If “Roman blinds” sound overly lavish to you, it’s time to emerge from behind the bed sheet that is doubling as your current window covering. Roman blinds CAN look like they cost a million dollars. And while you might spend close to that if you have them custom made by a professional, Roman blinds do not need to be untouchable for the average Joes out there.
Roman Blinds: A Do-It-Yourself Challenge
I discovered that custom making them myself was worth the time, effort, and money even though sewing is not, and I repeat- IS NOT- my specialty. I can handle just about any power tool with less apprehension than my sewing machine. So, in short, if I can pull off Roman blinds, just about anyone who took a home economics class in seventh grade or after can too. Trust me. This one is all about patience and perseverance.
Collecting the Pieces
Hands down, the most complicated part of this project is the planning and gathering of items that you’ll need to create your Roman blind. First, you’ll need a decorative fabric that you can live with for more than ten minutes, so choose carefully. You will need thread to match your fabric and fabric lining. Your fabric lining can be light weight, room darkening, or anything in between. Throw your fabric and liner in the washer before you begin sewing.
To help your blinds gather and fold properly when they are drawn, you’ll need to purchase wooden dowels. I bought 3/4 inch dowels, but 1/2 inch would work, too. Some buy an additional metal rod for the lowest portion of the blind. The weight of the rod helps the blind hang prettier. I bypassed that idea, but I’d recommend considering it. Finally, you’ll need plastic (or wood) O-rings, draw cord, Velcro, and eye screws for the blind itself.
You’ll want to purchase a 2×2 board to mount your blind to. Decide ahead of time whether you will mount your shade on the interior of your sill or the exterior. Most 2x2s come in 8 foot lengths and can be cut to the size you need.
Your measurements will help you determine how much of each of these items you will need. I measured at least a hundred times, and while you don’t have to be quite as compulsive as I am, do measure carefully. Add at least five inches to the length measurement for your decorative fabric, and add 5 inches to the width measurement. The extra width prevents you from seeing the lining when you hang your blinds. The extra length of fabric will give you plenty of material for seam allowances and a hem. Consider even more length to match the pattern of your fabric to blinds that hang next to each other.
Creating the Blinds
Although I made three blinds to hang within one window, I’ll use the measurements of my largest, middle blind to demonstrate. The middle section of my window is 48″ wide by 54″ long, so I cut my fabric 53″ wide by 59″ long. I cut the liner to the dimension of the window plus one inch. So, I cut my liner 49″ by 55″.
Lay your two cut pieces of decorative fabric out, right sides together (wrong sides out), and place your layer of lining over your decorative fabric layers. Pin the three pieces of fabric together down one length of the blind. Sew down the length of the side using a 1/2 inch seam allowance. To sew the second length, pull the edge of the lining to meet with the edge of the decorative fabric. The seam that was sewn previously will be folded over by about 2 inches. Sew the length of this side with a 1/2 inch seam allowance. Pin the bottom width of your shade together, and using a 1/2 inch seam allowance again, sew the bottom shut. With the three sides sewn together, you will have something that looks like a pillowcase at this point.
Cut your dowels a half inch shorter than the finished width of your blind. You want each gathered segment of your Roman blind to be about 7 inches long. So, for example, I divided my 54 inch length by 7 for a total of 7 sections with a remainder of 5 inches. Since I didn’t get an even number, I divided the remainder (5 inches) by 2 and added that difference (2 1/2 inches) to the top dowel section and the bottom dowel section. I marked my top dowel 9 1/2 inches from the top of my blind. Then I marked each place for the dowels 7 inches down from the previous dowel. The final dowel that I set was 9 1/2 inches from where the bottom of my blind will be after the final hem. The segments will be evenly spaced. Place a few drops of fabric glue onto the liner and glue each dowel into its marked space.
After the glue dries, carefully turn your blind right side out. This is about the halfway point, because now it’s down to the details. This is a good time to iron your shade. So crease the sides, and take a minute to press and mark your hem. Measure your hem from the lowest dowel. Mine measured 9 1/2 inches from the lowest dowel. Complete your hem by sewing it. This hem can also serve as a sleeve if you choose to place a metal rod into your blind.
Measure from the bottom hem to the top of your shade, and mark the exact length of your shade. Trim off excess fabric, but leave an inch of fabric beyond the line that marked the actual length. Tuck your fabric in and pin it at the mark that was made. Line your Velcro strip across the top of the fabric on the lining side, and tack it with pins, too. Sew the Velcro on to the top of the blind. This stitch finishes and closes the top width of the blind and readies it for attachment to the head rail.
Attach your O-rings to the lining using a hand stitch. Skip the first and last dowels, and place an O-ring every other section. Your sewing is done!
Ready to Hang it Up
Now, cut your 2×2 head rail to fit your window. Use extra liner fabric to cover your head rail. Wrap it like a present and staple the fabric on. Attach the companion piece of Velcro to your covered head rail with staples. Mount your head rail with screws so it will withstand the weight of your blind when it is being pulled and tugged.
On the back side of your blind, tie a section of draw cord to the lowest O-ring, and string it through the row of rings above it. Attach an eye screw onto the head rail above each row of O-rings. Run your draw cord through the eye screws. Tie off your cords with a cord-tie-off-thingy.
Now stand back and be amazed at how fancy your window looks! Whew!
I felt a lot like my 7th grade self was being watched over by my actual home economics teacher through every step of this project. This one’s for her. I know she thought this was a most improbable outcome for me. After all, I have managed to sew my own finger into a quilting project once. Sewing it in was easy. Removing it was the rough part: I definitely almost fainted. I feel almost as lightheaded about the completion of this project! Hope it inspires you to step out of your own comfort zone and give something new a try.