Home Projects: Sewing Roman Blinds

Roman blinds are great window treatments for almost any room. You can save money on home decor costs by learning to sew and hang them yourself with these tips and instructions.

One of the classiest window treatments out there is the Roman blind, or Roman shade. It is a simple but elegant design, featuring a long piece of fabric that is gathered with the use of wooden dowels and string to create a gathered look that is both formal and simple.

Though making a Roman blind is a little complicated, it is possible to make them yourself. The key is to plan carefully and measure well before beginning your project.

Almost any kind of fabric can be used to make a Roman blind, from plain, informal cotton to showy velvet or brocade. Whatever the design or level or formality in your room, you can design a shade that will be practical as well as beautiful.

A Roman blind is typically mounted inside the window frame and is often hung with a valence above it. You can also mount the blind outside the window's recess. Whichever method you choose, measure the space carefully. For a blind that will hang inside the window recess, you will measure the window, both width and height, and add two inches to both the height and the width to allow for seam allowances.

If you want to hang your shade outside the recess of the window, measure the widow and add a couple of inches to the width (however much wider than the window you plan to hang it) and two inches for the seam allowances. For the width, choose where you would like to mount the shade (usually this should be no more than six inches above the top of the window). Then measure from that point to the bottom of the window and add two inches for seam allowances. These measurements will determine the amount and dimensions of fabric you will need.

If you have a small window you may be able to find fabric wide enough to fit the window without piecing. But large windows will require piecing of fabric to get to the proper width. Measure carefully when cutting fabric to make these pieces, and take special care to line up any pattern in the fabric when you sew the widths together. For this reason it may be easier to use a plain fabric on a wide window, but fabric can be repieced well if you take the time to do it properly. Also be aware of any focal point in the fabric that you would like to be centered in the center of the shade.

You will need a piece of fabric of your measured size for the curtain front and another piece of the same size of a lining fabric. This is usually a light colored cotton fabric that will reflect light away from the shade when the sun hits it and will not fade. You'll also need some extra pieces of this fabric to make pockets for your dowels. These pieces should be about four inches wide and about an inch shorter than the width of your finished shade (because these will mount horizontally on the back of the shade but you don't want to see them). How many of these pieces you need will depend on the length of the blind, which you will see in a moment.

Once you have a top piece and lining piece that are the proper size, press them and pin them together, top sides facing each other. Sew the sides and the bottom, an inch away from the raw edges, leaving the seam that will be the top to the curtain open. Then trim the seam allowances slightly and turn the whole thing right side out. Press it well and pin the layers together firmly.

With the lining side of the curtain facing up, draw a horizontal line with fabric pencil or chalk two inches from the top of the blind. From this line, measure eight to 12 inches down the shade (use the closer distance if your fabric is very heavy or your window very wide) and draw another line. Continue to measure eight to 12 inches evenly down the length of the fabric, stopping when you are four to six inches from the bottom of the blind (half the length of the other sections). These lines mark where your pockets will go. You will need an equal number of four-inch wide fabric strips cut from the same fabric as the lining and small pieces of wooden or plastic dowelling slightly narrower than the full width of the curtain (about a quarter of an inch).

To make your strips into pockets, fold each strip widthwise, with the top side of the fabric facing in (this is really easy to do with an iron). Then sew along the long edge, about half an inch from the raw edge, and along one of the short sides. Turn each pocket right side out and press. Pin a pocket to each of your marked lines, begin careful not to pin the seam of the pocket to the shade. Center the pockets on the width of the shade, or if your strips are extra-long, mount them about half an inch from the edge of the curtain and trim the other, open side.

You can sew the strips to the curtain by machine, using a thread that matches the lining in the top of the machine and a thread that matches the front of the curtain in the bobbin. Sew these lines carefully, making sure that you are leaving enough of the pocket open to slide your dowels through.

Slide the dowels into the pockets and sew the pockets closed by hand. Then you will hand sew small (around a half inch in diameter) plastic rings to the bottom edge of each pocket, starting about two inches from each side and then at intervals of eight to 16 inches across the width of the blind (again, depending on the weight of the fabric and the width of the blind).

For each set of rings you have running vertically down the shade you will need a piece of nylon cord that is 1.5 times longer than the shade, plus the width of the shade. Once the curtain is mounted you will use these cords to lower and raise the shade.

To mount the curtain you will need a batten of some sort to support the weight of the curtain and secure it to the wall. This can be as simple as a piece of wood that is an inch tall and deep and as wide as the curtain. This piece can be painted the same color as the wall or left bare if it is going to be covered by a valence. You can then either attach Velcro to the batten and the back of the curtain to secure it or use decorative nails to secure the shade to the batten. Again, if you're using a valance, none of this will show, so it doesn't have to be pretty.

Secure the batten to the wall, being careful to attach it in a manner that can support the weight of the curtain. Attach eyelet hooks to the batten that correspond to the rings on the shade, and add one more on the side the cords will pull from. Turn in the raw edge of the top of the curtain about one inch and either slipstitch (if using decorative nails) or machine stitch (if using Velcro, you can sew the seam closed and attach the Velcro at the same time).

Attach the shade to the batten in whatever way you like. Ensure that the blind hangs straight before threading the cord through the rings on the back of the shade and on the batten. You'll want to tie each cord to a ring at the bottom of the shade, then thread it up to the top and thread all of your cords through the ring on the side you want to pull from. Test to make sure the pleats fold evenly and snip your cords to the same length. Tie them together. Mount a decorative bracket to the side where your cords are and wrap the cord ends around this piece (otherwise the curtain will not stay open).

Making a roman blind is a rather big project, but the results are well worth it.

© High Speed Ventures 2011