How to Make a Roman Shade (using everyday materials)

I don't know why it is, but for some reason, roman shades seem super intimidating to make, don't they? I thought so for a long time, until several years ago I bit the bullet and just made one. Then two. Then a few more. Now I don't know why I ever made curtains. Roman shades are, honestly truly and sincerely, very DIY-able.
I hope to convince you in this post. Ready? Let's get to it.
This post is super photo-heavy, so you'll want to click through for the full tutorial.

What you'll need (it might sound like a lot, but I promise it's not too bad):
- 1 piece of fabric for your shade, cut about 6" taller and 3" wider than your window
- 1 piece of blackout fabric cut exactly to window size (*optional*)
- some smallish screw eyes (I used four 3/4" screw eyes for a 41" tall x 47" wide window)
- some white plastic rings (found in drapery notions at Joann's or on Amazon) or flat washers (I used 12 flat washers)
- some yards of string (I'm guessing I used <8 yards of nylon string, because that's what I had)
- needle & thread
- yardstick, measuring tape, square, or any other measuring device
- pencil
- a thin(ish) piece of wood or trim cut to the width of your window (I used a piece of scrap 3/8" plywood, cut about 3" wide and 47" long)
- a narrow piece of something to weigh down the bottom of the shade cut to 1/2" less than window width - wood trim, heavy wire, whatever you have on-hand (I used that same scrap plywood, <1" wide and 46-1/2" long)

Step 1: Lay fabric right-side down. If using blackout fabric, lay blackout fabric centered on top (wrong side) of shade fabric. Fold twice (fold 1/2" first, then 1") to create a double fold hem on one side. Pin in place.
Step 2: Repeat Step 1 for other side seam and pin in place, making sure that the new pinned width of your shade fabric is the width of your window. (If you're going to err here, err on the side of being 1/8" shorter than your window width, not longer.)

Step 3: Sew seam, but stop about 2" from the bottom of your true window height.

(The bottom of my true window height is shown by the blackout fabric in the photo below. I stopped sewing where you see the sewing machine foot. Disregard the black seam you see there - that's a factory seam that was already in the fabric and has nothing to do with this project.)

Step 3b: At the bottom of the side seam where you stopped sewing, go ahead and either iron the double fold all the way to the end of your fabric or press it really hard with your fingers. You'll want the folds to stay there.

Step 4: Repeat Steps 3 and 3b for other side seam.

Optional Step 4b (ONLY if you're using blackout fabric; even with blackout fabric, this step is optional): Sew a straight seam across the top of the blackout fabric (about 1/4" seam allowance).

Step 5: With side (and maybe top) seams completed, lay fabric right-side down. You're now going to mark where you'll hand-sew your plastic rings or washers. (Note: I used flat washers, so I'll say "washers" from here on out. If you're using plastic rings, which I'd recommend, then just make the mental adjustment.)

Step 6: With a pencil, measure then lightly mark where you want your washers. Basically, the washers serve as guides for the strings in pulling the roman shade up and down. My window is 47" wide, so I wanted three support string lines. I wanted a large bottom "flap" on my shade, so I measured 10" up from the bottom of my true window height (in other words, from the bottom of the blackout fabric).

NOTE: You might prefer the look of a smaller flap on the bottom of your shade. If so, I'd recommend putting the first horizontal line of washers about 5" or 6" up from the true bottom of your shade. THEN measure 10" up from there and so on... 

Overall, my vertical washer lines were marked 4" in from each side, and then in the very center of the shade. For each horizontal washer line (of three washers), I measured 1" less than the distance below it. I should say here that, in my photo below, the top of my shade is at the bottom of the photo. (How's THAT for confusing?)

Step 6b (ONLY if you're using blackout fabric): After marking all washer locations, safety pin the blackout fabric to the shade fabric at each washer spot while everything is still laid out flat.

Step 7: Using needle and thread (thread that matches the actual shade fabric, not the blackout fabric so much), sew one point of the washer down at each marked spot. Kind of like sewing on a button. (Kind of.)

Make sure sewing is snug but loose enough to allow the end of the washer to pop up as needed.

Phew. How are we doing? Easier or harder than you thought? Either way, go ahead and take a step back and admire your handiwork, once all the washers are securely sewn on:

Step 8: Create a double fold hem going across the true bottom of your shade, using the 3" extra shade fabric allotted to the bottom. (Remember how you cut your fabric to be 6" taller than your window? The other 3" extra should be at the top of the shade.) Remember how you ironed or finger-pressed the phantom double fold toward the bottom of your shade? This ironed part should be included in the double fold hem, but leave the end "holes" open.

Step 9: Slide your long thin weight into the newly created bottom "pocket." Ideally, with a little wiggle work, you will be able to work the ends of the weight into the ironed-but-not-sewn side seams. This is ideal because the weight is safely tucked away, out of sight, out of mind.

Step 10: Lay your wider wood or trim piece (the piece cut to the width of your window, if you'll remember - I used a 3" wide piece of scrap plywood cut to my window width) along the top of your shade. Edges of shade fabric and wood piece should line up exactly. Measure and mark onto your wood the location of the vertical washer lines (three of them, in my case), then screw in your screw eyes. (See photo below for screw eyes reference, but disregard the string for this step.)

Step 11: Decide which side of the shade you want your pull to be on.

(Note: My pull is on the right side of the shade. If your pull is going on the left side of your shade, reverse the following "right" and "left" directions accordingly.)

When you stand at the bottom of your shade and look at the shade lying on the floor, begin threading your string through the vertical washer line on your left-hand side. Thread your string through all the washers in that vertical line all the way up to (and through) the screw eye at the top of that line. Pull 2' of extra string out the screw eye and lay it on the ground. Cut the string close to the bottom washer (the first one you ran string through), leaving yourself just enough string to tie a knot securely around that bottom washer.

Step 12: Repeat Step 11 for the second (middle, in my case) vertical washer line, except this time, after threading the string through the screw eye at the top of the washer line, pull the string over and thread it through the screw eye of the first washer line - the one that already has a string going through it. Pull out about 2' of string from that screw eye, then cut and tie the string at the bottom (first) washer of that line.

Step 12b: Repeat Step 12 for the third vertical washer line (right-hand side, when you're looking at your shade from the bottom), except this time thread the string through all three screw eyes.

In the photo below, the blue dotted line represents Step 11, green is Step 12, and red is Step 13.

Step 13: Pull all three strings taut (but not super tight - you still want everything lying flat), then knot them together near the end of the 2' excess.

Step 14: Lay the wood piece (with all the screw eyes and strings) on the top 3" extra shade fabric. The bottom edge of the wood piece (as in, if you're standing at the bottom of yours shade and look toward the top of the shade, it's the thin/side edge of the wood piece that you see, not the wider side that has the screw eyes screwed in) should line up exactly with the window height line (in my case, the blackout fabric), with the rest of the wood piece hanging out on the extra 3" shade fabric. It's not important if the shade fabric sticks out past the wood piece or not; this won't be visible.

Step 15: When you have the wood piece lined up parallel for the exact window height, lightly hot glue it into place. All you're trying to do is keep everything in place for the final installation step.

Step 16: Install the shade by screwing the wood piece into the top of your window frame (top 3" extra shade fabric will be sandwiched in between). I used four 2" screws, every foot or so. Below is a photo looking upward at the screwed-in wood piece.

Here's another shot of the other three screws holding the thing up.
K, last thing, which is super duper easy: Install something to catch the string pull (the 2' excess of string that you tied together earlier). I just used one more screw eye and screwed it into the side of the window frame, so once the strings are pulled down and the shade is up, I can loop the knot around the screw eye and it'll stay.

There you have it! Stand back and enjoy your new roman shade window covering.
 Oh, I added a little ric-rac with fabric glue because the shade is for my girls' bedroom, and ric-rac is just cute. You can do that, too, if you want. Obviously.
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  1. I just discovered your blog and love it! I've been wanting to attempt real roman blinds for a while and thought your tutorial was the best so far. Your projects and style really resonated with me. Love your use of color and willingness to go for it, even if it means later switching it out for something else.

  2. really really a great tutorial. I've wandered (is it correct? is it the right word? I dunno, I mean I've hop here and there like a grasshopper!) in your site and I love master bedroom makeover: colors, furniture... all!

  3. @Tara - I was intimidated by roman shades for forever as well. But they're honestly not hard at all to pull together. I love that you came by, I hope you stop by often! I love visitors. :)
    @caseper - Wander away! I love that you've found some stuff that resonates with you. And, yes, "wander" is a perfect word to use in this instance.

  4. I adore the fabric you've used for the roman blinds - where did you get it from?, Laura

  5. Nice info you have shared with us.
    Roman Shades houston


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