Operable Roman Shades: More Tips!

I’ve been a Roman-shade-making fool over the past few days.  Total Roman shade count is now up to 3 in our house, with at least 2 more to go.  What I love most about using mini blinds to create these Roman shades is that 1) it’s easy 2) it’s cheap: only $4-$5 per mini blind and 3) you can actually raise and lower the shades when you’re done!

Mini Blinds

Last week, I showed you how I made the Roman shades for Stephen’s studio with step-by-step instructions.  I’ve learned a few things since then, so today I thought I’d share some more tips with you all.

The next victim to get the mini blind treatment was our kitchen window.  I showed you how I made this faux Roman shade awhile back, and while I loved how it looked, I hated having to manually raise and lower it.

Old Roman Shade

Not to mention the fact that the shade looked pretty sketchy when it was down.  The edges were ripply and the fabric just sort of hung there with no real structure.

Old Roman down

Whenever we wanted privacy in the kitchen (at night), we’d have to grab a bar stool and unhook all these little loops of string off the hooks on either side of the window.  It was getting to be a pain.  Don’t get me wrong, the faux shade is great for windows where privacy isn’t an issue, but it wasn’t cutting the mustard in our kitchen.

Tacky ties

So I measured the window and my fabric, decided to make these Roman shades “outside mount” and got to work.

Tip 1: Use hem-tape instead of a sewing machine for the side, top and bottom hems.

I decided to redo the hems on the sides of my shade fabric before gluing on the mini blinds, and I’m so glad I did!  The hem tape creates much cleaner, sharper edges and helps the shade keep its structure as you lift and lower it.  No more ripply sewn edges for me!

Laying out fabric

Tip 2: Just go ahead and break off that little piece.

You know that piece that sticks out from the top bar of mini blinds?  The one you connect the wand to – to turn the mini blinds for light control?

Top Bar removing

Just get rid of it.  You don’t need it and it messes with the drape of the fabric off the top bar if you leave it on.

Top Bar fixed

Tip 3: I mentioned this during the original tutorial, but you should hem all 4 edges of your fabric before attaching the blinds.

Length isn’t as important as you might think (that’s what she said).  If you make your Roman shades an inch or two too long, that’s ok.  Go ahead and hem those edges so everything’s nice and neat when it’s time to glue.

Hemmed bottom

Tip 4: Glue the bottom hem to the bottom of that weighted bar.

Here are some visuals I didn’t really show in the original tutorial.  Gluing that bottom hem under the weighted bar ensures that the shade will look good from the front and the back.

Showing where to glue Demonstrating bottom glue Bottom Glued 2

Tip 5: For outside mounted shades (shades wider than the frame of the window – mounted to the wall), glue the fabric to the front of the top bar, leaving the sides un-glued and about 1″ extra overlap on the top edge.

When I installed the brackets up above my window frame, I velcroed the extra 1″ of fabric on the top of the shade to the top of the brackets for a more seamless look. (Tabs of velcro were attached where my thumb is in the photo below.)

Outside mount top gluing

Tip 6: Cut a small slit in the fabric just in front of the mechanism for your lift strings.

If you want your lift strings to hang in front of the shade, you have to create a hole and pull them through.  I went back and did this on the shades in Stephen’s studio.  It would be really rad to create a button hole in the fabric right here before attaching the shades for a super professional look!

Button hole

Tip 7: It really is true.  The heavier the fabric, the better the shade.

This was a tip that was shared on some of the tutorials I referenced when making my first Roman shade, and it’s totally true.  The shades I made for Stephen’s studio were constructed from a pretty heavy-weight, durable cotton fabric from Ikea.  In contrast, this kitchen shade was made from a super light-weight sheet material.  I can definitely tell a difference when raising and lowering the shades.  You have to “coach” the lighter-weight material much more to get it to fold and fall correctly.

That being said, I love how this Roman shade turned out!  It looks so much more polished in the “down” position than it did before, don’t you think?

Old Roman down Shade down right

Shade down left

Having a shade that is easy to operate has made life so much easier.  No more climbing on chairs to lift and lower this puppy.  It’s just a click and a pull of the lift strings and we have total control over light and privacy in our kitchen.

Shade up right

What do you think of the new and improved shade?  Do you think you’ll use our original tutorial now that we’ve shared a few more tips on getting that seamless look?

Shade up left

Thanks for reading!

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23 Responses to Operable Roman Shades: More Tips!

  1. Cheryl says:

    This is seriously awesome! I’ve been looking around my house for a spot for roman shades just to try this. Job well done!

  2. cassie says:

    awesome job! i love the fabric!

  3. Morgan says:

    I really want to do this! I need to get a sewing machine, haha. =) I love the look of a roman shade and would love to make my own for our half bath.

  4. This is totally awesome. I’d be all over this if I hadn’t just put in bamboo shades in all the rooms. Probably for the best anyhow. We needed something for privacy stat. This is such a great tutorial, though. They look professiional.

  5. Thanks for the additional tips. I can’t wait to make my roman shades. I just need to figure out what color I am putting on my dining room wall so I can find the perfect fabric. Where did you get the blinds from? Are they cheap?

    • Meredith says:

      Hey Lisa!
      I just picked the mini blinds up from Walmart. I was shocked at just how cheap they actually were – between $3.50 and $5 depending on the size of the window!
      Now you see why practically every window in my house is getting Roman shades, right? 😉

  6. Samantha says:

    fantastic job 🙂 Love the fabric as well!

  7. Lori says:

    Looks great! Thanks so much for the tutorial; I can’t wait to try this for my bedroom windows!

  8. Great tute! I’m adding this to my faves. I’m sure there’s a room somewhere in the house that needs these 🙂

    Suzy xxx

  9. modern jane says:

    I made these too in my bedroom! Thanks for the velcro tip! I love how mine turned out but they are letting go a little bit! Yours look great!

  10. You did a great job but I am a bit scared to try this . . .

  11. Lisa Link says:

    I love this idea. Is there any reason why you wouldn’t leave the ladder stitch in place say every 6 inches? instead of cutting out all the ladder, re-measuring/re-positioning the slats and having to pull the slats off? I’m tempted to try this but I’m not really crafty so I’m looking for any shortcuts I can find.

    • Meredith says:

      Hey Lisa!
      So sorry I missed your comment and question! I think the best way to make these roman shades work is by removing the ladder stitch entirely. That way the slats are free to move wherever you need them. Leaving the ladder stitch would probably just complicate things, in my opinion. 🙂
      Thanks for the comment and happy DIY-ing!

      • Anita Wilcox says:

        Wonderful tutorial, Going to give it a try. Beat paying $50 each for them which I just did for 3 windows. Thank you again Hope I can do it.

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  13. SSP says:


  14. SSP says:

    I wanted to know how does the shade stay put in the bracket? I picture it falling out everytime i pull up or down the shade….
    I suppose you could use a mini grommet for the hole for the pull cord…

  15. Jessica says:

    Do you think it would be possible to leave all the slats in and just glue the ones where you want the folds to be? The extra light filtering would be nice.

  16. Victoria says:

    Hi there, beautiful! I love both fabrics you used. I noticed at the top is a hole for the pull to drag through. I would put a small eyelet right there to finish it off. A kit to put those in is really cheap, and if you use your JoAnne’s coupon, it is even cheaper. Beautiful job. I’m doing this for every window in our house. And BTW, IKEA has the greatest thick cotton fabrics for under 8 dollars a yard. Really nice material.

  17. Ann-Marie Pope says:

    Did you ever line the back of the roman shades afterwards?

    • Stephen Heard says:

      We didn’t, but that’s a great idea. M suggests using fabric glue and spreading it with a brush to attach the lining.

  18. Charlotte Sisk says:

    Just to point out a possible improvement to your clever blind make: Rather than make a hole in the top of the blind for the pull up strings, which will fray in time and create some distortion. It would be better to install a screwed in eye screw at the end of the blind, on the wall within the window reveal,behind the blind, thread the strings through the eye and pull up from there. The cleat would sit on the inside of the window reveal too and be a bit tidier. The drape of the blind would not be interrupted therefore. This is the traditional way of doing it on a stitched hand made roman blind, but is no further trouble. Just the addition of an eye screw easily available from the hard ware store. This works for a blind sitting inside and outside the window reveal.

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