A Cost Efficient Project: DIY Roman Shades

I’m learning a lot of things on the road of life, and one of those things is that some children will not sleep past 6AM unless they are sealed in a pitch black chamber. There’s one thing I do know, as much as I love the white faux-wood blinds that I installed in almost every window of my home, they do not block light completely, especially those thrilling morning sunbeams. To remedy this morning light leakage situation, I decided to give the whole blackout curtain theory a try, and when I started looking into them ($$$) I realized that making my own could be a much more cost effective alternative.

Install a DIY blackout roman shade. This is a no-sew tutorial and reuses a bed sheet for the fabric!

For just about $20/each, I created a set of DIY blackout roman shades that, get this, actually function with a string for a nice, minimal window treatment look that lots of people gravitate to these days. I’m pretty excited about them, especially considering that it was a more complex undertaking than if I were to create long hanging blackout shades or curtains.

I’m even more excited to show you what I used to make this project happen.

When I factored in a radiator placement, the concept of a roman shade worked best in this kid’s room where I could pull them up and away from the ground to let light in. It’s not the first time I made a roman shade and showcased its design for DIY Network–see this roman shade tutorial that uses metal chain and felt to cover a whole doorway–but this one was concepted a little differently.

I thought a lot about materials from which I could make curtains after finding that most stores sold blackout panels at about $30/window at the size I needed. Turns out, you can buy yardage of blackout fabric right at the craft store, and with an almost-always-available-coupon you can get your fabric at <$4/yard. When it came time to pick a fabric, I thought a lot about getting a common fabric from the same craft store, but the options neither matched her bedroom especially well (this being quilting fabric), or were cost prohibitive (this being the home decor-weight fabric), but I had a last ditch effort kind of idea: use a flat sheet from a bedroom sheet set

All materials used:

  • Blackout fabric (I used 2 yards, $7.50 total)
  • Full-sized bed sheet (a flat sheet provides a large area, and as it turns out, it’s quite trendy to use a common sheet for DIY curtains. I bought a set at Target priced at $25)
  • Plastic rings (used for tiebacks and various kinds of shades, $3)
  • One 1′x2′x6′ board ($3)
  • Two 5/8″x48″ dowels ($2)
  • Stitch Witchery Bonding to eliminate the need for machine sewing (10 yards, $2)
  • Needle and thread

Use a bed sheet to make a roman shade.

A few bonus tips for consideration:

  • Top to bottom, I only needed a 50″ length for each window, and the bolt of blackout fabric measured 54″ wide, so I was essentially able to buy two yards of fabric (totalled $7.50!) and cut it width-wise to fit both windows. Had I not realized this at the store, I would have brought home fabric to length (almost 4 yards) and had a lot leftover.
  • Even though I didn’t need a whole sheet set, we now have a matching fitted sheet to use on her mattress to “coordinate” her room at no extra cost!

Our dining room table provides the best fabric cutting area in the house, so that’s where I did most of the work. All of my measurements will vary from yours, because mine are made straight to the size of the bedroom window, but this concept can be carried out in almost any size.

I started by spreading the fabric out, cutting the flat sheet cleanly in half lengthwise. If you’re using a plain sheet and want to add a personal touch, consider stenciling for added appeal. Here’s a DIY stenciling tutorial to show you how Ellen tackled her window treatments.

Cut a bed sheet and make a DIY roman shade for the bedroom.

On top of that, I overlaid a yard of the blackout curtain (I had the store cut my two yards into two pieces for convenience).

Use black out fabric to make DIY roman shades.

I was left with some scraps when I cut off the excess sheet fabric, but I have a project in mind for those, so, waste not.

Cut black out fabric for custom roman blinds.

I used the miter saw to cut the 6-foot board in half; I sized my curtains to be 36″ in width, and each one would require a header board that could support the weight of the curtain, and be attached easily to the wall. As shown on one curtain here, I used the electric staple gun to attach both layers of fabric directly to the board.

Staple your roman shade to a piece of wood to easily hang it.

It’s not going to be immediately apparent at how a roman shade comes together, at least the photos I snapped don’t quite tell the story I hoped for, so reference this really unprofessionally designed sketch instead:

Design for a roman shade.

I sewed plastic rings up and down both sides of the shade and along the top beneath the wooden header, spacing them about 15″ apart.

Sew plastic rings to attach the string to your roman shade.

To give the curtain a finished look, I used Stitch Witchery (the common 5/8″ wide variety) to fuse the two fabrics together.

Use no sew binding to make a DIY roman shade.

I ironed it directly on the table, a total no-no if you know anything about how steam will destroy a wooden tabletop, but the dining room table is old and junky anyways. Not shown but eluded to in the previous drawing, I also used the Stitch Witchery to seal in a dowel at the bottom of the curtain to give the base a little weight and help it to hang evenly.

Make a black out bedroom roman shade.

To finish the design, I threaded a thin but strong nylon rope through the rings as planned, and then took each panel to be fit on each window. The easiest and safest installation we brainstormed was to screw the wooden header directly into the window frame, but we did so by hiding the screws beneath the fabric layers so that it retained its finished appearance.

How to install a DIY roman shade in the bedroom.

I added a little hook to the wall to anchor the weight of the curtain when it’s raised, and it’s high enough off the ground where there’s no worry about a kid accidentally tangling themselves in it.

Raised, they look great. There is a little sag in the middle of the shade, for which I may or may not add an additional row of plastic rings down the middle of the shade to guide a third string (I imagine that if you are covering a window any wider than 36″ you will want to take this into consideration upfront).

Lowered, the room is so dark that I can’t take photos that aren’t completely useless to you. Hopefully this means a better night’s sleep will be had.

How to make a no sew DIY roman shade using blackout fabric.

If you like this idea for no-sew roman shades, I think you’ll also enjoy this how-to video on how to make your own roller shades from DIYNetwork.com.

Catching the home improvement bug at an early age, Emily Fazio 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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