DIY Sun Sail Shade

The rhythm of spring has finally settled in. There isn’t much I enjoy more than spending time relaxing outdoors. Much of my home’s outdoor appeal is in my backyard. The yard is highlighted by a koi fish pond and a gently flowing stream that accentuates the lush natural landscape. We have a few sitting areas, some under shade trees and some that are unprotected from the sun. The main area us off the deck gets lots of blistering sunlight. The wonderful healthy effects from Vitamin D are easy to soak up. The flip side of all that sun, are the nasty UV rays.

I’ve been looking for an awning or canopy that would provide shading and also be eco-friendly. Instead of buying a new one, using an old sail that was discarded or no longer needed by a sailor (we’ve got one in the garage), can be made into a wing-like shade. A green and economical (free!) solution to my shade problem.

Sails have been made from cloth for years, and some are made from cotton, flax or hemp. More recently, canvas sails are also made from synthetic fibers. While the natural canvas sails would be the first choice to use for this project, the newer technology sails of nylon and polyester sails may be easier to find. Either way, recycled sails are an upcycled use for a non-functional sail.

DIY Sun Sail Shade

Note: The sail can be attached directly to a house or outdoor structure with wooden posts or suspended using trees for the corners.

What you need:

Used boat sail. Here is a source for used sails.
Strong waterproof cotton rope (like the kind used to make hammocks) or nylon rope
Tape measure
Optional: Posts
Optional: grommets like these or hook and eye bolts like these.

What to do:
1. Decide what area you want your sail to shade.
2. Clean and dry the sail if needed.
3. Measure the sail and lay it over the area.
4. Attach the sail to whichever type of posts you are using. If it is connected to a house or structure by one or two sides, you may need to attach a hook or eye bolt or grommets to the structure. Be careful to avoid any power lines and make sure the sail is attached securely. A taut line-hitch (here’s instructions for a line-hitch from a youtube video) is a great knot for this purpose. If it is attached to trees, use the rope to tie directly onto trees.
5. Raise the sail!

Also, try sewing up some coordinating cushions or pillows if you have other sails to recycle.

Memorable gardens and backyards deserve outdoor functional living spaces. Make yours an extension of your home and create a shaded area that blends into your landscape and captures the mood of spring. Let the breezes flow, smell the flowers and keep the sun at bay.

Photo by: Hermann Weis for Fine Gardening

Ronnie Citron-Fink lives in New York with her husband, two children (when they come home to the nest), two dogs and a cat. Ronnie is a teacher and a writer. She has been a contributing writer for Family Fun magazine. She currently writes articles about education and home design. Her writings are in four books including Family Fun Home and Some Delights of the Hudson Valley.



mary r.
Mary R.3 years ago

Great idea ! Thanks.

Bmr Reddy
Bmr Reddy3 years ago


Bmr Reddy
Bmr Reddy3 years ago


Tim C.
Tim C.3 years ago


Ronnie Citron-Fink

Oops, here it is!

Ronnie Citron-Fink

Here is an easy to install, non-DIY sun sail designed especially for backyard shade.