My son has a problem with curtains. I’m not quite sure what the problem is other than he likes pulling them down. After having to rehang his curtain rod over a dozen times in the past year, I decided to make him a blackout Roman shade, and save myself some hassle. Here’s how to do it.
If you’ve read any of my recent posts, you know that I’ve been working on renovating my children’s rooms. I started with ripping up the dated carpet, moved on to painting my son’s room, and the last thing to do is replace the window treatment, so I can move on to the neglected other rooms of my house.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with roman shades, they’re similar to blinds in that they fit inside the window frame and use a cord to raise and lower them. That’s where the similarities end. Roman shades consist of a single piece of fabric that when lowered covers the window completely. When you lift the shade, the fabric folds up on itself forming pleats.
Buying roman shades in a home improvement store can be pricey, especially if they’re blackout. That’s why I started making my own. The first set of roman shades I made were for my daughter’s room. I’d gone to a yard sale and found a pair of curtains that matched her room perfectly. The only problem was that it was only one pair and she has two windows. Because the curtains were long and her windows are short, I figured out that I had enough fabric to cover both windows with Roman shades made from the fabric.
Those curtains were thick, so I didn’t bother with a liner, and when finished, they laid pretty well, but I do wish that I would have used a liner if only to make them slightly sturdier.
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I wanted my son’s shades to match his room as well, so I decided to use the flat sheet to his sheet set. My children do not like using a top sheet when they sleep because it bunches up during the night. Because of that, I have several unused top sheets in my linen closet.
The sheet was plenty of fabric to cover his window and matched his bedding perfectly (probably because it was supposed to be his bedding.) The only problem with using the sheet is that it is way too thin for a roman shade.
So, I started looking for a liner. I found some blackout liner from Joann’s. With a 40% off coupon, I was able to get several yards for only $10. I ordered it online and picked it up at my local store the next day.
I’ll be honest, I’ve never worked with liner before. As a matter of fact, I’m not much of a sewer at all. Sure, I’d done a few throw pillows. I’ve even sewn a couple of curtains, but I’m a far cry from a master seamstress. Working with the liner was easy, though, and having the extra thickness helps keep the shade flat as it folds up on itself.
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Here’s a list of materials needed to make this shade:
- Fabric ~ Your fabric should be the length of your window, plus 1 inch for the top hem, plus 1 inch for the bottom hem, plus 2 inches for each dowel you will be placing in your shade. (Read the instructions below for more information on this.)
- Blackout Liner
- ½” Wooden Dowels cut to the width of your window minus ¼.”
- 1×2” Wooden Board the length of your window
- Small Eyehooks
- Thin Rope or Cord
- Hooks (can be decorative) ~ For tying off the shades while they’re open.
First, let me add a note about creating your Roman shade. Essentially, you will be creating one large rectangle piece of fabric with a hem sewn. Then you will sew 2” pockets to hold the dowels. The dowels will help to form the pleats when the shade is open.
The point I want to make is that the placement of these dowels can vary. When I sewed my first shade, I had searched for tutorials on how to do it, and one thing I noticed was that they gave specific spacing for the dowels. While the dowels do need to be evenly spaced, there isn’t a set spacing requirement.
If you have a tall window, you will want your spacing to be closer together so there will be more pleats. If you have a short window, as I have, you can space the dowels farther apart. Try to keep the dowels somewhere between 8-12 inches apart, depending on your measurements.
For example, my son’s window was only 3-foot-tall, so I spaced the dowels 12” apart. I’m going to make shades for my den window next, which is 4-foot-tall. Because it’s taller, I will likely space the dowels every 8 inches to keep them evenly spaced. Bear in mind that for every dowel you will need to add 2 inches to your fabric length.
Okay, so here’s how I figured the measurements for this window. It measured 72” long x 36” tall. Since the window was so long, I decided to make two shades to make it easier for my son to open them. This created a small gap between the shades that allows a thin stream of light through, but they extremely darken the room.
Since I was creating two, it made my measurement 36”x36” for each shade. Adding a 1” seam on each side, I needed my fabric and liner to be 38” wide. Next, comes the part that requires a bit of brainwork. Don’t worry I took lots of pictures to show you what I’m talking about.
To figure out your length, you need to start by figuring out how many dowels you will be using. For this window, there will be a dowel at the bottom, and two more dowels in the middle spaced every 12”. Then there will be a 2” overlap at the top. This overlap will be where I attach the fabric to the 1×2 board. Then the board will be attached to the upper inside window frame.
Taking my initial 36”, I first added a 1” seam at the top and at the bottom bring it to 38”. Next, add 2” for each of the pockets that will hold the dowels. And finally, add another 2” at the top. That adds up to a total of 46”.
Now that you’ve got that figured out how much fabric you’ll need for your project, give yourself a pat on the back. You deserve it. All right, enough of that. Let’s get to sewing. Start by pinning your liner to the back of your fabric, folding over twice to form a ½” seam. This will attach the liner to the fabric.
Since I’m a novice sewer, I like to be sure that everything is flat before I begin sewing, so I don’t have any folds as I’m sewing. To ensure your fabric and liner are flat, break out the old iron and do your thing. Ironing the seams also makes sewing them easier.
After ironing everything, go ahead and sew your seam. This will leave you with a large rectangle. Lay it out with the back facing up. If your fabric has a pattern as mine does, make sure to pay attention to which end is the top.
Next, start measuring for your pockets. Start at the bottom. Measure up 2 inches and mark it. Measure 12 inches above that and mark it. Then measure up 2 inches and mark that. Move up 12 more inches and then 2 inches, marking as you go. There should be 14” between the top mark of the uppermost pocket and the top of the fabric. You can go ahead and mark the two inches at the top for the overlap as well.
Once you have your measurements, you can use a fabric marker or a pen and a yardstick to draw a sew line at each mark. If you’re better at sewing a straight line, you can probably skip this step, but again, I’m amateur at best, and I have the hardest time sewing a straight line.
For the bottom pocket, fold your fabric over toward the back until the bottom of your fabric lines up with your mark and pin it. You can overlap it 1/8” to ensure your stitching is secure when you sew it. For the middle pockets, fold your fabric, again toward the back, matching up your marks and pin it. After pinning your pockets, you can iron them to ensure they are straight or just go right to sewing them.
Now, you’re finished with sewing, and it’s time to assemble your shade. Start by attaching the 1×2 at the top of the shade. Just fold the fabric over the top of the board. I use a staple gun to staple the fabric to the board. When you hang the shade, the fabric will be trapped between the board and window frame, but adding staples gives better stability and makes hanging it easier.
Next, begin placing your eye hooks on the underside of the 1×2. You will need one on each side of the shade, as well as a couple in the middle.
I found it easier to attach the eye hooks to the dowels before inserting them into the fabric. You’ll screw an eye hook into both ends of each dowel. Cutting the dowels so that they are ¼” shorter than the shade allows room for the small eyeshooks on the sides. They have to stick out slightly so that the rope can slide through them but this helps keep them from being an eyesore.
After screwing in a couple of the eye hooks, I resorted to using pliers because I had an indentation of the hooks in my finger and thumb. If you can screw them all in without a pair of pliers, more power to you. When you have the eyehooks screwed into both ends of the dowels you can slide the dowels into the pocket. This may take a little wiggling to get it all the way through.
Next, decide which side of the shade you want your rope to come out. Since I was doing two shades, I had them come out on opposite ends of the window. You’ll need two lengths of cord for your shade. For the side opposite where the cord will come out, tie your rope to the bottom dowel’s eyehook and then run it up through each dowel’s eye hook and across the underside of the 1×2, making sure to pass it through each of the eyehooks you inserted earlier.
For the side where the cord will come out, tie your rope to the bottom eyehook and then run it through each eyehook on that side. Make sure to run it through the eyehook that is attached to the 1×2 at the top. This should be the only eyehook that has two pieces of rope running through it.
If you choose to go with a thicker rope, like what I used, you might need to place two eyehooks side-by-side at the corner like I did in the picture above. The rope will need to be able to slide easily through the eyehooks for the shades to work properly.
Now, it’s time to hang your shade. Since I was creating two shades for one window, I attached both to one 1×2. That made hanging it a bit harder, but the hubby helped me, so it was okay. Basically, you will place the 1×2 along the top inside of the window sill and screw it in place with several 2-inch screws.
And there’s your roman shade. Since these shades don’t have the nifty mechanism mini blinds have that hold the blind open, you will have to find some way to tie off the rope. A small hook placed on the window frame will work nicely for this.
How much did it cost?
Now, it’s time to talk about cost because I don’t do anything without keeping a tally of how much I spend. I consider the sheet free since I already owned it, and it was just taking up space in my linen closet. The blackout liner cost $10.49 with tax. The three dowels, which were six-foot x ½ inch, were $2.60 each and the six foot long 1×2 was $2.53. The rope was $1, and the eyehooks were part of a kit I bought at Dollar General for just under $3, but you can find them by themselves for cheaper.
So, for less than $25 I created two blackout roman shades, and I still have enough liner left over for another window. I will say that since creating this shade for my son’s room, it has stayed considerably cooler. Before, if his door was closed, it stayed a couple of degrees warmer than the rest of the house during the summertime. Not anymore, unless the shades are up.
If you have any questions on how to make it, you can comment or send me an email. Or, if you make your own roman shades, I’d love to see a picture.