Are any of you DIYing your way through a major home remodeling project? A project that feels like it’s actually growing larger with each passing day? If you are, I’m sure you can relate to my state of mind last night. For anyone tackling a huge, years-long DIY remodeling project, it’s bound to happen at some point…or at many points…along the way.
I didn’t get to do much work on my Roman shades (or any other house project) yesterday, so it wasn’t until pretty late last night that I was finally able to finish up the little valance for the first Roman shade that I showed you yesterday. When I started working on it around 9:00, it had already been a long day, and I was tired. That’s never a good idea to start working on a project when I’m tired, even if it’s a simple one, because that’s when I make stupid mistakes. And those stupid mistakes lead to frustration. And frustration leads to discouragement.
Once discouragement takes over, the thoughts started creeping into my mind like, “I’m never going to get these done! These are going to take forever. And then after that, I have a ton of upholstery to do. And then I still have to do this. And then after that I have to do this other thing. And I still have four rooms that need drywall! And I also still need to figure out how to do this. And I haven’t even begun to think about that other thing…”
And then that small list of projects starts growing bigger and more overwhelming. That small snowball rolling downhill turns into a huge boulder-sized snowball that keeps rolling, keeps gaining speed, keeps growing in size, and then at some point it causes an avalanche that comes crashing down on top of me. And then I want to throw my hands in the air, and yell, “I’M DONE!! I GIVE UP! IT’S TOO MUCH!”
Of course, in hindsight, I know that the entire episode was brought on by the fact that I started a project late in the evening after a long, frustrating, exhausting day. It’s just never a good idea for me to do that. I should have just come home, had dinner, spent a relaxing evening with Matt, gone to bed early, and awakened this morning refreshed and ready to tackle those Roman shades.
But again, those episodes are inevitable when tackling such a huge project. And it’s in those moment that I have to climb out from under the avalanche and redirect my thoughts and energy.
First of all, I have to remind myself that this process is supposed to be FUN! 😀
I’ll never forget the first time I brought my mom over to see this house before we bought it — the look of concern on her face that she seemed to be trying to hide with a polite smile, her eyes that were screaming, “Kristi, RUN AWAY NOW!” while her mouth was saying, “Hmmm….well, I’m just not sure, Kristi.” I knew she had serious doubt and concerns. At one point she asked, “Are you SURE you want to do this? You see how much work this is going to be, right? Are you sure you CAN do this?”
“Of course! I’m sure!” I responded.
To be quite honest, I wasn’t sure at all. I wasn’t sure that I could do any of it.
I wasn’t sure that I wouldn’t just crash and burn with the very first project I tackled. I wasn’t sure that I was capable of tackling big construction projects, or that I wouldn’t make some huge mistake that would bring a load-bearing wall crashing to the floor. I wasn’t sure that I wouldn’t completely burn out after a year and totally regret my decision to purchase and live in a fixer upper.
I was completely and totally UNsure of everything, except for one thing…
I was absolutely, positively, 100% sure that I wanted to try, and that I wouldn’t be satisfied until I did. If I had a bucket list, purchasing and remodeling a fixer upper would be at the very top of my list. It’s something I’ve wanted to do since I was in my early 20s…maybe younger.
So here I am, two-and-a-half years later, still putting one foot in front of the other, making my way slowly but surely towards the finish line. And if there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that you have to enjoy the journey. When tackling such a huge project, the focus can’t always be about the end goal. It can’t always be about the race to the finish line. That type of mindset can be so discouraging (at least for me). When the only focus is the finish line, but you know it’ll be three, or four, or five years until you reach that finish line, it just becomes so overwhelming.
Instead, I have to refocus. The ultimate goal is the finish line. That much is true. But along the journey, there are thousands of other, smaller goals. And the path may not always be a straight shot from the present to the finish line. In fact, it’s anything but! Sometimes I get off on a rabbit trail for a few days and have to circle back around and find my way back to the main path. But sometimes those side adventures are the best and most memorable parts of the journey.
And of course, when things do get discouraging, it’s always nice to look back at how far I’ve come. It’s a good reminder that while things do seem like they’re creeping along at a snail’s pace, at least I’m headed in the right direction. Things are, in fact, getting done. Hundreds of small goals along the journey have already been accomplished. I’ve learned new skills along the way. I’ve purchased new tools and learned how to use them. I’ve come to thrive on that feeling of challenging myself to move beyond my comfort zone — to learn new things, to try things that might scare or intimidate me, to experiment with different ideas, to value the process of trial and error, and to not be afraid of making mistakes and having to start over. All of those things have helped me learn and grow, and I wouldn’t have the skills and knowledge that I have today if it weren’t for this amazing journey.
That finish line is out there. I know it is. And while I’m still so far away from it that I can’t really see it at all yet, I’m confident that I’m heading the right direction. But right now, that’s not my focus. It can’t be. Right now, I’m just trying to remind myself to enjoy every moment of the journey.
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*This post has been updated, and now includes the complete tutorial. Scroll to the bottom to see the completely finished Roman shade.
Well, I’m finally almost finished with my first Roman shade. Yep…just the first one. I still have four to go. 😀
I’m very slow at sewing anyway, even when I know exactly what I’m doing. But to be quite honest, it has been years since I’ve made this style of Roman shade, and I kept getting the process mixed up in my mind with other styles and other processes, so it took me way longer than it should have. Let’s just say that my stitch ripper got a good workout on this shade. So now that I have the steps down, I should be able to do the other four much faster.
And I apologize in advance because my pictures are horrible! My camera was on a wrong setting, and I never even noticed. So I’ll be retaking all of these pictures as I do the next shade, and hopefully things will be much easier to see in the new pictures. But until then, these will have to do.
First, let me show you what I have so far. As I mentioned, it’s not quite finished, but the main part of the shade is complete. So right now, it looks like this…
It is a fully operational Roman shade, and it opens and closes incredibly smoothly and easily. There’s no fussing with fabric folds needed because they fold up just as they should on their own. There are at least four different methods that I know of (and probably more that I don’t know of) to make this style of ribbed Roman shades, and the particular reason I chose this method is because in my experience, these open and close the easiest, with the nicest, cleanest folds that require no fussing with after their open.
So let me show you how I made these…
I started by measuring my window height and width. I always measure in three places (left, middle, and right for the height; top, center, and bottom for the width) and then take the narrowest width and subtract 1/4 inch to get my finished width for the shade. For the height, I take the shortest measurement of the three, and subtract 1/4 to 1/2 inch to get my finished height. (Note: You can make your shades the full height, or even add 1/2 inch or so. But since mine are white, and my cat likes to get on the window sills and sometimes gets them dirty, I didn’t want my white shades touching the window sills.)
With my finished shade height and width, I was ready to cut out the lining and face fabric. I cut the window lining to the exact finished width, and the face fabric to the finished width plus six inches.
For the height of both, I cut them to the finished height plus about 14 inches. You basically need to take your finished height, add 3 inches for the bottom hem, 3 inches for the top hem, and one inch for each spine that will be inserted into the shade. I like to space the spines about 8 inches apart. So the number of inches you allow for the spines will depend on how tall your window is.
Next, I placed the face fabric and the lining with the right sides together, and I sewed the sides with a 1.5″ seam. Then I placed the sewn pieces on my table, centered the lining with the face fabric (still with right sides together), and pinned the lining and fabric together along the bottom edge. On the sides, the lining should go right to the folded edges of the fabric. (Remember, the fabric was cut wider than the lining, so the seams won’t be right on the edges.)
With everything centered and the bottom pinned, I sewed the bottom together with a 5/8″ seam.
And then I turned the whole thing right side out. It was like turning a huge pillow case or very small duvet cover right side out. And then, I started smoothing everything out, getting the lining to lie flat with the fabric.
It took some patience, but I just kept working with it until it was all smoothed out, and I pinned the fabrics together as I went.
Then I used my steam iron to iron in all of the folds and seams.
Along the bottom edge, I turned up a 1.5″ hem and pinned it into place.
And then along the edges, I marked my spacing for the Roman shade spines. I placed my first pin five inches from the bottom edge of the shade, and then placed the rest of the pins 9″ apart.
And then I used those marks to pin in folds all the way across the shade. I measured very carefully all the way across to be sure that the folds were being pinned as straight and square as possible.
And then it was time to sew in everything I had pinned. I started by sewing the bottom hem with a blind hem stitch. Along the sides, I sewed the bottom half together, while leaving the top half of the edge open. This opening will allow a weighted rod to be inserted before installation, but it can also be removed if I want to have the shade dry cleaned.
And then along all of the folds that I pinned in for the ribs, I sewed those folds 1/2″ from the folded edge.
With all of the folds sewn and pressed, the front of the shade looked like this…
…and the back of the shade looked like this…
Those little pockets are where the 1/4″ diameter ribs (or in my case, oak dowel rods) will be inserted.
Note: My experience has been that smaller shades like this one (up to about 36 inches wide) are fine with wood dowel rods. I do recommend using oak since it’s stronger, and you can find them at Home Depot. For larger shades, I do recommend purchasing the plastic spines that are specifically for Roman shades. You can find those online.
Next, with the shade placed flat on the table, I measured from the bottom to mark my finished height, and placed a pin to mark that measurement. Then I measured from the top rib pocket to the pin I just placed, and used that measurement to mark the finished height all the way across the shade.
I folded the fabric along the pins, repinned the folded fabric, and pressed the fold in place. Then I measured out two inches on the folded fabric and cut off the excess.
Then I unpinned the fold, and refolded it with a double fold to hide the cut edge of the fabric.
And this is where I messed up big the first time.
Next, I sewed on the hook and loop tape. Tip: Always use the soft half of the hook and loop tape on your fabric, and put the scratchy half on your mounting board. That way, if you decide to take the shade down and have it cleaned, you won’t ever risk having that scratchy side touch your fabric. And that scratchy side can snag some fabrics quite easily. Ask me how I know.
Anyway, this is very important. The tape gets sewn to the front of the shade. Not the back. The front. As in, directly on top of the face fabric. I did it wrong the first time, and had to rip it out.
Next, I inserted the spines (i.e., 1/4″ dowel rods) into the spine pockets.
And then on each spine pocket, I measured for placement of the rings, and sewed those in place by hand. I like my rings to be about 4 inches from the edge of the shade on a shade this size (34 inches wide), and each spine only required two rings – one on each side. A small shade like this doesn’t require a ring/cord in the center.
With all of the rings attached, the final sewing step was to add a button hole at the top of the shade for each cord. I placed my button holes four inches from the edge of the shade (in line with the rings I just sewed on), and about 2.5″ from the top of the shade. Again, since I only had two cords, I only needed two button holes.
Note: Grommets can also be used in place of button holes.
With the shade finished, I just needed to prepare my mounting board. I used a 1″ x 2″ piece of lumber cut to the finished width of my shade. I drilled two holes for the mounting screws, and then attached two cord pulleys and one cord lock. I just made sure that the cord pulleys were in line with the cords on the shade (i.e., four inches from the edge).
And then on the back side of the mounting board, I attached the other half (the scratchy half) of the hook and loop tape.
And the final steps needed before installation were inserting the weighted metal rod into the very bottom hem of the shade, and stringing the shade cord through the rings. The cord gets knotted around the very bottom rings, and then fed up through the other rings and through the button holes to the front of the shade at the top.
I attached the mounting board using 3″ wood screws directly into the top casing of the window.
You’ll notice that I installed mine so that the pull cord for the shade is on the right side. I did this very intentionally. Since these shades will be drawn and closed every single day, I didn’t want the pull cord to be the on the left side hiding under the drapery panel because my arms and/or hands twice-daily brushing up against the drapery panel will get the panel dirty after a while, especially with white fabric. So I put it on the other side specifically so that it would be free and clear of the drapery panel to allow for the easiest operation possible.
And here you can see a close up of how the cord runs up the back of the shade, through the button hole at the top, and through the cord pulley.
And here’s a look at both cords. The left cord goes through the button hole, around the left cord pulley, through the right cord pulley, and through the cord lock. The right cord goes through the button hole, around the right cord pulley, and through the cord lock.
And just like any other shade, pulling both cords evenly opens the shade perfectly, and the cord lock locks the cords into place.
Now just one word of caution: When sewing the rib pockets into place, be sure that you sew completely to the edge. Don’t stop short at all. You can see that I stopped short on two of these pockets, and it leaves unsightly little gaps that I’ll now have to go back and sew closed by hand. I could have avoided the extra work had I been paying more attention when sewing those rib pockets.
And here’s the shade closed. Of course, the only time I’ll close these is at night right before I go to bed. Other than that, I’ll want the shades open.
Things are looking a big disheveled at the moment, so it’ll all look better when it’s finished. The drapery panel spent a few days folded up in the window sill, so I now need to steam out those harsh creases. And the Roman shade needs its final ironing with a steam iron to get all of the wrinkles out.
And of course, the final step with the shade will be creating a very small valance that attached to the front of the mounting board to cover the board completely.
I know some of you are probably wondering why I opted to attach the shade to the back of the board, which now requires a small valance to cover the board, rather than just attaching the shade to the front of the board and avoiding the valance and button hole thing altogether. Right? I’ll explain.
The reason is because when you’re dealing with an inside mount Roman shade that has spines, it’s a real hassle to have to reach behind the shade, even if it’s just an inch, to grab the pull cord. And then pulling the shade up, and having the shade open properly with beautiful folds perfectly in place, almost never works since it’s hitting your arm or hand from having to reach behind and pull the cords. So for an inside mount, it allows for much smoother, easier, hassle-free operation if the cords are on the front of the shade rather than the back.
This is much less of an issue if (1) the shade is mostly decorative, and will probably always be open and seldom, if ever, closed, or (2) the shade is an outside mount and you can easily reach your hand or fingers behind the edge of the shade to grab the cords. In both of those cases, you can bypass the button holes (or grommets) and small valance, and just mount the top of the shade to the front of the mounting board and keep the cords on the back of the shade. It’s totally up to you, and just depends on the look you want, and the type of mounting and ease of operation you want.
Mine will be used every single day, so I needed things as easy and hassle-free as possible.
I finished the Roman shade, and decided to just add the photos to this post rather than put them in a new post. So here’s how I made the little valance to cover up the mounting board and hardware on the shade:
I started by cutting a piece of face fabric and lining that were the exact widths that I used on the actual shade. (Scroll up to the top to review how to figure the widths needed.)
And just like on the shade, I sewed the lining and face fabric together along the sides, and along the bottom edge. Then I flipped the valance right-side-out and pressed all of the seams with a steam iron. At that point, this is what it looked like on the front…
And this is what it looked like on the back side…
Along the bottom edge, I turned up a hem 1.5 inches, and sewed it in place using a blind hem stitch. This, again, was the same process that I used on the shade.
Then I flipped the valance to the front, and measured from the bottom four inches all the way across, which is how tall I wanted the valance. After marking all the way across with pins, I folded the valance and ironed the fold in place.
The I flipped the valance over face down, and pinned the soft side of hook and loop tape right along the fold. Then I sewed the tape onto the valance.
I finished by adding a zigzag stitch all the way across the top of the valance just above the hook and loop tape…
…and then cutting off the excess fabric and lining…
And that’s it! To install the valance, I removed the shade from the window (yes, this all could have been done before installing the shade in the first place 😀 ), added the other half (the rough side) of the hook and loop tape to the top front edge of the mounting board with my staple gun, and then I attached the valance so that the ironed-in fold of the valance was perfectly lined up against the top edge of the mounting board. Then I screwed the mounting board back in place, so that the part of the valance with the hook and loop tape was sandwiched between the mounting board and the top window jamb.
And the final finishing step was to cut off the excess pull cords and add decorative pulls to the ends.
And that’s it! It sounds like a really detailed and involved process, but there’s nothing particularly difficult about it. The most important thing is to measure everything accurately so that the shade hangs straight and square in the window.
Also, if you have small children in the house, always be aware of your cords! You’ll need to be careful with any hanging cords around kiddos. Just be sure that all cords are out of the way and up high enough so that children can’t reach them and get tangled in them.