Roman shades, in my opinion, are maybe one of the most versatile ways to cover your windows out there. They can be made in so many fabrics and materials, can be dressed up or down and work for any decorating style.
Compared to full length drapery which don’t always work for every situation, roman shades offer a more streamlined look which is better suited for windows in and around built-ins for example. In addition, they can also help with temperature and light control just like full length drapery.
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The beach cottage windows had those old, ugly plastic shades on them when we bought the house and while we kept them up during demo and construction, I knew that I’d eventually want to change them.
I looked high and low and found that most roman shades that I loved were on the pricey side when considering I need them for the entire house. My ultimate goal is to find just the right color of natural wood or bamboo but with so much going on at the house, I didn’t want to hold things up because of my inability to choose the right blinds. Eventually I’d like to add full length drapery as well but I think the decorating will be done in stages so the cottage has a homey, collected feel.
For now, B and I agreed that we really just needed something to add a little color to the all white space that also filters light, gives us privacy and functions well.
After doing a little research online, I got it in my head that I could make my own as a temporary option until we are ready to invest in something else. I found a couple of good blog posts with instructions and I was confident that I could take bits and pieces from both sets of instructions to make something that would work.
On one of our rare weekends home this summer, B and I visited one of my favorite hidden gems to look for fabric. It’s a weird store that sells both hardware and tools and fabrics and craft items. Most of the fabric is upholstery and heavier weights so I was confident that if I found a fabric I liked, it would be just fine for making shades.
After almost giving up, I found a bright yellow, tropical pattern fabric in the perfect mid-weight for blinds. I bought 10 yards at just a few dollars a yard plus a crisp white cotton to use as the lining. In total I spent $40! That’s less than one store bought shade!
To be clear, I am not an experienced sewer. Aside from some lessons in “Home Ec” in middle school, my sewing skills are pretty limited yet I was able to figure this out. Before I get into the instructions, I do want to say that I made my shades super simple with tension rods. If you want to make fully functioning roman shades I have also included instructions for this as this is how I had originally planned on making mine.
How to Make Easy DIY Roman Shades
- Fabric for your shade measured 4 inches wider than your actual window width by 8 inches longer than the actual length of your window.
- Lining fabric measured exactly the same as your shade fabric.
- Matching thread
- 1 x 2 piece of wood the length your window is wide minus about ½” (this is for an inside mount shade)
- Tension rod sized to fit your window (I used these and they are perfect)
- Staple Gun (mine is here)
- Screws (2.5 – 3 inches long)
- Screwdriver or power drill
- Yardstick or tape measure
For fully functioning roman shades you will also need:
- ½” plastic rings (what I bought)
- 15/16” metal screw eyes
- Small corner brackets
- Cord Cleat
- Polyester Cord (at approximately 5 times the length of your shade)
- 5/16” wooden dowels – length depends on the length of your shade (I got mine here)
- Wooden shade pulls (what I used)
Cut your fabric and lining material to the proper size. Refer to the list above for how to measure. For reference, I wanted my blinds to mount inside the window frame so my window measurements were 28 ½” wide by 45” high. That meant my fabric was cut to 32 ½ “ wide by 53” high.
With your fabric cut to size, fold a 2” hem down both sides and along the bottom of your fabric and using your iron, press the hem smooth.
Create a mitered corner. To do this, unfold your hems and fold the two bottom corners into the point where the press lines meet. Then refold your original hems and iron the corners again to lay flat. Easy, right?
Repeat steps 2 and 3 for your lining fabric only instead of a 2” hem, create a 2 ½” hem.
Lay out your shade fabric with the right side facing down on the table. Then lay your lining fabric on top with the right side facing up. (your back sides will be facing each other)
I went a step further and actually tucked my lining fabric behind the hem of my shade fabric so that is what shows along the edge on the back side of the shade.
Pin the pieces together along all three hemmed edges. Don’t worry about the top of your blind yet. Sew.
If you plan to use cord, rings and hooks to make a fully functioning roman shade keep following along. If you plan to use tension rods like I did, skip to Step 10
Now that your shade fabric and lining are pinned together, it’s time to prepare your wooden dowels. With your shade lying flat on the table, start placing your dowels perpendicular to the height of your shade spacing them out approximately 8-12” apart. Be sure to keep the top most dowel at least 10” from the top of your shade.
The easiest way to determine how far from the bottom your lowest dowel should be, simply divide your chosen dowel interval length by 2 and then add 1 to it. For example, if you plan to space your dowels 10” apart, you divide 10 by 2 and get 5 and then add one to get 6. Your lowest dowel will be 6” from the bottom.
With your dowels in place, make them on each side so you know where your dowel sleeves will go.
The next step is to make sleeves for your dowels to slide into. To do this, cut strips of fabric 3” wide by the length of your shade side-to-side. Make one for each dowel then fold them in half widthwise making them 1 ½” wide.
Fold the cut side of your strips (the opposite of the folded side) in about halfway and iron down to keep in place. Then place your dowel sleeves in place on your shade based on your markings. The sleeves should be placed with the newly irons edge facing down toward the bottom of your shade and the faw edges facing in. Then pin into place and sew.
Using a needle and thread, sew your plastic rings onto your dowel pockets. You will need three rings per pocket. Place one on either end about 2” in from the end and then sew one in the center. When you are done, you should have three vertical columns of rings all the way down your shade on each sleeve.
With your polyester cord, cut three pieces the same length at 3 times the length of your shade. When all three are cut, tie one string to each of the three plastic rings on the bottom most dowel and thread the strings vertically up through each ring in their respective “column”.
With your wooden 1 x 2 cut to about ½” shorter than your shade is wide, place it at the top of your shade. Fold about ½” of your shade fabrics under and staple your fabric to the top of the board.
If you are doing a fully functioning shade, on the opposite side, screw in three eye hooks to line up with your three columns of plastic rings.
To mount your brackets, make sure your shade is lying out flat and your screw eyes are parallel to your table surface. Place one side of your bracket on the same side as your screw eyes and the other side facing outward (up) at the very top of your shade.
If you are using tension rods, you are done. Simply mount your shade to your window and place your tension rod in place and fold your blinds up to the desired height. It’s super easy and you can’t even tell unless you really look!
Determine which side of your shade you want your pull to be on and three your three rows of string through the screw eyes. The first cord should be threaded through all three screw eyes, the second through the middle and last screw eyes and the third, just through the last screw eye. When you are done, all three strings should pass through one screw eye.
You can tie a knot to tie all three strings together so they pull together or tie them to a wooden handle like I had planned to.
Mount your shade to your wall, window frame or door. Mount your cord cleat to the side of the window your pull strings are on and you are ready to go!
This project did take some time. I made four at the same time which is partly why I opted to cheat and use tension rods instead of making them fully functional. I probably still will finish them but for now, they give us much needed privacy.
Have you made your own roman shades for your home or even any other kind of window covering? Any additional pointers or tips from the more experienced sewers out there? Leave a comment and let me know.