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How to Make a Roman Shade

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Roman ShadeAfterDown

Have you ever noticed that the warmest spot in your house during the dead of winter is the sun shining through your windows? I have! So while the sun is out, it makes sense to have the curtains and/or blinds open to let the sun do its thang. But when the sun goes down, close those suckers to keep the warmth inside.

With that in mind, I created a trendy Roman shade that allows me to do just that without sacrificing style. You can create one from your favorite fabric or from an existing curtain like I did.

Here are the materials you’ll need:

fabric or existing curtain
cheap vinyl mini blinds to fit your window
measuring tape (not pictured)
pencil
scissors
no-sew hem tape (if you don’t have a sewing machine)
clothes iron
permanent fabric glue
plastic rings (½ inch)
clear thread
drill
1/16 drill bit

First step is to create a fabric panel that we’ll later attach to the mini blinds to create the Roman Shade effect. Start by measuring the window you’ll be putting the shade on. I chose to mount mine inside the window frame, but you can mount it above the frame too.Take your measurement and add 2 inches to the width and height.

Then lay out your fabric on a flat surface. I used my dining room table. Measure and mark your dimensions (remember-add 2 inches).

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If you’re cutting an existing curtain for this project, you’ll want to match the existing hem and save yourself from hemming all four sides. For example, my curtain had an 1-1/8 inch hem along the side. So instead of adding 2 inches to my width for cutting, I added 1-1/8 plus ½ inch for a total of 1-5/8 inches to mimic the existing hem.

Once you’ve figured out the math, cut the fabric. Having fabric scissors on hand makes this much easier!

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You’ll want to heat up your clothes iron. Whether you’re going to stitch the hem with a machine or use no-sew hem tape, ironing the folds of your hems first makes the task a breeze.

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Lay your fabric face down on your ironing board and start with a ½ inch fold, pressing a few inches at a time with the iron. I like to check the measurement every few inches or so as I go along. Then fold it ½ inch again and iron it. If you’re using hem tape, next cut your hem tape to length and stick under your last fold. Press it again with the iron according to package directions. (Don’t use the steam function of your iron).

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If you’re using a sewing machine, get it out and hem what you just folded with a coordinating thread.

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Keep going around until you’ve hemmed all 4 sides. I like to do the left and right side before I move on to the top and bottom hems.

Once your curtain panel is hemmed, set aside so you can extend and lay out your cheap mini blinds. Seriously, buy the cheapest available.

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Now you need to cut the strings holding the vinyl slats in place. But DO NOT cut the main cord that runs down the middle of the slats. In the picture below, the cord I’m holding is what you want to keep intact. There is an obvious difference in thickness between the strings and cord. I’m holding the important cord in the picture below. Note-if you’re blinds/window are wider than mine, you may have 3 sets of strings and cords instead of 2. Don’t cut any of the thicker, important cords.

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Then move to the bottom rail of the whole blind assembly and cut all of the strings, including the cord. At this point, you should be able to slide all of the slats off of the cord. You can dispose of those and the wand that came with the blinds.

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Cut about 8 inches off of the bottom of the cord and set aside.

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Next, move the blinds assembly and lay your curtain panel face down on your work surface. Apply some fabric glue along the front of the top rail of the blinds assembly. But do not glue the opening for the cords or the cords themselves.

Position along the top of your curtain panel, about 1/8 to ¼ inch from the top and centered from left to right.

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Then I used some chip clips to secure the curtain to the top rail. And I also set some heavy hardback books on top of that.

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The fabric glue directions say to let dry for 24 hours before use. But that doesn’t mean your project is on hold! Get out your measuring tape again. We’re going to mark where the plastic rings will be sewn.

Pull each vertical cord straight. Measure from the bottom along each cord and mark at 8 inches, 18 inches, 28 inches, and 38 inches. If you’re shade is longer than mine at 51 inches, you may want to mark at 48 inches as well. This isn’t necessary if your top mark is 4 inches or less from the top rail.

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Check that each mark is the same distance from the edge as the cord. Mine cord was 5 ½ inches from the edge when it came out of the top rail. So I made sure each mark was 5 ½ inches from the edge as well.

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Now for the fun part, sewing with clear thread! Hopefully you have better vision than I do! You need to sew the plastic rings at the top 6 marks you just made (or 9 if your blinds have 3 cords). Don’t sew rings at the bottom mark on either side.

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And can I just add a disclaimer that my fingernails are not usually that dirty! They got stained when my gloves busted from making my DIY ladder bookshelf! Scouts honor!

With your 6 rings sewn on the panel, pull out the bottom rail and the 8 inch pieces of cord you cut earlier. Pop out the plastic plug on the left and right. If you only have 2 cords, you don’t need to pop out the middle plug. But if you have 3 cords, you’ll need all 3 plugs out.

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Then thread one 8 inch cord piece through each hole and use it to tie a ring as tight to the rail as possible.

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Cut the excess cord off, push the knot into the hole and replace the plug.

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Get the fabric glue again and apply to the side of the bottom rail that doesn’t have the plugs. This will allow it to be flatter against the curtain.

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Again I used heavy books to weigh it down and keep the fabric smushed to the rail. Let it dry overnight too!

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If you want to keep the project moving while the glue is drying you can move on to installing the brackets that should have come with your blinds. If you’re ready for a break, go on! You deserve it!

Hold the bracket where you want it to go and mark the holes with a pencil.

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Then using your BLACK+DECKER drill with the 1/16 inch drill bit, drill pilot holes at the marks you just made.

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Switch out your drill bit for a phillips screw bit and hold the bracket back in place while you drive in the screws.

After your curtain panel has dried for 24 hours, slide it into the brackets and voila!

Roman ShadeAfterDown

You’ll be able to open it during the day to collect the sun’s free warmth, and then close it at night to keep that warmth to yourself! It’ll also help reduce the draft in your house that comes with old windows.

One thing to note is that there is another way to make a roman shade like this by sewing wooden rods in pockets on the back instead of the plastic rings. One advantage is that it doesn’t look like this when it’s pulled up.

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But I think the ease of the plastic rings is worth a litle fluffing when you pull your shade up.

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Stay warm and prosperous in the New Year!

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