DIY Roman Shades

This summer’s project so far has been to repaint the entire first floor of the house. I really liked the colors I picked when we moved in 5 years ago, but over the winter I decided they had to go. They were dark, 1970s type colors, rusty red, gold, dark brown, popular at the time, but now and I wanted something light and bright and fun. The painting is almost done (I don’t like the color I painted the kitchen, so it will be repainted again shortly), but the new wall colors required new accent colors, so new curtains and throw pillows are in the works.

Which brings us to this tutorial, roman shades. I should start by mentioning that I do not know how to sew, but I didn’t let that stop me so neither should you. They are incredibly easy to make, and the measuring is harder than the sewing. Fun story time, last summer, I woke early one Saturday morning and announced to the hubby that I wanted to go to Wal-Mart and buy a sewing machine. His reply – “you don’t know how to sew?”  Well how am I going to learn if I don’t have a sewing machine. Plus, I was pregnant and nesting, so there was no arguing with me. Off to Wal-Mart we went, sewing machine was purchased, and I started googling how to make curtains, which is where I decided to start. So here we are almost a year later, I’ve made several simple tab curtains, a crib skirt, a cushion for a rocking chair (way beyond my skill level) and now 3 roman shades. The roman shades look like they are the most complicated, but are in fact the easiest to make.

There are many roman shade tutorials available on the interwebs, but I didn’t find one that was exactly what I wanted. I used elements of these tutorials, Shanty2Chic & Jen Duncan and just winged the rest. I promise these are very easy and look fabulous when finished. From start to finish the shade took me about 2.5 hours to complete (or it would have if I hadn’t jammed up the sewing machine repeatedly).


First step is to gather the required supplies and tools:
Gather supplies. Check.
Gather supplies. Check.
  • Fabric of your choice, for my window I needed a yard and a half
  • Liner fabric
  • Matching thread, I always forget thread when fabric shopping
  • 1 x 2 board cut 1/2 inch shorter than window width
  • Rod or dowel, cut  1/2 inch shorter than window width
  • Rings (plastic or brass) I found mine at JoAnn’s in the window treatment aisle
  • 3 eye screws
  • 3 screws for attaching to window
  • cord, also found at JoAnn’s
  • staple gun and staples
  • disappearing ink fabric pen
  • pins
  • scissors
  • iron
  • sewing machine
  • measuring tape/yard stick
Next, measure and cut your fabric. The front fabric should be 2 inches wider than the window and 8 inches longer. The lining should be the same width as the window (2 inches less than the front fabric) and 8 inches longer (same length as front). This allows for a half inch seem allowance and for the front fabric to wrap around to the back 1/2 inch on both sides. I do this rather than sewing the back and front the same size, because I can’t sewing in a straight line, and this is more forgiving. Iron your fabric, it is much easier to do now then later.
Now pin the front to the lining, front sides together so the wrong side is facing out. Line up the side edges, leaving the top and bottom open. Since the front is wider than the lining, it will not lay flat.  Sew both sides with a 1/2 seem allowance.
Sew in a straight line. Check.
Then turn the tube you just created inside right. With the lining facing up, center the lining so that half an inch of the front material folds over each side and press it with the seem inward, giving you nice crisp edges and a nice smooth shade.
Use iron without burning self. Check.
The next step is to create the bottom hem. Fold the bottom edge up 1/2 inch, pin and press it. Then fold up that up 2 inches, pin and press that.
Use pins without sticking self… Check?

Now sew across the fold, about 1/4 inch down from the top to create the hem.

Another straight line. Check.

At this point all the machine sewing is done. Three straight lines, that’s all it takes. Now comes the hard part, measuring.

The rings need to be attached to the back of the shade, and they have to line up correctly or the shade will look all wonky when it is pulled up instead of laying in nice, neat folds. To do this, I use a yard stick as both a measuring tool and a straight edge and use my magic disappearing ink pen to mark. First, make a line running the length of the shade, two inches in from the side, repeat on the other side. Then find the center of the shade and make another line running down the center.

(Note this is for a window approximately 28 inches wide. My shade is going to have 3 rows of rings which equals 3 cords used to pull the shade up. If your window is really wide, the shade might sag between the rows of rings, so you might want to do 4 rows instead, in which case your spacing would obviously be different. If your window is really narrow, you might get by with only 2 rows of rings, skipping the center row.)

Now mark along these lines where each ring should go, starting at the bottom and working up. I start with a ring right at the top of my hem, then space them every 7 inches. Many tutorials place the first ring 5, 7, or 9 inches from the bottom, this is how much fabric will show before the first fold when the shade is raised. Personally I don’t like to see the hem, so that is why I start so low. Also, others suggest reducing the distance between rings as you go up to get a nicer pleat. I chose not to out of simplicity, and because if you do this, the shade doesn’t raise as high.  I realize this pic is really hard to see, but there are 3 purple lines running the length of the of the shade with an x where each ring should go.

What am I supposed to see here?
Then on each mark, hand sew a ring, making sure to go through both layers of fabric.
Hand sew on rings. Easy-peasy.
I make sure to stitch through the ring twice, which means 3 times through the fabric. You can see a bit of thread on the front, but no one will notice once it is finished.
Practically invisible.
Now for the weight at the bottom. I used a metal rod that my husband happened to have on hand, but any rod/dowel should work. It just needs to be heavy enough to keep the shade hanging straight but not so heavy to pull it down.  Slide the rod into the pocket created by the bottom hem, then hand stitch the edge closed so the rod doesn’t slip out.
Insert Rod joke here
If you are careful to stitch just the two inner layers of fabric, just inside the pocket, the stitches are completely invisible from the outside of the shade.
It doesn’t matter if this is done well, you can’t see it anyway.
We are getting so close! Now to attach the shade to the header board. Measure the length of the window up from bottom of the shade and draw a line across the shade. This is where to lay the 1 x 2 used as the header. lay it wide side down lined up above the line.
Measure twice, too long or too short of shades look silly. And pulling staples is a pain.
Wrap the fabric around the top of the board and staple it down. Cut off the access fabric. Then screw in eye screws so they line up with the rows of rings on the shade.
Ignore how crooked my cutting is.
The next step is to thread the cord through the rings. The cords can be threaded to the left or right, whichever you prefer, just remember it will be the reverse when you thread it as it will be hanging. I like my shade to pull up on the right, so I start threading with the right column. Thread the cord through the the left eye screw first, then the center, then the right, then down through each ring on the right column. Knot the cord to the bottom ring.  Cut the cord so it hangs about half way down the left side.
Do the middle cord the same way. Thread it through the left and center eye screws, then down the center row of rings, knot it to the bottom ring. Repeat for the left side, only just through the left eye screw.  All three cords should be gathered to the left side
Almost done. Thread cord through rings. Check.
Now the shade is complete and just needs to be installed. To be honest, I make my husband do this part, but  it isn’t actually difficult. Just screw the header board into the window so the eye hooks hang down and the shade faces out. Alternatively you could attach L-shaped brackets to the window and attach the board to the brackets.
Screw to window trim. Check.
I used a cleat left over from some mini blinds to wrap the cord when the shade is up.  These can also be purchased at a craft store or hardware store.
Ignore the ugly thermometer.
 Then to make it all look pretty and professional, you can feed the ends of the cord through a cord pull before knotting them off.
It’s the little thinks that make it look complete.
And voila! The shade is done. It probably won’t fold perfectly when you pull the cord, just help it to crease in the right spots and lay flat. The more you use it the easier it will be as the fabric “remembers” where to fold.
So good luck on your crafting adventures. I hope this guide proves to be helpful. Please let me know if anything seems confusing, as I’ll gladly answer questions and update the tutorial to be more clear. This is my first try at this tutorial business so I’m sure it is far from perfect. I’ll also work on my photography skills, and remove that thermometer from the side of my kitchen window. It was there when we moved in,and it wasn’t until I look at these pictures that it hit me just how ugly it is.

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