How to Design a Shade Sail

Shade sails are an attractive and versatile alternative to a fixed patio cover. They can be used as free standing shade for the yard or the beach. The name comes from their shape. Shade sails are traditionally made in a triangle shape that mimics the shape of a ship's sail, but they can be made in any shape and fabric pattern. They're easy to put up and take down and making them is a simple project that can be completed by a novice do-it-yourselfer.

Designing Your Shade

Design a Shade Sail
  1. Select the size and shape of the shade sail. Geometric shapes like squares, rectangles and triangles are easiest to create from scratch. The size is determined by the amount of coverage you want the sail to provide.

  2. Cut heavy fabric like canvas that will stand up to the elements to the size and shape of the sun sail. Iron a narrow hem along each unfinished side and sew the hems closed.

  3. Use a grommet tool to put grommets in each corner of the shade sail. Lay one piece of the grommet on either side of the fabric and use the tool to press them together. If you don't have a grommet tool, use a rubber mallet to tap them together. Cut out the fabric inside the grommet.

  4. Determine where the sail will be attached. If the sail will be over a patio at the side of your house, two of the grommets can be attached to the house and the others attached to trees or other supports. To construct a free-standing support, use a post hole digger to dig a hole for the support, fill the hole with concrete and place the support in the concrete. Allow the concrete to cure before attaching the sail.

  5. Attach screw hooks to the places where the sun sail will be supported by drilling a pilot hole and then screwing the hook in securely. Slip one grommet over each screw hook.


  • Take the sun shade down if bad weather threatens. Measure carefully before constructing permanent supports to ensure that they're in the right location for the grommets. Make sure the supports create enough tension in the sail to keep it from flapping and working itself off the hooks.

About the Author

Meg Jernigan has been writing for more than 30 years. She specializes in travel, cooking and interior decorating. Her offline credits include copy editing full-length books and creating marketing copy for nonprofit organizations. Jernigan attended George Washington University, majoring in speech and drama.