Roman Shade Tutorial

roman shade tutorial

“Remember the Roman Shade I shared with you last week?  The one made with Riviera Red from the Annie Sloan Fabric Collection?   Today it’s time to give you the tutorial.  So you can create your own Roman Shade!

Roman Shade Tutorial

Items needed:

Board the width of your window by 1 inch thick by at least 1 inch wide.


Drapery cord

1/4 inch dowel rods (number will be determined by how long your shade will be)

2 eye screws

Thread to match your fabric

Sewing machine

Tape measure


Needle with a very large eye

Hammer, needle nose pliers, power stapler

roman shade collage1

Start with a board the width of the inside measurement of your window and your fabric. My hubby had to do some creative cutting and gluing to get my board to work as an inside mount.  Make sure your cut board fits in your window before beginning your shade.

Once your board is made to fit, cut your fabric width to match the width of your board plus seam allowances.  I allowed one inch to each side of my shade.  I folded and pressed each side in a scant 1/2 inch, twice, to make a nice finished hem.
roman shade 5

I used a the book ‘Home Sewn’ by French General and followed some of the instructions they give for making a Roman shade room divider.  Mainly their technique of using dowel rods to make the nice crisp folds and also the way they ran the drapery cords through the shade.  Drapery cord and dowel rods were purchased at Joann Fabrics.  Fabric is from Annie Sloan Unfolded!

roman shade 6

I used the selvage edge for the top of the shade since it would be stapled to the board and wouldn’t show.   This eliminated a step too – if using a raw edge I would recommend either hemming it or serging it.

roman shade 7

At this point you need to figure out how many folds you are going to have.  You will make a 1/2″ pocket for each dowel rod to fit in.  I know there is a math formula that would make this easy for some of you but for me it was easiest and fastest to just sort of wing it!  I did a fold and pin method and figured out how many inches I wanted between each dowel.  I ended up using 9 dowels, with the 9th one being in the very bottom at the hemline.  I had not planned to have one there, but decided I liked it better with one once I was finished with the rest of the shade.  My finished shade length was 60 inches.  Each dowel needed an extra inch. I also needed a hem and  the width to be folded over the board.  If your board is 1 inch wide and you are using 8 dowels in the shade like I did you will need 60 inches, plus 1 inch for the top wrap, 8 inches for dowels, and 1.5 inches for a hem. 70.5 inches.  Cut it longer if you want so you have plenty – you can always cut it off before hemming it.

roman shade 8

I measured down 9 inches from the top of my shade and folded right sides together on that 9 inch line.  I wanted my top piece of fabric to be a bit longer than the rest of the folds.

roman shade 9

Fold your fabric straight across the entire width of the fabric.

roman shade 10

Stitch with a 1/2 inch seam allowance along the fold you have made.roman shade 11

You will have a pocket for your dowel on the backside of your shade.roman shade 12From your first fold, measure down 7.5 inches and fold again.  Sew another 1/2 inch seam along the fold line.  Repeat for each dowel rod you are using.  I used 8 – with the 9th one going in the hem.

roman shade collage3

After all the dowel pockets were made I stapled the top of the shade to the board.  I did not hem my shade before stapling it to the board.  Having the shade attached to the board makes it a bit interesting getting the hem sewn but I wanted to know for sure it was the length I wanted before I sewed that hem!  I used my Bostitch power stapler – it’s the only tool I own that comes close to being a ‘real’ tool!  My hubby is a bit possessive of his tools and always wants to just do stuff for me.  But I get impatient waiting on him so this tool I bought and it is all mine 😀

The eye screws in the bottom left photo are for the drapery cords to run through.  Position one eye screw on the wood directly above each line of drapery cord that is run through the shade.  I used my hammer to get the screws started into the wood and then used my needle nosed pliers to twist them tight.roman shade 25

For this Roman shade I used a large eyed needle and threaded it with the drapery cord.  I measured in about 5 inches from the side and ran the needle through the dowel rod pocket just above the dowel.  A knot secures the bottom.  From there continue up the shade making sure to measure the same distance in on each dowel pocket.

roman shade 23

The drapery cords need to be long enough to run up the extended length of the shade plus enough to hang down the side to the length you desire for pulling them up.  Mine hangs a little lower than they would have to because it is in my girls’ room and they are still little :)  One drapery cord will run through the eye screw and out to the side.  The other side will run through the eye screw and then through the first eye screw so both cords run to the same side.  Once you have them run you can try out your shade by holding the board and pulling on both cords at the same time.  Your shade should fold up neatly and look like this photo.

roman shade 26

Notice in the top photo of this set of three – the stripes are a bit ‘off’.  I had not put my walking foot on my machine.  I switched to the walking foot after sewing that first dowel pocket.  Every other seam I sewed turned out like the bottom photo.  Middle photo is my walking foot.  Not every machine has one – it is not just a foot you can stick on any machine.  The machine has to be specially designed for a walking foot.  If you are in the market for a new sewing machine I would highly recommend a walking foot be one of your requirements.

roman shade 24My Mom taught me an easy way to line up stripes or plaid when sewing a fold or seam you are wanting to match exactly.  Top photo – put your pin through on the line between two stripes.  Bottom photo – turn your fabric to the under side and see if the pin came through on that exact line.  Placing lots of pins in a piece of fabric and sewing slowly will give you a perfectly matched finished project if you do not have a walking foot.  It works too – believe me I know!  I matched many many stripes and plaids perfectly before I had a walking foot!

roman shade 32

To hang this shade my husband simply screwed it to the window frame.  We mounted a bracket to hold the cord when the shade was pulled up, and I used a simple end for the cords for now.  I’d like to come up with something more creative but it works for now.

roman shade 31I didn’t redo the seam that didn’t match up perfectly.  It wasn’t that big of a deal to me.  Every creative piece needs a little flaw, right?  This whole room is in need of a makeover.  I’m hoping it can happen this year.  New paint on the walls, the trim needs a nice coat of white paint, hardwood floor, fun rug, new bedspread, to name a few things I’d like to do.  In my spare time 😀

To see all the beauty shots see this post!

Have you ever made a Roman shade?  They are so easy!  Nowhere near as intimidating as I thought before I ever made one!


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    • says

      Thanks Denise! The fabric is actually from Annie Sloan Unfolded – but it really looks like a French General fabric doesn’t it?! I love FG fabric too!

    • says

      Thank you Julia! I really hope someone wanting to make a Roman shade can follow this – and I’m always open to questions to help out if necessary!
      Have a wonderful day!

  1. says

    I love the fabric you used for the roman shade. I actually have made several of these and love them. Your tutorial was awesome.
    Have a great week,

  2. Deb says

    I am a custom soft furnishings fabricator. There have been several deaths of young children who got their heads and necks caught in the cord on the back of the shade. There are new products that prevent that, one being a “shrouded” tape with the cording encased inside it sold by Rowley’s. All professional fabricators are required to use an alternate method than just cords alone and I would consider using another method especially if you have young children.

  3. Deb says

    Hi, I custom ordered a Roman shade which measures 70 inches across. They put one vertical seam in the shade about 20 inches in from the left side. I guess it wouldn’t be so bad if there was a vertical seam 20 inches in from the other side. But the one seam stands out…is this a standard practice for a shade this wide?

    • says

      I’m glad you got this figured out Deb – and if you do put ribbons over the seams I’d love to see pics of it! You can email them to me if you don’t have a blog!

  4. Kelly says

    Hi Jill,
    Maybe I missed it, but how did you do the bottom hem? It looks different than the other dowel pockets. I’m going to make some roman blinds for our bedrooms and I’m going to use your tutorial for sure, just want to check on this one question. Thanks!

    • says

      Kelly, I think I didn’t include how I did the hem because I kind of goofed it up and just made something work! And I wasn’t sure how to write it to make it make sense! Normally you would just make a hem big enough for the last dowl rod to slide into like the other pockets. But I was a bit short on length when I got done. So I added a piece to the bottom and folded it up to make the bottom pocket – does that make sense? If you look at the close-up pic of the hem it might make more sense! Ask again if you can’t figure it out and I’ll try to help you!

  5. Kim says

    These look fantastic! And I love your choice of fabric too.

    I used 1/8″ metal rods in place of the wooden dowels – I found them at my
    Local box store. They were thin enough that I could easily cut them to size with a simple hacksaw.

    Here’s a trick I learned from Martha S. to help that bottom section fit into your pleats cohesively (I’ve tried it and the results are great!):

    Her general rule is pockets should be spaced anywhere from 8-12 inches depending on your preference.

    Once you’ve determined how many pockets you’re going to have, you need to determine the position of the bottom pocket by dividing the size of intervals by 2, and add 1 (for example, if you’re spacing dowels 12 inches apart, the bottom pocket should be 7 inches from the bottom of the shade).

    Begin by marking and measuring your first pocket from the bottom.

    The top pocket should be at least 10 inches from the top.

    I like this method as it keeps that bottom section closer to the pleats when they’re pulled up and gives a nice professional finish.

    Your shades look great though!!! Nice job.

  6. Karen says

    These shades are absolutely adorable!! And the fabric is perfect for this project. I have a dumb? question: How did you husband attach the top to the window? Did he use a bracket of some kind or just somehow screw it in? Thanks for such a detailed turorial.

    • says

      Thank you Karen! My husband put screws through the board at the top that the shade is stapled to and screwed it right to the window. right through the board into the trim on the window. Does that make sense? It’s inside mount so it’s screwed into the small wood trim piece inside the window.

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