How to Make a Dandy DIY Roman Shade

To prepare my home for winter, I plotted to make a great new Roman curtain to cover and insulate my living room paned-glass door. The enclosed porch on the other side of the door is unheated and un-insulated, so I’ve found that reducing opportunity for airflow during the winter months helps to keep my living room warm and my heating bills low. The curtain I had been using was a simple curtain, but I wanted to take it up a notch. Before I get ahead of myself, this is totally the kind of project that could be modified easily to accommodate a smaller window, or a larger sliding glass door, so by no means should you follow this to a T; use your own measurements and make something customized for your home.

A DIYed Roman Shade.

Here’s a short list of the basic materials I bought for my full door-sized curtain:

  • 4+ yards of fabric
  • 7 -3/8″ x 48″ dowels (<$1 each)
  • 14 screw hooks ($2)
  • 2 screw eye hooks ($1)
  • 18′ of home decor chain ($18)
  • 1 48″ 1×2 board ($1.17 for an 8-foot board)
  • sewing machine with thread

I’ve always kept some sort of window treatment over the door; all summer, it’s been a sheer white panel for privacy, but for wintertime, I’ve been lusting after wools and heavier materials. Vintage wools, new wool by-the-yard, repurposing Pendleton or military blankets, I’ve considered all of it, and spent hours upon hours on Etsy seeing what I could find (a favorite resource!) but in the end, I ended up using the same fabric that I used for my recently finished ottoman. A simple charcoal gray craft felt. Why? Just for a little bit of decor unification. The fabric doesn’t have to be all matchy-matchy, I just felt like having a little fluidity in the room (pun intended).

Charcoal gray craft felt

I fell hard for the fabric, but harder for the price. On sale. 50% off. For $2.99 a yard at my little local-but-national home goodies shop. I scooped up 4.33 yards, which was the longest piece that they could provide on their stocked bolts. It would do. Because the room has 9′ ceilings and I wanted the shade to hang from ceiling to floor with lush roman pleating, I had hoped to bring home 4 to 4.5 yards of the chosen fabric.

The felt fabric is surprisingly soft, even though it’s not a heavy-duty 5mm or 100% wool model (ooh la la, if I had found some in gray I would have used it). Mediocrity aside, this stuff is way less starched than all other craft felts I’ve encountered, plus, more workable than flimsier fabrics. Perfect for DIY’ing a wintertime roman shade, if you ask me.

Let’s go through this tutorial slowly. Leave me a comment if something isn’t clear and I’ll help to be more expansive!

1. Test run. Think “Wow, that’s a long piece of fabric”. I started very simply by laying the felt over the curtain rod I already had hung above the door. Once I saw it in place I was able to fold it lengthwise to adjust the width. (Note: My original fabric with was 72″! I knew I wouldn’t need the final curtain to be more than 4′ wide.)

Test run. At least it seems like I bought enough felt.

2. Test run with pleats. Plan your pleating attack. While it was hung temporarily, I also took the opportunity to see how each pleat might lay. This is how I concocted the notion that 7 pleats would be all I’d need to achieve the look I was going for; not too close together, not too far apart, the 7 pleats felt very balanced compared to the height of the room.

And, with pleats. I'm liking how this is looking.

3. Trim the fabric width to size (try with a drywall square, I’m serious). I brought the felt down and laid it flat. I needed to trim the 72″ fabric down to a consistent 48″ width to fit better over the door and fit beside that Ikea Expedit shelving unit. I used a drywall square (because they already measure 48″) to create an even line to cut along. I thought that the T-shape of the tool helped to make the cut more even than if I had used a standard tape measure.

T-square. For more than just drywall.

Dowel time.

If you’ve ever studied the construction of a nice Roman shade (no? just me?), you’ll see where I’m going with this dowel business. There’s always a stiff piece of material that links up to the curtain pulls to effectively raise and lower the pleats of a roman shade in unison. It’s a beautiful thing; I have great respect for home decor engineers. But because I wasn’t getting into that whole string-pull-business, I came up with a modified construction using stiff dowels with hooks, and dangling home decor chain to support the need to raise and lower the curtain. It’s manual. And it was an easy concept to execute myself.

4. Sew some sleeves for your dowels. Before you worry about the dowels themselves, start by creating the pleats of the curtain. In my plan, having already decided that there would be 7 pleats, I knew that a new pleat would need to lie every 18″ down the fabric to allow for a modest 3″ roman pleat overhang. So, every 18-inches, I folded the felt evenly and ran it through the sewing machine to create narrow sleeves that were appropriately sized to hold the 3/8″ dowels.

Sewing seams along the width of the felt.

Every 18", from the top of the curtain to the bottom.

5. Pre-drill the ends of your dowels. Make sure your dowels are the same width as your fabric (or one inch shorter so they don’t pop out the ends accidentally). Before threading the dowels into the felt sleeves, I used a 1/16″ drill bit to pre-drill each end of the dowel. Make sure those drill holes face the same way into the round dowel, namely, so the holes on both ends are pointing upwards at the same time. Go slow, use a small bit, and it won’t crack the wood.

Pre-drilling the ends of each dowel.

6. Thread the dowels into the sleeves, and attach your screw hooks into the pre-drilled holes. These pre-drilled holes and hooks are the reason the DIY roman shade can have pleats and be functional. See, once the dowels are strung into the sleeves of the shade, install a screw hook to each of the dowels (you’ll probably have to twist it in through a tiny cut in the fabric to get straight into the pre drilled holes, because your dowels should be the same length as the width of your fabric, and are presumably covered up). Don’t worry about those little cuts too much – they won’t be facing into your room. After threading all of the dowels into the sleeves, and adding hooks to both end of each dowel, you should have a long piece of fabric with evenly spaced dowels sewn in place, and visible hooks.

7. Reinforce the top of the curtain to support all of that fabric. The felt I used is heavy, at least when you’re talking about hanging 4.333 yards of it evenly from a curtain rod. I did a little test run with some curtain clips and wasn’t pleased with the result – a bit saggy – so I came up with a plan B: I cut a piece of simple furring strip (a 1″x2″ board) to match the width of the curtain fabric, and used an electric stapler to attach and conceal it to the top of the curtain. The covered strip allows the fabric to hang securely and fall smoothly.

Stapling the felt to a furring strip to keep the whole curtain strong and level as it hangs from the curtain rod.

8. Add eye hooks, and add chain. To securely attach that furring strip to the curtain rod, I threaded two eye hooks into holes at opposite ends of the 1×2 (pre-drilling first, because the eye hooks I chose were pretty chunky-chunk in width). Before I hung the eye hooks on the rod, I did one last thing: looped a 9′ piece of home decor chain over the top of each eye hook. Those chains were directed to fall behind the curtain out of sight, and since they were looped around the eye hooks, would be secure under the weight of the curtain.

See how the hooks on the dowels attach right to the chain?

9. Pull up a step ladder – it’s time to display your new curtain! It’s hung! It’s an actual window-treating-heat-preserving-room-cozying curtain. The dowels should fall perfectly horizontally, and hooks on each of those dowels should align nicely with the chain hiding quietly behind the curtain (unless it’s dragging on the floor, in which case it sounds like the ghost from Scooby Doo is loitering in the corner of your room). Lift each dowel one at a time, starting from the top of the shade, and place it on the chain link of your choice to create a looping roman pleat. My hooks and measurements supported me hanging each pleat on every 11th link, and knowing that helped me to keep the pleats even as I worked from top to bottom.

Aw-to-the-yeah. A full-length roman shade.

Hold up. There’s more. I can raise the shade in a minute also. Because it’s totally functional. Maybe half-way for a little light. Ooh, ahh.

And, still happy half-way up!

Or all of the way for more light and to be able to open and close the door. It’s just a matter of hooking the dowels closer together. Squeal!

And raised even further, it looks great.

Of course, if you have kids or chain-loving cats, be aware that there will be exposed chains hanging down when the curtain is up. They can be tucked up and out of sight if it’s an issue in your home.

Good luck making your own! I hope to see how well yours turned out!

 

Catching the home improvement bug at an early age, Emily Winters is a now a devoted DIYer living in Rochester, NY. The projects she covers on her blog Merrypad range from painting a wall to building a deck, so it’s only natural she landed at DIYNetwork.com. You can follow Emily on twitter at @merrypad and like her on facebook at facebook.com/merrypad.

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About Emily Fazio 

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I caught the home improvement bug at an early age, and now I'm a full-time DIYer living in Rochester, NY. The projects I cover on my blog Merrypad range ...

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