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July 10, 2013

My Vintage Volkswagen Westfalia – A Tutorial: Sewing Your Own And Replacing Your Pop Top Tent (Part 1)

By Andrea

This post should almost be subtitled “Sometimes I Impress Myself With My Own Skills”, but really this was way easier to do than I expected. The tent on our Westi had definitely seen better days. It had been patched numerous times before, one window had been removed, and it still needed further patching. Darren suggested that I just sew a new one. The task seemed a little daunting at first, but I decided to give it a go.

I searched for a tutorial online, but couldn’t find one. I did find a few posts with some suggestions on The Samba.com, so armed with those, I decided to created a tutorial of my own.


Here’s the tent before. You can see that it definitely has seen better days.


Here’s the inside. My research indicated that the strips of trim with the million staples inside was in fact the factory install method. However, our strips were pretty old and brittle, so that was something we decided we wanted to replace.

After removing the million staples, the metal trim with screws at the bottom (and marking which trim piece went where), it was time to disassemble the tent to use as a pattern.


In the interest of durability, and ease of fitting, I decided to only have 1 seam. Here you can see the old tent on top of my new canvas, which I traced around. I also added 4″ extra on to the bottom, as per a suggestion I read, and decided to only go with one window, which would close with Velcro. The window decision was purely to make my life easier!

Let’s start on the new window. I marked on my new tent where the old one was, and cut out a similarily sized, but rectangular window. I used the piece that I cut out as a template for my screen piece, cutting it approx 3/4″ bigger than the piece that I cut out. I then covered the edges with bias tape, as per a suggestion I read to make the screen easier to handle. It also finished the screen edges off quite nicely.


I then turned under the edges of the window on the main tent piece and zig zag stitched them. This hem will be enclosed by the screen, so it only needs to be turned under once.


After that was done, I sewed the screen on to the window opening. I then added Velcro on the top and the two sides of the window.


After that, I made a window cover by cutting a rectangle the same size as the screen, enclosing the edges in bias tape (to reduce bulk), made some bias tape ties to tie the window open, and added Velcro along the top and sides. I then sewed it to the tent along the bottom.


Final bit of sewing I did was to turn under a hem at the top. Again, I only turned this under once to reduce bulk, and also because it will be covered by the stapled on trim at the top.

Come back on Friday, when I will cover the install, and show you my finished tent!

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13 Responses to My Vintage Volkswagen Westfalia – A Tutorial: Sewing Your Own And Replacing Your Pop Top Tent (Part 1)

  1. Honora Reply

    July 10, 2013 at 9:47 am

    It makes me so happy to watch you restore this.

    • Andrea Reply

      July 10, 2013 at 12:30 pm

      Aw, thanks Honora! I am so excited to take my little one camping in it, it’s ridiculous! 🙂

  2. Barbara Reply

    July 10, 2013 at 11:38 am

    I am already in awe of your sewing skills.

    • Andrea Reply

      July 10, 2013 at 12:32 pm

      Thanks, Barbara! This one really wasn’t as daunting as it first seemed though, I swear! 🙂

  3. Sara In AZ Reply

    July 10, 2013 at 1:07 pm

    Whoo-Hoo…..you go girl….it looks great already…..I can’t wait to see it installed!

    • Andrea Reply

      July 10, 2013 at 3:48 pm

      Thanks, Sara! 🙂

  4. RetroRuth Reply

    July 10, 2013 at 1:57 pm

    You are so talented!! I can’t wait to see the finished product!

    • Andrea Reply

      July 10, 2013 at 3:47 pm

      Thanks, Ruth! I am so pleased with the finished product, can’t wait for you all to see it on Friday!

  5. Brian Reply

    July 27, 2014 at 12:15 am

    Did you take any measurement’s on this before sewing or installing. My top is gone and I want to sew our own, but didn’t have the measurements for the material.

    1970 CampMobile.

    • Andrea Reply

      July 28, 2014 at 10:15 am

      Hi Brian – I didn’t take any measurements beforehand, but I do still have the original top. I’ve had a few requests for dimensions, so I am going to dig it out this coming weekend and take measurements so those of you who are trying to make a new top from nothing can have something to go on 🙂

  6. Robin Reply

    September 2, 2014 at 9:14 am

    This is so helpful, thanks for posting! How much yardage did you need of the canvas?

  7. Melissa Reply

    September 28, 2014 at 5:52 pm

    Yes. Measurement and yardage would be appreciated. Thanks!

  8. theresa Reply

    October 29, 2015 at 12:16 pm

    How’s that camper van doing? We recently bought a ’73 westfalia and the camper top has disintegrated. I’m ready to start sewing. Did you ever take measurements or have an idea of how many yards? Thanks

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