Tuesday, June 21, 2011

DIY Roman Shades

I made my first roman shade a few years ago - for our powder room.

ummm, a wee bit cockeyed!  (this shade has been subsequently replaced by blinds and a valance)
The first was definitely the hardest - but, once I understood how these things actually worked - I was able to improvise a little and adapt my method.  Next, I made 2 shades for our aqua/orange nursery.

I definitely made a few mistakes along the way, but, these shades are very functional (and the mistakes aren't too obvious).

So, when it was time for new window treatments in our 2 new bathrooms and our bedroom, I felt like I pretty much had the hang of it. 

But, even after all that practice - it was still a learning process on the 5 most recent shades - and there are things I'd like to do over (e.g., that pesky puckering at the top of the pink/orange shade). 

So, I'm definitely no expert, but I thought I would share some of the things I've learned along the way.

Tips for making your own roman shade:
  1. Find a roman shade (in your own home or elsewhere) - and study it.  Lift and lower it.  See how it works.  I wish I had done this to start! 
  2. Read the tutorial at Terrell Designs.  This is where I started with my first shade.  She has very detailed instructions, calculating tools and a shop for purchasing shade hardware.  Her website is extremely helpful!  But, I have a few thoughts about the Terrell method:
    • Terrell's instructions for sewing the front fabric and lining together are a little more complicated than need be.  I've tried a simpler alternative, and it seems to work fine (see steps 1-4 below).
    • She strongly advocates for internal "battens" (flexible plastic sticks), which make the shade lift neatly, without having to fuss with the folds.  I've decided to forgo the battens on my recent shades - and, I think you can go either way.  My advice is to use battens if: (1) you plan to open and close your shades regularly (daily); (2) you are using lighter weight fabric and/or you want very crisp folds; or (3) you are making an unusually wide shade. (Note also that plastic battens are hard to find. I purchased some from her website, and spent more than I would have liked).
    • She advocates for using a steel weight rod on the bottom of the shade.  In my experience, this make it really heavy.  It may be helpful for certain fabrics or for large windows, but I think a wooden dowel is probably sufficient.  And, if you're going for the "relaxed", like my bathroom shade below, you won't use anything to weigh down the bottom.
    • Terrell's method calls for a precise formula/blueprint for your shade.  Maybe it's best to follow this method for your first go at this (like I did)... since it helps you visualize how to make the shade work.  But, if you are reasonably good at sewing/DIY and eyeballing things generally, I think you can skip this step and follow my unscientific method below.
  3. Stick to cotton fabrics.  That black & white polka dot shade was made of a synthetic fabric, which was impossible to work with.  You'll be much happier if you stick to cotton.
  4. Spring for a cord lock... and then figure out how to string it.  Using a cord cleat is fine if you will hardly ever open/close your shades... but, for functionality, you cannot beat a cord lock.
  5. Consider safety issues (roman shade cords can be a hazard for young children).  You can see more info here.  In my home, I keep all lift cords very short, and try to keep shades lifted and completely out of reach when the girls are playing in a room with roman shades.

Step-by-Step:  Making a Classic Relaxed Roman Shade (from Scratch)

I used some short-cuts for some of the newer shades (will post short-cuts tomorrow), but the master bathroom shade (bird print) was completely from scratch.  Here are some photos to illustrate the process.  My cursory instructions assume some basic understanding/knowledge.  Please feel free to ask questions though, and I'll try to respond to make things clearer.  And, Terrell's site is so comprehensive, if you're uncertain about something, chances are you can find it there.

1. Measure, measure, measure.  You'll need to decide if you're mounting inside the window frame or outside.  Place your front fabric faced down on your fabric lining, pin the sides, and mark a sewing line (I'm not hip to the sewing lingo) with a pencil.

2.  Sew your front and liner fabrics together - sides only.

3.  Turn inside out, press the seams, and create a narrow hem at the top (1/2 - 3/4").  Fold, iron and sew.

4.  Your shade should look like a pillowcase at this point.  Now, determine your finished length, and fold your bottom hem accordingly (fold over once, iron, then fold again and iron).  Then, sew in place.

Notice the big "uh oh" in this photo?  I used the selvedge line to mark my side seam, and forgot that the pattern wouldn't go all the way to the edge of the shade!  Well, if I was previously on the fence about adding a trim around the edges... this sealed the deal.  Good thing my trim was wide enough to hide it.  Oops!

5.  If you're adding decorative trim, measure, measure, measure!  Then, I recommend sewing mitered corners (but use a matching thread, for goodness sake! I  was too lazy to switch out the white for navy).

6.  Once you've sewed all your corners, glue down the trim with fabric glue or hot glue.

it's starting to look like something...

7.  Here's the short-cut eyeballing method... fold your shade as you'd like to see it folded when fully raised.  You will need to play with the folds a bit, to get them even and spaced properly.  If you have added trim, you'll probably want the bottom of the shade to show.  If there's no trim, you might have the bottom raised and hidden behind the bottom fold.  (Blogger will not let me upload this picture horizontally, for some reason!)

8.  Pinch your pleats, and make small pencil markings on the creases (on the back of the shade) as shown, about 2" in from the sides.  These markings are where you will sew lift rings.

9.  Sew velcro (hook & loop tape) to the top hem of your shade (on the back).  This will be used to attach the shade to the mounting board.

10.  Cut a 1"x2" wooden board to the width of your shade, and cover it with the same fabric as the shade (using glue) - this really doesn't need to be perfect.  . 

11.  Staple the other side of the velcro to the front edge of your mounting board. 

12.  Gather your mounting supplies - screw eyes, a cord lock, and drapery cord (not pictured).  (Again, problem with blogger photo upload!)

and attach the screw eyes and cord lock.  My shade was only about 27" wide, so I only needed 2 rows of lift rings, and therefore, 2 screw eyes.  For wider shades, you'd probably need 3 columns of lift rings (so, a screw eye in the middle of the mounting board as well).

13.  Now, it's time to sew on the lift rings.  Hopefully, you have lined up your screw eye with your pencil markings, but if not, move the lift rings in line with the screw eye. 

14.  Oops - forgot to photograph this next step.  Here's the back of an old JC Penney shade, to show how the cord is attached.  Cut 2 long pieces of drapery cord.  String each piece through the lift rings on each side of the shade, and attach each cord to the bottom lift ring by knotting. 

15.  Now, the string on the left side goes through the screw eye on the top left and then comes to the right, through the next screw eye, and then through the cord lock.  The string on the right goes through the right screw eye and through the cord lock (photo below).

16.  Now, the mounting board is ready for mounting.  I used wood screws to attach it to the underside of the window frame (you can see the wood screw below).  During this step, the shade will be hanging down from the bracket (but still attached), since you've already tied the lift cords to the lift rings. 

17.  Finally, lift the shade up and attach the velcro pieces together.  You can then knot your lift cords together near the top of the shade, and then attach some kind of cord pull (I haven't found one yet).

18.  If you add a valance, you can simply sew a rectangle of the desired size, add the trim in the same way that was done for the shade, and then glue the top of the valance to the top of the mounting board (it could be stapled, if it were attached prior to mounting).  With a valance, you could also pull the lift cord through the shade fabric (hidden by the valance), by attaching a small grommet near the top of the shade under the valance.  I haven't gotten around to this either!).

And, there you have it. 

When raised, it has a casual, draped feel.  If you don't like the droopy look in the middle - you could follow Terrell's instructions for attaching plastic battons, which would create straight, horizontal folds.

Tomorrow, I'll highlight the few alternative methods and short-cuts that I used on the girls' bathroom shade and the master bedroom shades.


  1. I'm going to try this out!!!!!

  2. I've been reading tutorials, and I'm glad that someone else agrees that there is a whole lot of unnecessarily fancy stuff in them.

  3. Thank you for this tutorial. I am looking to make some roman shades similiar to this. I love the relaxed look, but in my case I don't want the pleats in it... just looking for more of a gathered look at the bottom and sinched look to the sides of it. Do you think I can do this by only adding the lift rings to the bottom? Will it hold the weight alright? Thank you! Shannon


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