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!!
Great looking shades Carly. Only 794 windows to go!
Wow, How very clever! I’m anxious to see your lovely (in progress) home. Aunt Tassie
Tassie I’d love to show you in person!!!
Great instructions for a very professional blind Carly! And really helpful comments from many other readers. I was able to make mine with no errors or backtracking – a real bonus when trying something new! And my daughter really loves the finished product which looks like a piece of art in the recessed window in her bedroom! Happy to post a couple of photos if you tell me how to do that haha
Greta, thrilled to hear about your good experience making these, and your great result! I’m not sure how to attach photos directly in the comments, but if you use google photos or something similar (or imgur?), you could link to them from here!
Carly, I think should be able to see 2 photos in this Google Drive link. Let me know if it doesn’t work for some reason. https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1-20QMprYIQ3pzitsXq_Gr_IfpQNBQBk3
FYI, you can see a cord in one of the photos. This belongs to a different blind, one that’s hidden behind the one I made and it belongs to the landlord so won’t be removed.
Ahhhh that fabric is so striking! Really beautiful work, that looks fantastic. And it’s quite a deep window – thank you so much for sharing!! It reminds me of the new(ish) trend of the frame TVs where you can essentially turn your (flat) TV into what looks like art on your wall.
Very impressive!! Those shades look great! If you had gotten custom-made cordless roman shades, you would have spent a couple hundred per window – at least! I can’t wait to see all this stuff in person next month!
We can’t wait either 🙂
These is beautiful–and INSANE, and I love them! So much work, and you did it so well! You’re so good! I don’t think I could ever have the patience to persevere through this process like you! Way to go, Carly!
Aw, thanks Marlo!! Yes, these are a ton of work… but I’m sure you’d have NO trouble!!
I’m so glad I found this I wanted to make my own shades but the cordless kits are crazy expensive! How did yours hold up? I want to make a flat shade so was going to leave the rods out and just use rings. Thank you for your tutorial.
Amy, glad this is helpful! Mine have held up great, with one exception. One of the blinds just stopped working one day.. but the beauty of glueing the shades into the purchased blinds is that I could just rip off the fabric, buy a new $7 blind, and reattach it. Worth the 15 minutes and $7 I think! The rest have been champs.
I made corded Roman blinds with mini blind slats instead of dowels per a different DIY. They didn’t hold up and I ended up replacing with plastic flooring transition strips. That problem is resolved but the cord is so annoying for French doors. I might have to swap them out for cordless blinds. Thanks for the tutorial!
Susan, give it a try and let me know how it goes!! Not having cords swinging around when you open your doors sounds like an upgrade!
Thank you! Thus level of detail is exactly what I needed to get going. Photos were great.
So glad it was helpful, Sigrid!
Thanks for the great idea! I was looking at pleated shades today, but can’t find any in a fabric I like that isn’t super expensive. So I want to give this a try. One thing I don’t understand about your instructions, is what happens with the middle cord going through the rings running through the centre of the shade. It looks from the picture that you’ve only left the two cords at the ends of the shade.
As it turned out, the lift & lower mechanism on my purchased blinds only controls the two outer cords, so there was no need to include a middle cord. Does that make sense? I didn’t realize it on my first go until I’d already sewed on the rings down the middle!
Let me know how your shades work out!
Thanks for the explanation. Even better! Less rings to sew. The curtains I am making are for small windows, so no need for more than two cords. I guess for a larger window, you could always butt two such mechanisms together and lift them simultaneously. I have a bigger window as well, so I might try it. Thanks again for this great idea.
That is a GREAT idea!! And probably so much cheaper than tracking down a really wide one. Eager to see how it turns out!
You are amazing! I’ve been working on burlap roman shades for my new oversize french front door. It’s hard for me to describe, but the windows each curve downward from the top. Maybe kinda like an eyebrow??? So, instead of lining them, I have used burlap as a liner matching the front. I keep tinkering with a way to hide the cords and rings between the 2 panels. I know for sure I want cordless like these brilliant shades you have made. What I can’t figure out is how they go up and stay up…like the uber pricey custom shades, without a cord to pull. The custom ones I have priced even with every special today only offer have been over $800 per door! After they splash me with cold water they go on to say it’s due to the sophisticated parts need to be cordless. YIKES! Do you possible have any suggestions about hiding the cords between the 2 panels? Thank you much! Any help you can offer is greatly appreciated!
PS Like you we have about a million windows. We have 10 sets of double french doors, 10 of the most silly measurement front windows, and 10 bedroom and bath windows. I really think the builder of this 40 year old house was in some sort of deal with a window manufactorer as well as custom blind company! None of these windows is even close to a standard or common size window. Oh well. Thank you again!
Hi Laura! Thank you!! I’m not sure exactly what you’re looking for ideas about – the curved shape sounds like a challenge, and you also need to hide the rings & cords from the back? Unfortunately I don’t have any easy/great ideas for you. I just played around raising and lowering one of mine for a bit and it’s not as simple, as I’m sure you’ve discovered, as covering the back with another piece of fabric, since the cords need to hang straight up and down in back while the fabric folds over itself in front.
This might be total overkill but what about making another shade cover, with rings, and attach that to the back of the shade? That way you’d run the cords down both the front and back covers’ rings, and you’d end up with a shade that looks the same, with the same folds, from the front and back. I wonder if that would work? Does that even make sense?? Please let me know if I’ve misunderstood or if you have any other ideas!!
Years ago, I made roman blinds with cords for my entire house…. years before anyone cared about child safety. Now, I find myself making roman blinds for my daughter who has a 2 year old, so I am going to try your method. I researched mechanisms, and it is way too expensive to buy premade ones.
I would like to put a casing on the lining to slip the dowel through. This would be done before attaching the lining to the front fabric.
Do you think adding a casing would affect the folds once the project is hanging?
Thank you very much for your explanation. The photos are really great. I have read it over several times, and it is finally all making sense. Great explanation… best out there….THANKS!!!!!
Thank you Louise!! Happy it’s helpful and not too rambly 😉 I don’t think casings would affect it at all! Some other tutorials out there call for them, I was just too lazy. The dowels are really only there to keep the folds even and straight across (otherwise it sags in the middle and flops weirdly on the ends) so as long as there’s something rigid in there, it should be fine!
Hi there…I am wondering if this method would work using cordless honeycomb/accordion type blinds? I already have them up in the living room and was thinking of attempting to do this with them instead of buying and installing mini-blinds?
Hi Andrea – sorry I missed this! I didn’t get an email notification :-/ I’m not sure what the mechanism is on the honeycomb/accordion blinds, so I’m not sure my method would work. The mini blinds work with a pretty finely tuned spring that’s counterweighted roughly equally by the weight of the slats & bottom weight. By sheer luck, the fabric is functionally equivalent in weight to the slats, so the mechanism is still balanced after replacing the slats with plastic. The other thing to consider is that you’d need to partially destroy your existing blinds to follow a method like mine, so if it didn’t work you’d need to buy new blinds. You could mitigate that by trying it with only one window, of course!
Sorry I can’t be of more help, I just don’t have any experience with those other types of blinds & how they work. If you do try it, will you let me know how it goes?
Such a great idea. Do you know if it will still work if my window is a lot taller than the mini blind? My window is very tall at 82″ being not a standard size its so hard to find a blind that fit without going custom. So i wonder if the 64″ L home depot blind would work if i just extend the cord?
Ooooh this would be great if it worked for taller windows! Will you report back if you try? The only reason I can think that it wouldn’t work is that the extra material might be too heavy for the mechanism to work.
In a recent comment, I explained my best understanding of how the retraction mechanism functions – essentially there’s a balance between spring tension and the weight of the blinds. If it’s too light, the blinds retract no matter what. If it’s too heavy, it won’t retract at all.
I doubt that an extra 1.5 feet of material would make that big of a difference, though!! I say go for it!
I’d like to report back that after one and a half month of “planning” to work on it, it is finally done and seems working well. That extra 1.5 feet of cloth is not adding extra weight compare to the original blinds. The only thing is where i tied a knot to extent the cord would get caught at the opening where the cord goes up to the retraction mechanism, but it wasn’t a big issue since i have a tall window that i don’t actually open the shade that high up.
Thanks again for your tutorial.
That’s wonderful to hear, Christina! Great to know this can work for extra tall windows!! Thank you so much for the update. Super helpful to anyone else who comes across the tutorial with your same setup 🙂
Thanks so much for this tutorial – it really is the most comprehensive one I could find. I’m trying to figure out if there is a way to use the blinds as the slat, instead of dowels? Also, could you sandwich the blinds or dowels between the top fabric and liner, so they aren’t visible from outside the window? I know that will drive me bonkers – esp since the windows I want to do this for are in the front of the house. Any advice appreciated… tho perhaps you are sick of talking about shades!!!
Hi Jill! So glad it’s helpful! I think you could use blinds as the slats, as long as you don’t mind there being potentially a little more give when raising & lowering. The dowels are helpful to keep the shade folds straight across/resist bending particularly when moving them up & down. That said, if you move the fabric folds how you want them, they should stay in place as long as there’s something at least semi-rigid preventing the edges from flopping around! I wouldn’t advise using no dowel or dowel-like slat – I tried that and it’s kind of a mess.
Alas, I don’t think there’s an easy way to cover up the cords so they’re not visible from the front. I addressed this in a previous comment but the gist is that the cords need to get WAY shorter (i.e. retract) when the shades are raised. The fabric can’t do that, so it would bunch out weirdly out the back. You *could* do a double shade where you make an identical front & back so that it doesn’t bunch weirdly – if you try it let me know how it goes/looks! As for hiding the slats, you could always cover over those with no problems. It’s just hiding the cords that’s an issue because of how they need to shorten & lengthen. Hope that helps? FWIW I have these in the front of my house and while I probably should put the dowels into sleeves or something, the cords are totally not noticeable.
I’m a big DYI-er too! Thanks for this info. I already had corded Roman shades and using your information I bought $7.00 cordless mini- blinds and reconstructed them and I love them! Your pictures and step by step instructings made it such an easy project and I was ablr to keep the shades I love so much. Thank you again for posting!
That’s wonderful to hear, Kathleen!! I’m so glad this post was helpful and especially that it helped you keep your existing pretty shades!
Those look amazing. Unfortunately, the skill level still may be a little more than I’m capable of at the moment. Any chance I can pay you to make some for me?? I could mail you the fabric.
Oh my goodness! When I say that if I can do it anyone can, I really mean it… sewing in a straight line is quite a challenge for me. Give these a try and I think you’ll be pleased with the outcome!!
Fantastic tutorial and just what I have been looking for my recently remodeled basement windows. I wondered if instead of glueing the dowels and the main bar at the top, I could use velcro for the bar and inserts for the dowels. This would make popping them in the washing machine every now and again easier. Do you think velcro would stand up to the weight and constant pull/push of the mechanism? Thanks!
Hi Louise! I think that’s a great idea, the velcro would have no problem holding the weight. The only thing that might be a little less than perfect is attaching it at the top, there might be a little pitch forward where you could see the top of the velcro. With some fudging you might be able to attach the top of the shade a little higher up to avoid this, but it might not end up being a problem at all. Using velcro you have some wiggle room to try it out! But your idea of using velcro to attach the rods is brilliant! I’m just not that good at sewing… it’d add a fair bit of work 😉
Hi! These look amazing but I’m a bit confused – how does the up and down mechanism work? Can you pull these down or are they always at a fixed length?
Hi Maddy, no worries! Yes, they’re functional & go up and down. The beauty of cannibalizing cheap pre-made cordless blinds is that they’ve got the mechanism all taken care of. It works via springs that are roughly balanced by the weight of the shade. Simple but effective!
Do you know if this would hold up with heavier curtain fabric?
From my experience there’s a wide range of fabric weights that the shades will tolerate. This may vary depending on which shades you use, but the Home Depot brand shades I’ve used have accepted a lighter weight linen as well as a fairly heavy weight home decor fabric – I’m no fabric expert so didn’t pay close attention, but I suspect it was meant for upholstery. In any case, you just want the fabric weight to be approximately equal to the weight of the slats you remove from the original shade.
Thank you, thank you for your awesome tutorial! I have all the supplies ready to go, I was just thinking, you kept the bottom bar to hold the string and have weight at the bottom correct? Do you think that I could use a medal rod at the bottom and attach the string to a ring at that rod? The window I am doing this on is next to my front door, so I am hiding the dowels in between the liner and front fabric. Just trying to make this look good from the front as well as the back. I was absolutely flabbergasted at the price of “cordless mechanisms” !
Megan, you are welcome! Glad it was useful. The only thing I’d caution is that the weight of your metal rod should be as close as possible to the weight of the bottom bar. The cordless mechanism relies entirely on being balanced out by the weight of the fabric + bottom member, so as long as that’s close, it should be fine. I too have a front door I’d like to do this on but just haven’t gotten around to it! I think I got burned out by doing so many windows at once and never wanted to disassemble another mechanism again 😉 Hope it turns out great for you!!
Great tutorial! Definitely planning to attack this project soon. One question, does the bottom bar from the blinds actually attached to your fabric? I couldn’t tell in any of the pictures. Thanks again for helping me see how easy (& beautiful) these Roman shades can be!
Hi Angie! Great question. In short, no, the bottom bar is not attached to the fabric.
The only place the fabric is attached to the shade is the glue at the top. The rest of the way down the shade, it’s all held together by the sewn-in rings that the cords run through. The bottom bar just hangs at the bottom of the cords, but it never travels any further down than you intentionally pull it (in case you’re worried it would be visible!) Under normal use, the bottom bar rests just below your last set of sewn-in rings.
Good luck & I hope they work as well for you as they have for me!!
I echo all the comments – this has been very helpful! I’m still having trouble picturing where the bottom bar ends up – does it sit on the window sill or it hangs behind the bottom of the fabric?
Also, what would happen if I just used the five or so slats I need out after taking all the others off, reinforcing them with dowels, and then keeping the mechanism on and gluing the fabric to the tops, the reinforced slats, and the bottom bar? Rather than disabling the mechanism and doing the loops and then tying the strings back to bottom bar? I hope this makes sense!
Katy, thanks for the question, glad this has been helpful! The bottom bar sits as low as you pull it but naturally sits right below the lowest reinforced horizontal member. There’s nothing preventing you from pulling it lower (except the length of the cords) since it isn’t attached to the fabric.
To answer your other question, sure! I don’t see why you couldn’t do it that way. It just sounds like a bit more work to me – I actually did my first shade without cutting the cord and ended up preferring the method I described. But it’s totally up to you, whatever you prefer!!
Thank you for this tutorial! Here is my Ronan shade I made to match a pink and white mid century bathroom. I used Stich Witchey to avoid the top-stitching, and although it is in a bathroom with high humidity, it is still holding up well.
Wow, that turned out great!! I’d never heard of stitch witchery but sounds like a great way to cut out some of the headache of this project if you can’t sew in a straight line, like yours truly 😉 Even better to hear it’s holding up in a high humidity environment. Well done and thanks for sharing!
I could not hang my Roman shades with the hardware that the blinds came with. The fabric that I covered the shade header with prevented it from clipping into the mounting hardware. I had to screw the whole until into the window sill. Has anyone else had this problem? What did you do?
Hi Stephanie, sorry you had that issue! What brand of blinds are you using? I’ve only ever tried this with the cheap-o shades from Home Depot, which clip around the back.
Thank you so much for this! Can’t wait to get started.
Question: do you have to crimp the bottoms of the cords or can you get away with just tying a thick knot?
Also, if I was to externally mount the shades, would the exposed sides of the mounting bar just look silly?
I don’t see why a good sturdy knot wouldn’t do – I happen to know nothing about knots, and as these cords are a bit thin I figured I’d take the safest approach. If you’re confident in your knot-making, go for it!
If you’re externally mounting the shades, I’d suggest making some kind of valance to hide the top bar. You’d definitely see the sides of the top bar otherwise, and though it’s not an eyesore it’s still probably preferable to cover it up.
Just found this and I’m so excited to give it a try! When you sew the little rings in place, do you only secure to the liner fabric or did you poke through to the outside decorative fabric?
Hi Danielle! Hope you give it a go, I sewed through both layers and would recommend doing the same, you can’t see it since it’s such a tiny stitch and it will keep the liner and outer fabric from getting away from each other. But if you try it the other way let me know how it goes!!
I’m in love with this tutorial! From the bottom of my heart, thanks!!
I’m working on my first shade now, thanks for you!
Oh my gosh Laura, that’s wonderful!! How did it go??
This looks like the PERFECT tutorial! Question: my window is 6 feet wide, do you suggest doing one big one for this type of window, or two small?
Hi Megan! The only limitation there would be whether you can find a cordless shade that wide to begin with. If you can find one to cannibalize for parts, no reason it shouldn’t work! Otherwise, your idea about using two right next to each other is a good one. Slightly jealous of your huge windows!!
This was a great tutorial that worked well! I did not even realize that mini-blinds were cordless now. Cordless was the only kind I saw being sold at my local Wal-Mart and Home Depot. Your instructions are very easy to follow. I want to stress how IMPORTANT Step 4 is when it says to use a binder clip to lock the middle string in place. I did not do that, and after going through the whole process of cutting off the outer ladder strings, when I undid the button, ZIP—the string disappeared into the top mechanism before I could even react. Luckily, I live near Wal-Mart and was able to quickly get another cheap mini-blind ($5.00). This time, I was much more careful and the process went quickly. My husband and I are very pleased with the results! Thank you for your post!
Debbie I’m glad it all worked out for you!!
Thank you for your tutorial Carly. I have a few questions. Should I prewash the fabric before making the blinds. The fabric being used is 55% linen and 45% rayon. I am afraid when I go to wash the blinds
down the road they will shrink. Has anyone tried using iron on roman rib tape to hide the dowels instead of gluing them? Would it be better to velcro the fabric to the header instead of gluing it in
case the mini blind mechanism fails and you have to replace it? OK last question… where is the bottom bar? In your photo with the finished shade, I don’t see the bottom bar. Thanks Carly.
These are great points, Devon! I’ll respond one at a time:
Hope that’s helpful – if you make these washable please let us know how it goes!
Hi…great tutorial! Thank you for putting this out there for us to give it a try. You’re shades turned out beautiful. I’m prepping to try one…I have my fabric, dowels, blind and accessories. I have two questions and I didn’t see anything very similar in the previous question/reply section. The first question is related to the rings. Do these get sewn into both pieces of fabric if a backing is used or just the backing/lining? I understand the rings are on the back panel/lining but wondering if they need to be secured only to the back or to both pieces. My second question is related to the bottom bar/length. I see that we aren’t supposed to secure the fabric to the bottom bar and that the bottom bar should fall just below the last set of rings. Do we shorten the blind for that to happen. I think my blind is 64 in length but my window or fabric would only go to the window sill or length of window which is 54 in. I appreciate your help and thank you.
Hi Renee! Glad to help. To your first question, I’d recommend going through both layers sewing the rings on. Otherwise the liner and front can separate from each other and potentially sag. You won’t see the tiny stitches, promise! To your second question, sounds like you have the perfect length. The length on the box is the MAX travel distance for the bottom bar as purchased. What matters is how far you pull down the bottom bar and the length of your fabric. The length of the purchased blinds should just be greater than or equal to your window height, which yours is.
Hope that helps!! Let me know if I can clarify anything.
Thanks Carly…this helps a great deal! I appreciate you getting back to me so quickly…. 🙂
You’re welcome, Renee!
Thanks for this awesome tutorial! My windows are 70” wide x 34” long. Luckily The Home Depot blond brand you recommended comes in that width. However I’m having a hard time finding 3/16” wood dowels that go the full length. Do you have any recommendations? Could I glue two dowels together or would that make the shade fold look funky? I think I can get 1/2” dowels cut down to 70” but I’m worried they might be too heavy? Any ideas would be so helpful! Thank you!!!
Those are some wide windows! Glad you were able to find shades to match your desired width. The weight of the thicker dowel may be an issue, but not necessarily. It might be worth a try. Otherwise, maybe you could use one of the discarded slats from your shade and glue as many dowels as you need to that? That’d keep the dowels aligned without adding too much weight. Please let me know what you try!
I was wondering if you could recommend a brand of this that worked for you. Unfortunately I have gone through two different retractable shades that had no way to untie the main cord at the bottom!
The Home Depot brand I linked to in the post is what I used – with any brand, you’ll need to cut the bottom cord, though, so as I say in step 4 you want to secure the retracting cord with a binder clip and only cut it at the very bottom. I doubt you’d be able to untie any of these cords anyway because they’re usually crimped instead of tied. Let me know if I’m misunderstanding!
I’d like to make a flat Roman shade (no dowels/pleats; the fabric is completely smooth when closed) – could I use this tutorial to accomplish that by just leaving out the rods? My windows are only 34” wide, so I don’t think the width would make the fabric too difficult to work with when opening/closing without the rods.
I’m not totally sure what you mean by “flat” – do you mean when it’s closed it just has one big drape? If so, then yes absolutely this would work – the one thing is that you’d still need to attach the rings at the bottom so the bottom bar is constrained and can control the up & down mechanism. But no dowels required! Let me know if I’m misunderstanding!
Hi this is so wonderful. Thanks. Can you please be more specific on the Crimper and metal crimps?? I can’t find them anywhere?
I have an Amazon link to the exact crimps I use in the post – just do a text search for crimps and you’ll find it. I don’t have a crimper and just used pliers!
Are you able to email me a picture of the back of your shade? So I can see how you did the bottom piece? I see in your pictures , on the tail piece when up all the way, that you cannot see the end (bottom) of the shade.
I read all your comments and i’m unsure how to leave the end (bottom) piece… Is it freely there so it’s easy to push up?
I understand better when I see things LOL
I’ve posted a photo here: https://imgur.com/7tMbMBs The bottom piece just hangs, it’s not attached to anything. All it does is counteract the springs at the top that retract the shade when you want to raise it up.
I hope that helps!!
Yes! Thank you so much!!!!! I’m so excited to try these! I’ll try to send a picture when done! 🙂
Carly, thank you for your great instructions! I’m planning to do a Roman shade on a front door that has a long window. It will need to be attached to the door itself just above the window pane. Do you think it will work using the cordless blinds. I have the same Home Depot blinds as you bought. ????
What a great idea! We have a door like that too, and I never thought to put one of these shades there… definitely added to the to-do list! Yes, I think this would work great there. You’d just need to screw the brackets that hold the shade directly into the door.
Thanks for the question!
I have bought the material to make my roman shades. I do have a few more questions before I start. I have 5 windows 2 that are 51″ long and 3 that are 39″ long. I plan on spacing the wooden rods 10″ apart in the 51″ windows but how far apart would you put them in the shorter windows? 8 inches? Do you divide the length by 5? Also I love the shades that the new 2020 HGTV house sweepstakes has in their kitchen. It has a concave bottom to them. What would you use to get this look? A flexible rod on the bottom? I have included the website to show what I am talking about. Thanks Carly.
Hi Debora! The spacing is completely up to you (the nice part is that you can preview different spacings by folding your fabric up while it’s still one flat piece) but it does indeed look nice with the four folds. This doesn’t necessarily mean dividing the fabric equally in 5ths though, I like a longer top section and shorter bottom section but, again, how you do these spacings has no bearing on the function of your shade, it’s purely aesthetic!
Very cool find with those HGTV kitchen shades – yes, I do think a light flexible rod at the bottom would give a very similar look. The trickier bit would be figuring out the pleats – something akin to ruching the sides of the bottom section. But that’s way beyond my personal skillset! You’ll just have to play around with it – and if you do, please let us know how it goes!!
This is a great tutorial. I have a question: Can you simply tie the string on the last ring rather than adding the bottom piece and crimping it? Does that make sense? I’ve only done corded roman shades before and I’m trying to picture how this works. Thanks so much!
Hi Lori! You could definitely just tie the cords to the rings, but then you’d need to figure out some other way to attach the bottom bar to the shade. The weight of the bottom bar is crucial to how the cordless mechanism works, so don’t leave it out!
Is it possible to tie the cords on the last set of rings and dowels, then sew a rod pocket at the bottom and place a metal strip in the casing the same weight as the bottom bar on the cordless Roman shade
Yes, Connie – absolutely! The two things that matter are that 1) the cords are secured to your shade somewhere and 2) there’s some sort of weight secured to the shade that’s approximately the same weight as the original bottom bar. As long as those two things are true, you can make whatever modifications you’d like!
Thanks for this tutorial. I’ve made 2 already. Quick question: during step 5 when you are pulling the strings through the rings and through the weighted bar, is it necessary (or even advisable) to pull the strings out to their full capacity? My two finished shades have a little bit of a “pull” look near the bottom rings/dowel rod/weighted bar when they are hung and extended all of the way down. I’m wondering if this is because they were extended all the way out before we tied them off and maybe we made them a tad bit too short. I am wondering if we didn’t extend the strings out all the way, if we wouldn’t have this pulling thing going on. Thoughts? Advice?
Let me make sure I understand the problem you’re having – are you saying that you pulled the mechanism cords as far out as they would go when you assembled the shade? If it looks/feels funny to you, then it’s worth investigating options – To fix it, maybe you could attach the bottom bar a little further up your shade, giving your cords a little more breathing room. That said though, there is always going to be tension on the shade where the cords attach to the fabric. Using this method, they won’t hang perfectly flat when extended all the way. But in the future, no, I wouldn’t advise extending the cords all the way while assembling, just to give them some breathing room and avoid excess tension on their attachment point.
I hope that’s helpful! I’ll update the post to recommend specifically not extending the cords all the way.
Thank you so much for this tutorial! It’s exactly what I was looking for and you were so detailed that I had no problem recreating it first try. I bought a pre-lined blackout curtain to use as my fabric which made construction a lot quicker. Did two windows in my son’s room for $35 total! I’m so grateful for your info!
That’s wonderful! Also I had no idea pre-lined blackout fabric existed, so that’s definitely something I’ll try in the future. What a helpful tip! Thank you so much for sharing your success!!
Katie said it was a pre-lined blackout curtain, rather than fabric. Great idea!
Ah, I see. Would probably make it a bit more expensive, but still would simplify the process a bit!
Hi there, love this! i haven’t found any tutorials using cordless blinds except this one! Just wondering: now that it’s been a few years since your original post, how have your shades held up? anything you would change?
Betsy, Thank you! The shades have held up great & look the same as they did the day they were installed. They’ve survived 2 curious toddlers, that’s the highest praise I can offer! If I did change anything, it’d be to use pre-lined blackout fabric instead of sewing in my own liner, to save time during fabrication. The most recent commenter suggested it, and I didn’t know that pre-lined fabric existed till then! Other than that, probably not. I’m pretty impressed with how they’ve held up.
Suggestion for those that have a blind where bracket interferes with installing top rail when fabric is glued onto top rail. BEFORE gluing, mark your top rail with where the bracket covers the top rail. Then only glue the rail from those marks (no glue under where brackets will be located). That way, the “unglued” part of the fabric can be tucked in front of the bracket. Might be a little bit of a bulge, but it’s not really noticeable.
Great idea, Carmen! Thanks for sharing!
Wait! How do these work cordlessly though? I feel like my mind is just blown!
Hi Melanie! Believe it or not, it’s pretty simple – there’s a spring inside the top bar that balances out the weight of the shade itself. So no matter where you move the shade, up or down, the spring balances out the weight and the shade stays put where you leave it. It’s neat they figured out how to do it so cheaply – these blinds are dirt cheap!
Hi! im attempting to make these shades but im confused about the bottom bar of the shades. did you glue that onto the fabric as well? and how high up from the fabric did you glue it on? thanks in advance!
Hi Tasfia, you don’t need to attach the bottom bar to the shade, it can hang freely – I’ve found it’s easiest to use the shade that way. If you did want to attach it, I’d attach it right below your lowest row of rings, maybe with some simple ties. It certainly isn’t necessary though – I’ve never attached mine! Hope this is helpful.
Thank you for the tutorial! Can’t wait to make some! It’s at the top of my to-do list.
That’s wonderful, Catherine! Let us know how it goes!
I have a 65″ long by 30″ window in my laundry room. I only need the bottom 24″ or so portion to move–to keep the early morning sun off the room so I can see my computer screen. (I want to put a monogram on the upper section.) Will I be able to add a short blind on the lower 24″ only and make it work using your instructions?
Sounds beautiful! I don’t think you’ll need to make any changes – maybe just skip adding the horizontal wooden rods/plastic rings higher up on the shade since you won’t be needing them. You’ll always be in control of how high up you move the shade, so if you keep it within your preferred range you’ll be just fine. But nothing will break if you move it higher up! If you want to prevent the shade from retracting further up, you can put large crimps on the cord, and that will stop it from moving too far up.
Let me know if that was helpful or if I’ve misunderstood! Bottom line is I don’t think you need to make any changes at all.
Your tutorial is great! I have oversized windows in the new home we built and was shocked at the expense of ordering window treatments. After reading your tutorial, I embarked on making roman shades for four of my windows. I have sewn all my life so the sewing was not problem but the first blind I took apart, I lost the strings twice ! I had clips on them but they didn’t hold and it became laughable . Needless to say , I found a way to avoid that problem on the remaining blinds. I did change a couple things.. I sewed pockets for the dowel rods and I made a wider finished pocket at the top and bottom and inserted flat pieces of very lightweight wood. At the top I used heavy duty velcro to attach it to the top of the mini blind in case I would need to have them cleaned and It made for a nice flat top and sturdy bottom . Thanks for posting this tutorial, it has saved me literally hundreds of dollars!
Denise, it sounds like you made some great improvements to the basic plan! I’m so happy they turned out well for you. It is shocking how expensive nice-looking window treatments can be! Thanks for sharing!
Wow, I just finished blinds I made that are very similar to your technique. And NOW I find your post!, lol. I used Walmart blinds for the mechanism, foam core board for a more rigid top and since I wanted them to open from the top too, (great views outside) I put in a simple pulley lo lower the entire blind. To cover the mechanism, I made a valance that goes to the back, when the blinds are up, it covers all the cards, etc… When down and in closed position, there is a pocket in the blind liner under the valance for the extra cord. When down, the cords are lined up with the window edges, so not visible from the back. I used Zip ties and the weight bar to make it. But now I need to put a little extra weight at the bottom to keep a few from bunching up. Still making them, but happy with results!, Wish I had seen your post first, I really got stuck in analysis paralysis for a while.
Alia, Sounds like you made some neat divergences from my approach! Cool you were able to make it open from the top, too. I know what you mean about analysis paralysis!
Wonderful! I wanted three Roman shades, 3 solar shades. Didn’t know I could make them. Roman shade bill for cheapest ones I could find, with lining, cordless, were $195 each! Look at the funds you are freeing up for families. Thank you, friend I’ve never met:-)
Carly, would it be possible to add length to the cords? Home Depot’s longest mini blinds are 72″ and I need 82″. I was wondering if I could lengthen the cords by 10″ (plus extra for knot). Thanks for this tutorial!
Kathleen, Yes! That’s one of the great things about this method, you can make them any length you like. Just tie on a little extra cord at the end and you’ll be all set.
Thanks for this tutorial. Can you clarify something for me? With this cordless method, I understand I will be able to pull the shade all the way down and pull/push it all the way up. But, will I also be able to pull the shade 1/2 way down the window? i.e., is the shade adjustable to any length? Thanks for answering!
With this style of shade, you’ll be able to pull it any distance up or down your window. The system is balanced such that it’ll remain in any position you leave it – pretty neat. This means it’s adaptable to any size window – you’re only limited by the size of the fabric you prepare! I hope this works out well for you.
The instructions are great and I’m really excited to see my finished blinds.. when I go back to Home Depot for more blinds because my center cords retracted into the housing after my binder clip popped off! It seems I am the only one who has experienced this, but hopefully this comment will save someone else from this disaster! Really secure those binder clips ????
Oh no, Carly! I’m so sorry that happened to you!! I can’t believe it’s never happened to me but it’s a good reminder that it’s possible… Thankfully the blinds are cheap? I find that the most time-consuming part is prepping the fabric anyway, so if you’ve got that done it should come together really quickly when you get your new blinds. I hope this time it goes better for you!
Quick question! The tutorial really doesn’t show what you did with the bottom bar. Was the fabric glued to it in the extended position? If so what distance from the bottom did you place it?
Hi Lisa, the bottom bar just hangs freely, supported by the knots you tie and crimps you place on the cords below it. The bar can hang anywhere between the lowest rings and the bottom of the fabric, just so it isn’t visible from the front. It’s only there to provide the counterweight the springs need to hold the shade wherever you set it. I hope that makes sense! Please let me know if I can help in any other way.
Researching window treatments for my tiny Casita trailer which came with cheap mini blinds. This fits the bill. I live in Phoenix so guessing the glue will melt so I’ll make pockets for the dowels. Still can’t understand how they’ll stay up with no pull cord but trusting you. Here goes!!!! ????
Terri, yes they’re like magic! Springs inside the top are what holds the shade in position no matter where you move it.
It’s like magic. It really does work!!
Your instructions were amazing !!! Just what I needed to make blinds for my bedroom. It was so much easier to break down and attach the blind than I could have imagined. Thank you for your detailed information.
I made a few changes for mine.
I wanted them to be removable in order to clean them. I used velcro to attach to the top and the bar along the bottom. I used the dual version: sews to the fabric, sticks to the blind frame. I cut it in half for a narrow strip for the bar along the last “dowel”. I did glue this part on the curtain.
I made pockets and used two of the blind slats for the “dowels”. One slat wasn’t stiff enough by itself, but two worked fine. I sewed the pockets to the liner before I attached the liner to the front.
I used a plastic ring to keep the string in place under the bottom bar instead of the crimp. It will be a challenge to untie, but won’t have to cut the string each time I clean them.
It was tricky to feed the string through the hole in the bottom bar. I made a loop with a thin piece of wire and used it to feed the string into the hole. I took pictures, but don’t see how I can attach to the comment. I can send if anyone wants more information for my changes.
Dana, your improvements sound fantastic! Have you washed and reinstalled them? I hope they’re holding up great!
I haven’t needed to wash them, yet. It shouldn’t be any trouble with the changes I made.
What a tremendous tutorial. My question relates to raising and lowering the shade. As presented do you lower the shade by pulling on the lower edge of the tail fabric? Would attaching a decorative ring to pull avoid touching the fabric? Thanks!
Thank you, Ann! A decorative ring would be a great touch and would serve the purpose you describe. To avoid weird tension on your shade, I’d either tie the ring right to the bottom bar (of the purchased shade), reinforce where you’re attaching the string, or add some rigidity to the bottom of your fabric and attach it directly there. You do have to pull with a little force!
As for raising the shade back up, I don’t think there’s any good way of avoiding touching the fabric. All manually-operated cordless shades work that way – you have to push the shade up from the bottom. Let me know if you think of anything!!
So let’s say hypothetically I experienced a catastrophic fail of my binder clip …. Any suggestions? Is it worth prying apart the mechanism or should I just buy more mini blinds???
Oh no! I’ve never had it completely retract itself so I can’t give you any tips on retrieval. The worst that would happen if you tried to pry it apart is you’d have to buy a new blind (which is what you’d be doing anyway) so I say go for it and let us know. At least the blinds are cheap!!
HI, after making 5 shades for my bedroom my original plan was to get rid of my curtains and the room darkening roller shades
I learned from some mistakes (and I made many)
#1 The tension on the Home Depot mini blinds is a lot stronger than Lowes. (I would stick with HD)
#2 The Lowes mini blinds did not retract upwards as well as the Home Depot’s so I would have to pull on the cords in the back to get them to sit even after pulling them up.
#3 I also lost the cords after putting metal clips on them and decided to thread large buttons instead
#4 I did retrieve the string in the housing , they did not work the same after. I did end up purchasing a new one.
#5 The Lowes mini blinds did not retract upwards as well as the Home Depot’s so I would have to pull on the cords in the back to get them to sit even.
#6 I did use iron on ribbing on the back for the round dowels to go into. (check your dowel size to make sure your dowels will slide in easy)
#7 I did sew in room darkening fabric on the back and because of the tension issue I kept my original room darkening roller shades and installed the roman shades in front (mounted on the outside of window) I keep the roman shades pulled down half way and just pull the roller shades down every night. This also helps if you don’t want to handle the fabric everyday. If you want to pull the roman shades down every night I would sew in a flat wood dowel on the bottom and then slide on a plastic handle(shade pull) that are found on roller shades
I hope this can help someone before they start this project
Devon, these are great tips – sounds like you’ve done a ton of troubleshooting and are a pro at knocking these out now. GREAT to know about Lowe’s vs. Home Depot. I had some luck using this technique and some Roc-lon blackout fabric on some bamboo shades from Amazon and got lucky that it worked. I suppose the quality of the original blinds does matter at least a bit. We’ve been using them every day for a couple years now and no issues. Thanks again for coming back and adding all this valuable info. This comments section is amazing!