First Sewing Steps: How to Make Roman Shade Curtains

I sewed for a good period of time in my teens and 20s and then there was a long period where life happened, and I didn't do anything creative. By the time I did get back to sewing, I was ready to roar and sewed nonstop for about 5 years straight. These days I've settled down to a more sedate pace of sewing, now that I've quenched that ravenous first thirst of returning to the craft, but as I work editing a sewing magazine, I often look back on those ravenous sewing days and ponder what sparked my creative frenzy and how I can inspire that in others.

I do know part of the answer. I lived in New York City during 9/11/2001. Shortly after that day, my husband and I purchased a small getaway in the Pocono Mountains, because the city was a difficult place to be 24/7 in the first months after September 11th. I had a lot of time on my hands and a feeling that life could vanish in a matter of minutes. I desperately wanted something that I could touch and create. Sewing was the perfect solution. 

     
These Roman shades were one of my first projects. And these, also! Here, you can see the plastic rings the cord runs through.
     
The 1" x 4" wood is mounted on L-brackets and the shade is stapled to the wood. Here is a sample of the metal bar that is inserted at the bottom of the shade for weight. The shade back is marked off in equal sections to determine where to sew rings. .

One of my first projects was sewing a set of lined Roman shade curtains for our new home. I had no idea that I was taking on anything particularly difficult, and that's probably a good thing. I just went out and bought a pattern, picked some fabric I loved and went to town. About halfway through, I realized that this was going to take a while, but I had long weekends with nothing to do. It was also a way to cement my relationship with my new mother-in-law. She often came to visit and coached me through many a project.

I was just up in Pennsylvania this past weekend, because our lives have taken a different geographic direction since then and we've put that beloved little getaway up for sale. I was looking at the shades and marveled at the time that I took as a beginning-again beginner, especially now that I really understand what I was taking on. I still believe that sewing is 99% patience and love mixed with 1% skill. Those Roman shades have held up for more than 10 years now and they still match the room perfectly. I realized that I really didn't need a pattern, because it was really just a matter of taking good measurements and working with rectangles. Here's how:

Supplies:

1" x 4" piece of wood cut to width of window
Two L-brackets and screws
Several yards of cording
Set of small plastic rings or Roman shade ring tape
Metal cord wrap for blinds ¼" metal rod cut slightly shorter than width of window (about 1-1/2 inches)
Staple gun
Shade fabric
Lining fabric (optional)
Thread to match

Instructions

1) Measure the interior width and length of your window.

2) Measure the top and side of the 1" x 4" (5") and add that to fabric length, plus another couple of inches to secure fabric to wood with staple gun.

3) Add hem allowance to length and 1" to each side for side hem.

4) Sew panel bottom and side hems. For sides, you will want to fold ½" over on side, stitch, fold again, and stitch. The bottom hem is your choice, but a 3" hem is suggested. Fold under 1/2" on bottom and stitch. Then fold up hem and finish. Leave the sides of the bottom hem open as this is where you will insert the metal rod for weight.

5) Determine how many flaps/folds you want in your shade. For instance, for mine, I had tall windows, and I divided the shades and marked them off  into about six sections.

6) Mark sections on back side hems with pencil and sew plastic rings or ring tape very securely, one on each side. (See diagram.)

7) Run cord through rings on each side, securing at bottom rings first and running through to top. Leave a good yard of length to wrap around metal cord wrap.

8) Attach fabric to wood, mount shade on L-brackets, install metal cord wrap, and insert metal bar into open flap formed by bottom hem.

9) Step back and admire your beautiful custom Roman shade!

For a really swanky shade, you can line it. Widen the side hems of shade fabric to about 3" each and measure the lining to fit as a smaller rectangle inside your shade fabric. Sew with right sides together, leaving one short end open. Turn and press.

To discover more great home decor projects, check out the issues of Stitch 2008-2010 CDs and 2011 CD in the Sew Daily Shop.

Do you have a great story to share on how you returned to sewing? Tell us about it on the Sew Daily blog.

Happy stitching! 

Amber Eden

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About Amber

Amber Eden is the editor of Stitch and SewDaily.com. She LOVES sewing and editing Stitch and SewDaily.com. She also loves dance, yoga, iced decaf triple espressos, and her two golden retrievers. She divides her time between Boston and New York.

7 thoughts on “First Sewing Steps: How to Make Roman Shade Curtains

  1. Dear Amber,
    Your story put my own in mind…I learned to sew as a young girl and as a young adult I was good enough to make myself clothes, which I did. But then life got busy and sewing fell to the wayside. After 9/11, I also changed my life by moving to Europe. We lived closer to my husband’s family and small niece. I decided one Christmas to make clothes for her Barbie doll. How hard could that be, right? I bought a (very) cheap sewing machine and within a very tight deadline, fumbled (and cursed) my way through quite a few outfits. Finding my way around a machine was like riding a bike–you don’t really forget, you just need a little reminding. But the sewing bug bit again and I have made many many doll clothes, including clothes for Ken, patterns for the new Barbie body and accessories. AND I bought a new better-quality machine, which I love. I am hooked. My creativity frenzy has moved me into creating also cloth dolls and other soft toys for the children in my life–and I am loving every minute of it. Children appreciate when you make them something that is theirs alone. Sewing can take you into so many directions! Now I am contemplating making myself clothes again. I am much older now and demand quality–so I have signed up for the Craftsy Couture class and read your blog every day. Your tips keep me inspired and convinced that I can do it. Thank you for a comprehensive and insightful blog. So? So sew your buttons! 🙂 Annie (from Paris, France)

  2. Annie: That is such a wonderful story. I feel like we are on the same path and I wonder how many more that there are of us? I hope that you post your creations on the Sew Daily site and try to make some of the garments in Stitch. We have a chic coat in the upcoming winter issue (out this month) that involves only rectangles. I am so excited to learn that we have a member across the pond and in one of my favorite cities. You’ll have to keep us filled in on what those stylish Parisian women are into. xxooAmber

  3. Dear Amber,

    Your post has bought back many memories for me. Roman blinds were the very first thing I sewed for a new home (20 years ago now!). I used a Rufflette kit so only had to buy two wooden battens and fabric which came from Laura Ashley’s sale. I sewed the fabric into a pennant type zigzag edging along the bottom inserting tassels which hung from each one as I had seen something similar in an interiors magazine at the tine. Well it was the early 90’s and window dressings were quite elaborate at that time! I left them behind when we moved house but I still have some of the fabric in my scrap box.

    Thanks for this interesting and thought provoking post.

    regards,
    Shirley

  4. Shirley: Thanks for much for sharing this lovely memory. Sewing is so intricately woven into the stories of our lives, right? My projects are like a living history. 🙂

  5. Amber, I am shocked that you don’t know about the ring tape for making Roman shades. This is a 5/8″ (or so) twill tape with rings already sewn on it. It makes constructing a Roman shade MUCH easier!
    I used it to make a lined shade for the bathroom of my first house back in 1973, because my bathroom window faced my neighbor’s with only abour 15′ between us, and not only did I not want them to see me, I didn’t want to see them! When I moved out of that house in 1993, the shade was still there and still working fine, although it had suffered some sun damage in the intervening years.

    Anyway, the next time you want to make Roman shades, get the ring tape.

    It also surprises me that you think this is a “hard” project. C’mon. This one is easy. Try making pleated, lined drapes.

  6. Very funny story, S-I-Smith! I’m not a fan of the ring tape because I like to keep the fluidity of fabric and I found the ring tape to be stiff, but no doubt they can save time. Good point and I will add as an option to the supplies list. Sewing is all in the details, right? And, yes, pleated lined drapes are certainly a challenge. Please post yours. We would love to see them!

  7. Great tut…..I can really relate to some of your first shades too. 8) I’ve been planning to replace the long drapes that I made last year to hang over my french doors. I don’t like the heavy, closed in feel of those drapes, but I do like the fabric. Now I feel comfortable making the shades to replace them. I will use those same drapes….cut down to size I need to make them into roman shades instead. I already have the other supplies too. Thank you so much for this wonderful tutorial. I’m saving it to my favorite posts and I plan to be using it next week. Thank You!!!.

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