I like harvesting the power of the elements and our innermost feelings in conduction with the people we work with to create magic. It’s not every day that we get a storm like this.

I listened to sacred music like mark eliyahu for the delicate cuts like the door tenons, and the long door grooves, as it helps me with accuracy. Some wood work should be done in that frame of mind like working in a temple (at least that is my opinion).

Tales of Yurt Power: The Mari Lwyd Yurt

Mari Lwyd parade Eistedfodd

Mari Lwyd parade, Maes Gwyrdd, National Eisteddfod, 2012…just before they entered the newly finished yurt frame, thus bestowing good fortune on the yurt (photo from ‘Wild Wombling’ – the guys with the amazing chai)

Mari Lywd

Mari Lwyd

The White Horse symbol had already featured quite strongly in our story, when we were invited to show yurt-making at the National Eisteddfod festival in Wales. It is an extremely Welsh celebration of Welsh literature and Welsh performance and we (unWelsh) were only invited by association with Iwan Brioc, our (Welsh) friend.

We were making a yurt frame, of which the roof rafters, instead of being steam-bent as usual, were glued in layers on the jig for the zome of the Zodiac Tent. They were already finished, and we didn’t know if we would finish the rest. Someone told us, at this event, that it was unlucky for the yurt-maker to make their own door so we were waiting to see who would come forth to make the door. Fortunately a guy arrived with some linden wood, and fashioned a door, which was an omen about a person, but that is another story…

Somehow, with many hands making lighter work, the frame was ready to assemble on the final day of the festival. Just as the final rafter was being tied, the Mari Lwyd procession for the finale of the week, came parading around the field and entered the door of the yurt.

Hence the name Mari Lwyd or White Horse yurt.



The yurt complete

yurt door

Coming soon: the White Horse and how it wove itself into our story in various guises.