Operable Roman Shades: A Tutorial

If you read yesterday’s post and guessed I was finally making some window treatments for Stephen’s studio, you were right!  It took a long time to find the right fabric and window treatment style for this masculine room.  I found the perfect fabric on our trip to Ikea this spring but only recently got around to studying up on the best way to make operable Roman shades and actually DOING it.

Shade Installed Up

I used a few tutorials to get started (found here, here, and here) and figured out a few things on my own along the way.

1 set of mini blinds the width of your window (lots of widths available HERE)
Fabric of your choice
Iron-on hem tape
Fabric glue
Paintbrush (optional)
Sticky back Velcro

1.  Open your mini blinds and lay them out on a flat surface, extended as long as they will go.

Mini Blinds Spread them out

2. Cut away the thin ladder-like strings by running your scissors along the top of the mini blinds.  These strings are typically used to turn the mini blind slats to let more or less light in – but you won’t be needing them.  Don’t cut the strings that go through each slat (used to lift and lower the blinds).

Cut the ladders

Remove ladder strings

3. Completely remove all the ladder-like strings so you are left with 2 lift strings and slats floating freely on those strings.

Pull Strings Left

4. Decide how many folds you want in your Roman shade.  My window was approximately 60″ tall, so I decided to have 6 folds, 10 inches apart.  Pop off the plugs on the bottom of the weighted bar at the end of your mini blinds.  Untie the lift strings and remove all the extra slats (leave one slat per fold, counting the bottom weighted bar as a slat).

Remove Plug

(Note: In this photo I have 6 slats plus the weighted bar.  I should have only had 5 slats plus the weighted bar to make my 6 folds.)

Remove Slats

5. Set aside the blinds and lay out your fabric.  Cut a rectangular piece of fabric to these dimensions (width of your window + 2 inches  x  length of your window + 5 inches).  My fabric ended up being 37″ x 65″ since my window was 35″ x 60″.

Cutting Fabric

6. Using hem tape or your sewing machine, hem the long edges of your fabric.  My hems were all 1″ wide.  I chose not to hem the top and bottom edges of the fabric during this step, but if I did it again, I would also put a 1″ hem on the top and bottom at this point.

Hemming Fabric Fabric Hemmed

7. Lay your mini blinds on top of your hemmed fabric.  Place a mark about 2 inches from the top edge of your fabric on each side.  Then continue down both sides, measuring and marking the distance you want between each slat.  I made 6 more marks on each side, 10 inches apart.

Laying out blinds

Marking Slats

8. Brush fabric glue on the convex side of your slats, flip them over, line them up with your marks, and glue them in place.  Make sure to smooth out your fabric and press hard to get good contact between your fabric and the glue.  Don’t get any glue on your lift strings!

Slat Glue

Gluing Slats

Drying Glue

(I realized when I got to the end that I had left one extra slat on my strings.  The solution was simple.  I carefully snipped the slat where the lift string went through it and removed it from the strings on both sides.)

Extra Slat

Remove Extra Slat

Slat Removed

9. Before gluing the bottom weighted bar in place, tie big knots in the ends of the lift strings, pull them tight, and replace the white plugs.

Tying Knot


Here’s a look at the shade once all the slats were glued in place.

Back of Finished Shade

10. On the top edge, line the top bar up with the marks you made on the fabric, fold the fabric up and over the bar, and glue it in place on the back of the bar.  I left about 5 inches of fabric free on each end of the bar, since I still needed to be able to slip the bar into the brackets that suspend it from the window frame.

Left an opening

11. To keep the fabric from looking droopy on the sides, add a piece of sticky velcro to the back of your brackets and to the flap of fabric that didn’t get glued down.

Bracket in Place

Velcro Bracket Demo of Velcro

12. Time for the installation!  Take a trip to the lucky window.  Install one bracket on each side, drilling the screws into the sides of your window frame and not the top (if you choose to have the fabric go up and over the brackets and velcro to the back, like I did).

Window Before

I offset my brackets about 1.5″ from the front of the window frame, and about 1/4″ from the top, to allow room to sneak my fabric through later on.  Can you see the black velcro on the back of the bracket in the second photo?

Bracket Installed See Velcro

13. Lucky Step 13.  Slip your top bar into the brackets, push the fabric on the sides through towards the window, sneak your arm up behind the shade and velcro the fabric to the brackets. Congratulations!  Your Roman shade is done!

Shade Installed Down

Probably a good idea to test it out – go ahead and pull those strings to make sure you didn’t accidentally glue them to anything. 🙂

Shade Installed Up

Here’s a close up of the Roman shade.  You may have to train your fabric to fold nicely for the first few pulls, but after awhile it should fold up nicely on its own.  One lesson I learned was to make my shade just a teensy bit narrower next time.  This one fits almost perfectly, but still touches the sides of the window frame and doesn’t “fall” as nicely as a set of mini blinds would when I lower it.

Up Close Shade

Overall I’m really happy with how this Roman shade turned out.  Start to finish, it probably took me 3 hours.  I have one more to make for the other window in this room, but it will probably only take half the time since I know what I’m doing this time around.

One last look for good measure.  I never thought Roman shades could be masculine, but I think these pull it off.  What do you think?

Shade Installed Down Shade Installed Up

Update! For more tips on making these shades, check out my second post:

Operable Roman Shades: More Tips!

This post contains affiliate links.

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49 Responses to Operable Roman Shades: A Tutorial

  1. Anne says:

    Meredith this is amazing.. thank you for sharing!!! Looks incredible and easy..

  2. Angela says:

    Ill say it again you are so talented/resourceful!! Looks great!

  3. nora says:

    whoa! i need to do this asap! i have the ugliest mini blinds on mini short windows and this is so much better! i think i might do it in my office and bedroom upstairs. i have 6 windows so it will probably take a while, eek!

    also can you subscribe to your blog via e-mail? i tried to find a link to do that yesterday but couldn’t!

  4. cassie says:

    fantastic! love that fabric, too, and i love the fix!

  5. Looks great! I just love the fabric-masculine and pretty at the same time 🙂 Thanks for the instructions; I may have to give this a try sometime!

  6. Kat says:

    What a great tutorial and that fabric is gorgeous!!!

  7. Jenny B. says:

    So cool! I never would have thought to do that, but it works perfectly! Looks great!

  8. leslie says:

    beautiful. What was the cost estimate? And can I place an order..ha? I only have like 20 windows to buy window treatments for once the house is done and not much budget to work with.

  9. Krista says:

    These look great! I want to make a set!

  10. Trude says:

    That fabric is just beautiful! But still totally works for a guy’s room. Love!

  11. I’m loving the idea of using existing blinds to make the roman blind. Yours looks great. That fabric is perfect for a man. I will be making roman shades for my dining room so it’ll be helpful to have your tutorial. I think I might replace the plastic cones that you pull to something more fun.

  12. Those shades look amazing! Such a handy tutorial too.

    Hey, since I value your opinion, would you mind taking a look at my first-ever CasaBella Studios design board and give me any constructive criticism you can share: http://casabellastudiosblog.blogspot.com/2011/09/design-board-girly-glam-office.html?m=1?

    I would really appreciate it!

  13. Meredith –
    I L-O-V-E this tutorial! I was planning on tackling a Roman Shade project for our den and now I know how I am going to do it!! Great job….yours looks great….and SO EASY!!

    I have been reading your blog for a while….sorry I haven’t commented before….I have my own blog now, so I have found out how much comments mean to a blogger!!

    I started reading yours and found we have some things in common….my hubs and I also went to school at UofA and we are both engineers too (ChE). We’ve also thought from time to time about moving back, but the jobs have kept us here so far…..congrats to you guys for making the move back. Fayetteville is awesome 🙂

  14. Am pinning this…great directions and pictures….I have 3 rooms that need this exact treatment. Thanks!

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  17. Heather says:

    This tutorial is wonderful! Thank you for sharing! I’m going to try this. What do these shades look like from the exterior view? Can the fabric be doubled up or would it cause problems?

    • Meredith says:

      Hey Heather,
      I’m glad you liked the tutorial! From the outside, you see the white blinds and the back of the fabric you chose. With both fabrics I chose for my blinds, the back was mostly white with just a bit of pattern peeking through. I thought that worked nicely since it made the white blinds less noticeable and the whole shade appear solid. I’ve seen similar tutorials with additional lining when more light control is desired, but I’m not sure how that would affect the lifting and lowering operation since I’ve only ever done it with a single thickness of fabric.
      Hope that helps!
      Good luck,

      • Jenny says:

        Do you think you can put the lining over the blinds after you have glued them to the fabric or do you think it will not function well if that is done?

        • Meredith says:

          I think it’s possible, Jenny! I googled the idea once, and there seemed to be a good strategy for lining these kinds of blinds, but I didn’t keep the link. Let me know if you try it – I’d love to see how they turn out!

  18. Kristal says:

    These look so awesome! I think I might try this in my kitchen…since the cats ruined the blinds by going in and out of the window all the time 🙁

  19. Nina Petro says:

    Oh my goodness…my first PIN…this is awesome…and I can sew! Thanks…loving this stuff.

  20. Brandi says:

    Thank you for the tutorial! I made 5 of these for my sewing room. To allow the cord to come through on the front, I added a button hole about 3.5 inches from the side and 3 inches from the top. It worked out perfectly!

  21. Amanda says:

    Absolutely love this fabric. Where did you get it?

    • Meredith says:

      Hey Amanda,
      The fabric is from Ikea! I spotted it on my first trip to Ikea a year ago (the closest one is 6 hours away from us), but they still have it!

  22. utm says:

    Hi! You mentioned that if you were to do this again, you’d do 1” hem for the top and bottom of the fabric as well. If I do hem the top and bottom, would I still follow these dimensions when cutting my fabric?

    width of your window + 2 inches x length of your window + 5 inches

    or should it be:

    width of your window + 2 inches x length of your window + 7 inches?

    Hope that question makes sense. Thanks for this tutorial! I got all the supplies weeks ago but I think I’m finally going to have time to try it tonight.

  23. Alice says:

    Great tutorial…I’m so impressed at the ingenuity and simplicity! Do you think if I wanted to get a finished “lined” look to the back side of curtain I could just glue it to the other sides of the mini blind slats? Not sure how it would work to tuck under the top and bottom… Thanks for sharing your ideas, love what I’ve seen so far!

  24. Jill says:

    I love this idea, because I had the same problem with having to unloop every stinkin’ loop to get my roman shade down…and mine too looked stupid hanging down. So, my one question is how does it look from the outside of your house? I am wanting to do this to my kitchen windows, but the two windows that I would do are at the front of the house.

  25. Christina Hildebrand Shifflett says:

    You are so awesome!!! Can’t wait to make these shades to make my “sheet curtains”! Thank you thank you thank you!!!

  26. olga says:

    Meredith –
    you are so creative! Thank you for this tutorial. would you please give me the link to your new achievements. I love everything you are doing. Thank you again for the great idea.

  27. Candace says:

    Great Idea! We are buying a house that has really good quality heavy wooden looking blinds – but I really hate them!!! I want Roman blinds on most of the windows. Do you think this would work with that type of blind? I’m thinking that since they are so heavy duty, I could maybe do a liner on the back also and actually sew a straight seam under the bottom of each slat to keep it in place and to reinforce the glue.

    I just came across your blog while looking for island ideas – we want to change out the island to an IKEA one like you have! Looks great!

    By-the-way, have you ever thought about taking your blog on Facebook? I’d love to see you there! It’s so nice to just get the blog feeds on my home page!

    I’m looking forward to reading more from your blog.

  28. jane says:

    I love your blinds! Thanks for the guide. I just started mine. But I noticed that the glue is showing through. I didn’t use a black out liner, I did it just like yours with one layer of fabic. But maybe because my fabric is a lighter color, the glue marks are showing. Did yours come through also? I can’t tell from your pictures. Do you have any suggestions for me? I would appreciate your help. Thanks.

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  31. Alice S. says:

    These are the best and easiest instructions that I have come across for roman shades. I have been looking for a long time. I bought the fabric ages ago but all the instructions that I found seemed complicated and I wasn’t thrilled with the finished look. Yours look amazing! I think it’s time to give it a try. GREAT JOB!!!

  32. Nancy says:

    Love that you are sharing your ideas with others. However, having the cords hang long at the sides is a real safety hazard. Many children die each year from getting caught in theses cords and strangulating. There are many differences in how a professional would make a shade to your method but this is a the biggest. Please do not advocate this style, and please keep your baby and pets out of this room.

    • Ivy says:

      Usually the window treatment industry has been instructed by laws to make breakaway tassels. If a child got stuck in the double string, their weight would force the breakaway clips to open.

  33. Monica Conroy Walters says:

    I love these shades but I was thinking that instead of gluing the fabric to the top bar of the blind, I would velcro all across the top of the bar and across the top of the fabric. That way it can be removed to launder. What do you think?

  34. Jennie Miller says:

    Love this idea and I am going to try it very soon. Does the back look ok thru the window with the blind slats not covered?

  35. Maggie Vaughan says:

    I HAVE 2′ blinds,,,, can i use them for this project?

  36. Jennifer Stone Butcher says:

    Your tutorial is spot on. I made three blinds from this and they look great. Hardest part is deciding on the fabric!

  37. fuhhreal says:

    Very very nice and I love the material!

  38. R_RQ says:

    Thanks so much for this!! Just made some for my daughter’s room. To the other commenter who mentioned safety concerns- it’s as simple as using a wrap-around device next to your window to wrap the strings around. Anyway, great tutorial! My mini blinds hung from the top (no option for side brackets), so I used 3m heavy duty sticky hook tape on the blinds (top bar) and sew-on Felt board type felt (like for trade show booths) on the top of my shade- looks great! I also used a giant 1″ grommet to pass the strings through. Linen/cotton canvas from Spoonflower works great for this shade! I needed a little more than the width of the fabric (54″) for the length of my shade, so I just added a contrasting 8″ strip at the top! It looks awesome!

    Sent from my iPhone

    • Meredith says:

      I’m so glad to hear the tutorial was helpful for you! Your shades sound awesome. Send me a pic if you get a chance. I’d love to see the finished product!
      <3 Meredith

  39. Bonnie Shields Adler says:

    I love the fabric in this demo. Where might I find that? Also, how would you line these?

  40. medcat says:

    Just wanted to let you know your link evidently isn’t “optimized” on Pinterest (what that means is that it is just a picture with no title or label under it). You might research this as this is a great tutorial so people will want to see it.

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