Well. This post has been a long time in the making! Today, we make cordless roman shades.
After realizing that all 800 windows in our house needed new window treatments, I scoured the web looking for options. And I was quickly demoralized by how dang expensive all of the options are! I mean… you could easily spend $100 on each window (if you’re really trying hard to stay under that threshold) and then scale that times the number of windows you’ve got? (What if you have 800 like we do??! ????)
Alas, curtains just don’t make sense for us everywhere. (And that much fabric is expensive anyway, even if you make your own.) I wasn’t loving the budget-friendly cellular/roller blind options out there, and don’t even get me started on how crazy expensive roman shades can be, particularly custom ones! What’s a girl to do?
Through my Pinteresting, I stumbled upon a tutorial for DIY roman shades. Intriguing… I did some digging and came across several helpful posts:
Each has its own different variation on a theme, and they all seemed budget-friendly. However… try as I might, I could NOT find a tutorial out there for cordless roman shades. Call me paranoid, but in my prepare-for-baby mode, I’m trying to avoid those dangly cords wherever possible. So, from all these various sources of inspiration, I developed my own new method for creating custom cordless roman shades on a budget! Here’s what I did…
Step 1: Gather Materials
To create your shades, you’ll need:
- Pretty Fabric – I used a medium-weight linen for this, though really anything will do. Measure your window opening and add 4″ to each measurement, and that’s how much you’ll need. (Update: I’ve also made these with heavyweight upholstery fabric and they still turned out fine. Feel free to experiment!)
- Liner Fabric (optional) – I used basic white cotton. The only reasons you’d need a liner are if you wanted your shades to show a different color from the outside or if you’re looking for your shades to be light-blocking. In that case, you’d get some blackout liner material for this. You need approximately the size of your window opening.
- Cheap cordless vinyl mini-blinds – I buy mine from Home Depot, and they’re fantastic(ally inexpensive)! Buy the size closest to (but not exceeding) your window opening. I’ve gotten away with being 3″ shy. You have fewer options for sizes the narrower your windows are.
- Fabric Glue – I like Fabritac, got mine at Joann’s
- Posterboard (optional) – I found this helped immensely with pressing my hems! Make sure you get white or else be sure its color won’t bleed onto your fabric when ironing.
- Embroidery Thread – use something as close as possible to your pretty fabric color
- 1/2″ Plastic Rings – I used these Dritz brand, also purchased at Joann’s
- 3/16″ Wood Dowels – I found this size to be my favorite, but you can use round/square dowels of any size as long as they’re rigid along the whole width of your shade
- 2.5mm Crimps – these were a little hard to find, but I got these ones from Amazon
- Sewing Machine
- Iron & Ironing Board
- Fabric Marker
- Embroidery Needle
- Heavy-duty Binder Clip
Step 2: Prepare Your Fabric Panel
Here’s where you take over your dining room floor (again!) and get to work cutting your fabric down to size. Don’t forget your liner fabric, if you’re using any.
The next bit is where I had the most trouble, probably due to my inexperience with sewing… but, I figured out a way that has worked well for me, so here you go! The next thing to do is to hem all the sides so they’re pretty and straight and your fabric panel ends up the correct size. I found that doing a double-fold hem, 1″ wide, gave me the most control over the process. Any smaller and the fabric would warp and do weird things when pressed. Thankfully the liner fabric doesn’t need to be hemmed! Hooray!
Another trick that helped immensely was to use a piece of white posterboard to keep the hem straight as I pressed it. A worthy $1 investment!
Next up is preparing to sew. I have my mom’s old (older than I am, for sure) Singer sewing machine from 1982 and I love it dearly! What a champ.
Before getting to the machine, a couple things need to happen. First, deal with the super bulky corners in the freshly pressed fabric panel. Second, pin the liner fabric and pretty fabric together.
For the corners, I learned a neat trick for lazy mitering:
See how bulky that is? Let’s fix it. First, open up your corner all the way.
Next, fold the corner in on itself, so you can just barely see where the two innermost creases meet. Press this new fold and unfold it again.
Now, cut along this new crease!
When you fold everything back up…. Tada! It’s magic!
Good. Corners dealt with. Moving onto the pinning… Insert the liner fabric underneath the unsewn hems so it’s as even and flat as possible, trimming it down if necessary so it fits:
Then, just pin that whole sucker all the way around so it doesn’t get all shifty when you take it to your hopefully awesome vintage sewing machine:
Woohoo! Sewing time!
Yeah… mine’s not perfect. BUT it doesn’t realllllllly matter that much, as you’ll see later on. Just make sure it’s reasonably straight but don’t stress about it being absolutely flawless!
Step 3: Add Rings & Dowels to the New Panel
These rings and dowels are what give the panel structure and govern its behavior when we combine it with the mini-blind mechanism. Actually, sewing on the rings is the most tedious part of the whole process! Fire up some Netflix and get to it.
First, determine the spacing you’ll need for your rings. I took the blinds I was using and centered them across my fabric panel. (Make sure your fabric panel has its back side up! The rings should go on the back of the panel.) Then, I measured in from each edge to see where the holes in each slat were. This is where the mechanism cord travels up and down all the slats, and this cord is what we’ll need to channel through these rings.
Your blinds may have 2 or 3 sets of cords, depending on the brand and the width. I thought I needed to sew 3 rings across for these pictured here and then realized when I dissected the blinds later that the mechanism uses only two cords! All that extra sewing!
With your cross-wise measurements in hand, it’s time to mark out where to sew the rings. The ring placement length-wise will determine where the folds are in your cordless roman shades. I’ve experimented with spacing, and what works for my 56″ tall shades is 8″ from the bottom, then 11″ intervals from there, stopping before any section becomes less than 11″ tall:
(Yes, in this photo it’s 10″.. I changed my mind right after I marked it all up and did the rest of my shades at 11″ too.) I made little marks where each ring needed to get sewn, then got to work hand sewing each ring in place.
Like I said, this takes awhile.
BUT! When you’re done, no more sewing! It’s time to GLUE… Grab your dowels and cut them down to a good width (they should span the width of the shade but not be seen from the front).
I was lazy and got away with using these pliers to cut mine down! Next, use the fabric glue to glue the dowels so they run across your fabric panel right up close underneath the rings you’ve sewn on.
Your finished panel should look something like this:
Rejoice! We’re almost done! Time to turn our attention to our cheap mini blinds…
Step 4: Gut Your Mini Blinds
That’s right. Gut them. Our cordless roman shades actually need very few parts from the original blinds. To understand how to do it properly, we need to understand how these blinds work. In the close-up photo below, you’ll see three cords coming out of the top housing. The two at either side control the tilt of the slats. The smoother one in the middle is what raises and lowers the blinds.
Because we don’t want the blinds retracting on us as we work on them, use a binder clip to lock the center cord in place.
Here’s where it gets fun! We want to get rid of all the slats. There are many ways to do this – the easiest way is to cut those side cords all the way at the top (do NOT cut the middle cord anywhere but the very bottom!!) and then free all the slats at the bottom by cutting all three cords and sliding them all off the middle cord.
A very satisfying but totally unnecessary thing you can do is to cut through the slat cords individually:
You’ll need to cut the cords in the same places anyway, but it’s kinda satisfying to run your scissors along those cords… Anywho, we want to preserve that weighted bar at the bottom. To free the mechanism cords from it, poke them through the opening at the bottom, trim and pull them out.
The mechanism cord is hiding down there…
Poke it out and give it a snip! The other cords around the outside get snipped, too.
Last little cleanup item – not necessary, but nice to do. Those slat cords can get pulled out from the top of the mechanism:
Grab the crimps and tug – they’ll slip right out.
You should have a giant pile of slats on your floor at this point, but once all cleaned up, your blinds should look like this:
Looks like there’s nothing left, but it’s all you need! I promise!
Step 5: Assemble Your Shade
WE’RE SO CLOSE NOW…! Cordless roman shades are in our grasp…
OK. First, glue the top of the blinds to the top of your fabric panel. You can tell which end is which by the spacing of your rings. The fabric glue doesn’t take very long to set, so you can keep working pretty much immediately. Then, pull those all-important mechanism cords through the rings:
*NOTE: make sure you don’t extend the cords ALL the way out to the end of their travel, as that could make it more difficult to pull your shades down all the way once assembled. As long as you purchased a shade long enough for your window, cord length shouldn’t be an issue!
Grab the bottom bar from the blinds and string those cords through the bottom holes where they came through before:
Now, we want to lock this bar in place, just below where the rings are. Getting this perfect doesn’t matter too too much, but you do want it to be even on both sides. Here’s where we use the crimps. I don’t have a crimper, but my pliers worked just fine with a little extra elbow grease.
Slip the crimp over the cord, run it up as close as you can get it to the hole, and squeeze the ever living daylights out of it!
Once that’s crimped, you can trim the rest of the cord off and tie a little security knot next to the crimp so it really isn’t going anywhere. That’s important.
And guess what? You’re done! You’ve made cordless roman shades!
When you pick it up, remove the binder clip, and lift that bottom bar, like magic it will retract itself into lovely little folds! All that’s left to do is hang it in your window…
Step 6: Hang That Sucker
The blinds I use come with mounting hardware & a mounting template:
Pretty straightforward. Mount the brackets in your window…
And snap the top in place!
Hubba hubba! At this point, I grab the bottom of the shade and pull it down and up a few times because it’s so darn satisfying. You might have to coax the folds into place when you’re breaking them in, but once they’ve been “trained” they’re pretty reliable.
Just look at those folds!
(Yes, my old house’s windows have weird chains instead of sash cords in a few places) OK just one more picture…
So far I’ve done 6 windows like this, with plans to do many more. This process to make cordless roman shades is time-consuming but ultimately SO WORTH IT!
Give it a try, and let me know how it goes!!