I got my second Roman shade made yesterday (and finished at around midnight last night!)…
…so as promised, I have a tutorial for you!
Now just a warning, this is a very long, very picture-heavy tutorial. But I like to have loads of pics for this kind of tutorial because I’m a very visual learner, so I know lots of you are also. I could never simply read a written tutorial without pictures and understand something like this. It’s just not how my brain works. I need lots and lots of pictures!
So here goes…
Select your fabric
I wanted to touch on this, because there are certain fabrics that are easy to use, and certain fabrics that you should avoid if you’re a sewing novice.
The absolute best fabrics to use for Roman shades (especially if you’re new to sewing) are 54- to 60-inch decorator cotton fabrics. (Do not use apparel fabric or quilting fabric!) Decorator cotton fabrics have just enough body to them to be easy to work with, they generally lie very flat, and they won’t slip and slide around as you’re working with them. They’re thick enough to be easy to work with, but not so thick that they won’t drape beautifully and give you that relaxed look on the finished shade.
Thicker fabrics such as canvas and duck cloth make absolutely beautiful shades as well, and are also very easy to work. Just keep in mind that the thicker the fabric, the more rigid it will be, so you’ll lose some of that pretty relaxed look on the shade.
Linens also make beautiful shades, but they are a bit more difficult to work with since they’re thinner than decorator cotton fabrics. If you have some experience sewing with linen, you shouldn’t have a problem.
Silks and silky polyester fabrics also make gorgeous relaxed Roman shades. However, if you’re new to sewing or have no experience with those types of fabrics, I would very strongly recommend avoiding them for this project.
Determine the finished measurements of your Roman shade
I wanted an outside mount Roman shade, so I measured the width of my window (including trim) and added five inches to give me 2.5 inches overlap on each side of my window.
Next I determined how high I wanted my Roman shade to hang, and I measured from that point down to my window sill.
That gave me my finished measurements (i.e., the size the shade would be when it’s complete) of 46″ wide by 72″ high.
If you are making an inside mount Roman shade, you’ll obviously need to measure the inside of your window (inside the trim). For the width, be sure to allow for a small amount of clearance on each side. For example, if the width of the window is 35 inches, you might want a finished width of 34.5 inches.
Cut your fabric
Take your finished length that you just determined, and add 10 inches to that number. That is the length of fabric that you need to cut.
My finished length was 72 inches, so I cut my fabric 82 inches long. You will also need a piece of drapery lining cut to the same length. I use blackout lining for my Roman shades.
TIP: If you’re sewing more than one shade for a room out of the same fabric, and you’re using a fabric that has a pattern repeat on it, be very sure that you match your repeats on every shade. This will give your shades a professional look, rather than a random look that you get with off-the-shelf products. You’ll notice on my shades how the pattern repeats line up the same on both shades. You can use these instructions for figuring how much yardage of fabric you’ll need if you’re matching patterns.
Now spread your fabric out on your work surface. (I just use the floor.)
One one edge of your fabric, trim off the selvage. If it’s not plainly obvious by the pattern, be sure to note which direction is “up” on the fabric (it’s generally marked on the selvage), and mark the top with a pin if necessary so you’ll remember once the selvage is gone.
Now take your finished width and add six inches. This will give you the width that you need to cut.
My finished width was 46 inches, so I cut my fabric to 52 inches wide. (I basically needed to cut off the selvage, plus an additional inch of fabric to obtain the correct width.)
TIP: If your shade is wider than a single width of fabric, it is perfectly fine to sew two widths of fabric together.
HOWEVER…do not ever sew them in such a way that you have a seam right down the middle of your shade. Instead, you want to use one full width of fabric centered in the middle of the shade, and then take your second width of fabric, cut it in half lengthwise, and sew one piece on each side of the full width of fabric. And of course, you’ll need to match the patterns on your fabric if you’re using a patterned fabric, so be sure to determine where you need to cut the second width of fabric in order to make that happen.
Fold and press the sides
Working on either the left or the right side of the fabric, fold the fabric over 1.5 inches and pin. Do this the entire length of the fabric and then use your iron to press in the crease.
Now fold that edge over another 1.5 inches, pin and press.
Repeat that process on the other side of the fabric.
Add the lining
With both sides pinned and pressed, place the fabric face down on your work surface.
Now remove the pins from one edge of your fabric. Take your lining, and tuck it under the fold all along one edge. The bottom of the lining should be four inches from the bottom edge of the fabric. Be sure that the lining goes all the way to the side edge along the pressed crease.
Pin the lining and fabric together along the edge.
TIP: If you’re using blackout lining, you’ll notice that one side has a fabric feel to it, while the other side has a slightly rubbery feel to it. The fabric side goes up, and is what will show on the back side of your finished shade. The rubbery side goes inside, and won’t be seen on the finished shade.
Now smooth the lining out on the fabric. Along the other edge, you’ll see that the lining is too wide and overlaps the fabric.
Simply trim off the excess, and tuck the lining under the folded edge of the fabric just like you did on the other side. Be sure that the lining is four inches above the bottom edge of the fabric. Pin in place all along the edge.
Now measure from the bottom edge of the fabric, and put pins to mark 10 inches and 10.75 inches. You will sew along these lines to form a pocket for the support rod which will be added after you install the Roman shade.
Sew the lining to the fabric
You have three choices for how to achieve this.
The best method is to use a blind hem stitch setting on your sewing machine. Because all machines are slightly different (or in some cases, very different), I’m not going to go into detail, but I’ll explain how my machine does a blind hem stitch.
First, I turn the shade so that the fabric side is down and the lining is up.
Then I fold the side towards the front of the shade, leaving just a small edge sticking out.
The blind hem stitch on my sewing machine does five stitches on the right side (on the little fabric lip), and then on the sixth stitch, it reaches over to the left and grabs just a bit of the lining. And it repeats that all the way down. Five stitches to the right, one stitch to the left. Five stitches to the right, one stitch to the left.
Once it’s sewn, the stitch looks like this…
When the side edge is flattened out again, it looks like this…
And on the front of the shade, it looks like this…
No stitch in sight. The crease is there simply because it was folded (and I’m using cotton), but it can be ironed out.
TIP: Be sure that you don’t stitch right over the area where you marked for the support rod pocket.
Now repeat that process on the other side of the shade.
Probably the least desirable option would be to top stitch, sewing straight through all of the layers of fabric. This stitch will be visible on the front finished side of the shade. This is generally how ready-made, mass-produced shades and curtains are done, which is why this is the least desirable method. If you’re going to go to the trouble of making custom window treatments, you don’t want them to look mass-produced.
However, if you do choose this method, just be very certain that you either (1) use a thread color that matches your fabric exactly, or (2) use transparent nylon thread. That will minimize the appearance of the stitching along the edge of your shade.
Hand stitch the whole thing along the back edge, being certain that you don’t catch the face fabric in your stitching.
This option seems insane to me (it’s so incredibly time-consuming!!), but I’ve known people who do this. In fact, I once came across a website for a very high end drapery workroom, and they boasted that all of their draperies and window treatments were hand stitched, and were not sewn on machines. Crazy.
Believe me, it would be well worth your time to find your sewing machine owner’s manual, and learn how to do a blind hem stitch on your machine.
Hem the bottom edge of the shade
Along the bottom edge of the shade, you should have four inches of fabric sticking out past the lining.
Fold that fabric up two inches, pin and press.
Then fold up another two inches. Pin and press.
Stitch the hem using a blind hem stitch.
TIP: Before you sew the hem into the shade, you’ll want to decide how you want to finish the corners so that you can press the corners before sewing the hem. Either method will require hand stitching on the corners, which will be done after you sew in the hem. But the pressing and pinning of the corners (and trimming, if needed) will need to be done before you sew in the hem.
To get a finished look on the corners, you can do one of two things.
Unfold the fabric on the corner completely…
…and fold the corner up at an angle along the bottom edge of the lining.
Now refold the fabric along the pressed creases, and you’ll have an angled corner.
If we had turned the bottom edge up 1.5 inches and then another 1.5 inches, just like the sides, this method would create a perfectly mitered corner. But I like to use 2-inch folds along the bottom (just a personal preference), so this method won’t produce a perfectly mitered corner.
This method also tends to create a bit of bulk, which is why I generally prefer option 2.
You’ll notice that when the corner is folded, you might have a bit of extra fabric sticking out.
So just unfold the fabric, carefully trim off some of the bulk, along with the edge that’s sticking out…
Then refold the fabric along the pressed creases, and hand stitch the side completely closed.
When hand-stitching this part, when you get to the area where there are still three layers of fabric, only grab the two outside layers of fabric with your needle, forcing that middle layer to be fully enclosed. You only want to stitch right along the very edge of the fabric.
Sew on the rings
Place the shade flat on your work surface with the fabric side down.
Using a tape measure, measure up from the bottom edge six inches, and place a mark four inches from the side edge. That marks where your bottom ring will go. From that mark, measure up and place a mark every eight inches (four inches from the side edge).
I personally use a pen (in this case, a metallic Sharpie marker) to place my marks since the dots will be completely covered with rings and thread. However, if you’re uncomfortable doing that, you can use a disappearing ink pen, or just use straight pins to mark where your rings will go.
The absolute easiest way to attach rings is with your sewing machine using a zigzag stitch. Be sure that the stitch length is set to “0” (meaning that the foot won’t move the fabric forward at all — it’ll just stay right in one place). And be sure that the stitch width is set just wide enough so that the needle clears the ring on each side.
Making sure that the fabric and lining are lined up perfectly straight and flat, slide the edge under the foot and center the mark perfectly under your machine foot.
Now lift the foot, slide a ring under the foot, and lower the foot again.
Now do several stitches to secure the ring.
TIP: On the first stitch on each ring, you might want to manually turn the wheel on your machine to be sure that the needle clears the ring on each side, and then use the foot pedal to make the rest of the stitches. This will minimize the chances of the needle hitting the ring and breaking your needle. And there’s nothing more frustrating than getting almost finished with a project and breaking a machine needle!!
When all of the rings are sewn on, trim off any excess thread.
Measure and mark the finished length
Place the shade flat on your work surface with the fabric side up. Measuring from the bottom of the shade, mark (with straight pins!) the finished length of your shade. (I placed a dashed line to demonstrate where I placed my straight pins.)
Now fold the shade along that line and press the fold using your iron.
Prepare the mounting board
Cut a 1″ x 2″ piece of wood to the width of your shade.
NOTE: Any professional would take the time to cover the board with paint, stain, or fabric. The choice would be determined by the room, the wall, the window, etc., but covering in fabric is the most common choice.) I was anxious to get my shades finished and installed, so I didn’t take the time to do any of those three things. Shame on me. I’ll fix it eventually, and I’ll probably end up painting the ends of my boards the wall color.
When making outside mount shades, I place the mounting board with the 2-inch side flat against the wall unless I need it to stick out more in order to clear decorative trim or something like that. In most situations, attaching the flat side of the board to the wall will work perfectly.
To mount the board to the wall, simply place screws through the board into the wall. To make installation easy, I always pre-drill the holes for my mounting screws, and I place them about eight inches from the edge. Very long Roman shades may require additional screws towards the center of the mounting board..
If you have an outside mount shade that needs additional clearance, you will need to install it with the 1″ edge of the wood against the wall, and you secure these to the wall using small “L” brackets.
If you’re making an inside mount shade, you’ll install it with the 2-inch side of the board against the top return on your window casing, and you’ll screw it to the window return with screws right through the board and into the window return.
You’ll also need to attach the hardware for your cord to the mounting board.
I highly recommend purchasing actual cord pulleys and a cord stop for each shade. These will make raising and lowering your shade as easy as any store-bought shade or blind.
I ordered mine from Drapery DIY, but they haven’t arrived yet. So in the meantime, I’m using eye screws. Many people use eye screws in place of the pulleys and cord locks, but if you’re going to be raising and lowering the shade regularly, I wouldn’t recommend this. The repeated friction of the cord against the metal will weaken the cord over time.
But for now, I added two eye screws, placed four inches from the edge of my board (to be in line with the two rows of rings on the shades). You’ll notice that I placed them on the thin 1-inch edge of the board. This is because the 2-inch side will be flat against the wall, so you want the rings (or pulleys and cord lock) to be on the bottom side of the mounting board.
If you’re mounting your shade the other way (either an inside mount or an outside mount using “L” brackets), you’ll want to make adjustments and place the eye screws or pulleys and cord lock on the 2-inch side of the board.
Attach the shade to the mounting board
Now unpin and unfold the fabric at the top. Line up the top front corner of the board (the one against your work surface) with the ironed-in crease of the fabric. Then use a staple gun to attach the fabric to the board and trim off the excess fabric.
Add the cord to the shade
To add the cord, you’ll want to cut two lengths of cord. Remember that it needs to be long enough to go up the length of the shade, through the eye screw or pulley, across the mounting board, through the eye screw or pulley on the other side, through the cord lock (or third eye screw), and down the other side of the shade.
To secure the cord, tie a double knot in one end of the cord. Pull very tightly, and then trim of the excess cord.
Now place the knot through the bottom ring on one side of the shade.
And then tie a single knot.
Pull tight until the single knot is resting right up against the double knot. The double knot is what will carry the weight of the shade each time it’s raised, and as long as you pulled the double knot tightly, there’s no way this will ever come off.
Now thread the cord through the other rings, and through the pulleys and cord lock as shown here…
Install the shade
Get the shade lined up on the wall exactly where you want it, and use screws through the two pilot holes to secure it to the wall. I have the benefit of solid wood walls behind my drywall. If you don’t have that, then you’ll want to use wall anchors to screw into so that the shade will be secure.
Cut the support rod as close to the width of the shade as you can while still being able to insert it into the rod pockets. It will generally be about 1/2 inch narrower than the width of the shade, but you might have to make it as much as one inch narrower to fit.
I prefer to use 3/8-inch round metal rods, which you can find at Home Depot in lengths up to 48 inches. I’ve also used wood dowel rods, but the thing ones tend to droop over time, so I prefer the metal ones. If you need longer support rods, you can order them cut to length from drapery workroom supply stores online.
With the shade installed, insert the support rod into the two side pockets that you made towards the bottom of the shade.
(Obviously that picture was taken while the shade was still lying flat on the floor. But you’ll want to wait until the shade is installed before inserting the rod so that installation is easier.)
Finish off the cords by cutting them to the appropriate length, and adding some pretty cord pulls like these to the ends…
(My cord pulls are on the way, along with my pulleys and cord locks.)
And now, you’re shade is ready for use! If you’ve used pulleys and cord locks, you should have a perfectly operational shade. If you used eye hooks, you’ll need to use a cord cleat screwed into the wall or the window trim to keep the shade raised.
That’s a lot of steps, and a lot of pictures, but the process really isn’t difficult at all. I promise!
EDIT: I had someone ask me what the purpose of the support rod is, so I thought I’d demonstrate using pictures. Move your mouse pointer on and off of the picture below to see the difference. (On a handheld device, you can tap the picture.)
You can see that with the support rod, the shade looks relaxed while still keeping its shape and looking tailored with clean lines. Without the support rod, it just starts to look sloppy as the fabric droops in the middle. We want gentle curves, not droops.
Just in case you can’t see the hover image, here is the shade with the support rod…
And here is the shade without the support rod…