DIY Roman Blinds

Don't look down! I don't want you to get spooked by the fact that there are a lot of steps involved in making a Roman blind because, actually, there isn't anything complicated involved. With that reassurance in mind then, let's go through what it takes to make a really professional-looking Roman blind.

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Materials

  • Fabric of your choice
  • Lining fabric (I recommend a heavyweight thermal lining)
  • Roman blind cassette kit including: headrail with beaded chain and velcro, brackets, rods, weight bar, child safety guide, Roman blind tape, Roman blind cord, cord stoppers, clip-on rings, fixings - screws & plastic plugs. Be sure to purchase a headrail that is at least as wide, if not wider, than the window you wish to dress. See below for how to measure the window opening.
  • Sewing thread
  • Sewing machine
  • Basic sewing supplies - scissors, handsewing needle etc.
  • Steam Iron
  • Measuring Tape
  • Pencil
  • Drill
  • Screwdriver
  • Hammer
  • Hacksaw

Measuring the Window

Obviously, you will want to measure the window, but what might not be so obvious at first is that the window may not be the same size all the way around. For that reason, you will want to measure the height of the window opening at each side and in the middle. You should also measure the width at the top, bottom, and middle. 

There are two ways of hanging a Roman blind. For blinds hung inside the window reveal (like mine) you will need to use the shortest measurements along each dimension to ensure that it will fit. Then subtract about 1.5cm (⅝") so that the edges of the blind will not rub against the walls. To hang blinds outside the window reveal, you should use the longest dimensions and then add a bit to ensure that the blind will completely cover the window opening. 

Calculating the Size of the Fabric

The main fabric should be cut 10cm taller and 9cm wider than the window size.

Cut the lining the same size as the window opening.

Cutting the Fabric

Start by cutting the fabric and lining to size according to your measurements. It is imperative that the panels are squared off: to do this, measure the diagonals as well as each side to ensure that they are even.

Pattern Matching

If your window is wider than your fabric, you will need to join two pieces in the centre. You may also need to do this with your lining fabric. 

If your fabric has a pattern, then you will need to take the pattern repeat into account when cutting. You will also need to match the pattern across the two panels so that the join is invisible. I have covered all of this in detail in the post about Making Lined Curtains.

Calculating the Folds and Rod Placement

A Roman blind opens by folding up in pleats at the top of the window. To achieve this, rods are placed at intervals down along the drop of fabric to hoist up the blind. Accurate positioning of the rods is crucial to ensure neat folds when the blind is open. 

Before calculating the rod placement, you need to measure the height of the headrail (it's usually 4cm). To that measurement, add 2cm. Subtract that total (e.g. 6cm) from the height of the window opening. Then you need to divide the remaining amount by an odd number, typically 7.

So, for example, let's say that the height of our window is 83cm high and our headrail is 4cm high (and not forgetting to allow for that extra 2cm):

83cm - (4cm + 2cm) = 77cm

Then choosing 7 as our odd number:

77cm ÷ 7 = 11cm

So each of our sections will be 11cm tall.

A rod is placed at the top of every other section.

So, measuring from the top of the blind in this example, rods are placed at: 28cm, 50cm, and 72cm.

I found it helpful to highlight the intervals on a quilt ruler using masking tape, and then use that to mark the positions of the rod pockets with pins.

Construction

Next, along each side of the blind, mark the sewing line on the wrong side of the fabric. I allowed a 1.5cm (about ⅝") seam along each side, so I used a quilting ruler and fabric pencil to mark that line. At the top and bottom, I allowed for a 2cm (about 1") seam, so I marked that accordingly.

I also drew a line 1.5cm from the edge on the right side of the lining. However, this line is not a sewing line; I used this line as a guide for the edge of the main fabric.

I found it helpful at this stage to press the top of the blind in two places: where the fabric folds over the top from front to back, and where it tucks underneath again to form the return (the border of fabric at the back of the blind).

Next, I cut to size the velcro strip that attaches the blind to the headrail. It will be equivalent to the width of the lining fabric and, therefore, shorter than the width of patterned fabric, so take account of that when pinning them together. I sewed it onto the top of the fabric between the two folds of the return. 

Attaching the Rod Pockets

The rod pockets are formed using a special tape that is stitched onto the back of the blind.

When cutting the tape to size, allow about 2cm extra so that you can fold over 1cm at each end. At one end of each pocket, fold over the 1cm and stitch closed. Leave the other end of the pocket open - we'll finish that later.

Then stitch the pockets onto the lining where you had previously marked the positions. Attaching the pockets to the lining now - before assembling the blind - ensures that the stitching will not be visible at the front of the completed blind.

Repeat for each pocket.

Attaching the Lining

Now it is time to sew the lining onto the fabric. With right sides together, lay the edge of the front fabric along the line we marked earlier on the lining fabric. Pin into place along each side, then stitch.

Leave the top and bottom for now, and remember that the front fabric is wider than the lining fabric, so don't worry if it looks a little baggy for now - that excess fabric will form the return.

We want to do essentially the same thing along the top but, because the two sides are already attached, it's a little trickier at first to see how it should go together. The key thing to remember is that the edge of the front fabric should sit along the line we marked earlier on the lining. The fabric will be extra bulky at the corners, so start pinning in the centre and work outwards. I also found it easier to start sewing a few centimetres in from the edge of the blind and to stop a couple of centimetres short of the other side.

Now, turn the blind right side out. Tuck and fold in the loose fabric at the corners and handstitch into place.

Using a complementary shade of sewing thread, sew through all layers of fabric at the top of the blind, about 1cm from the top edge.

This is the only sewing line that will be visible at the front of the blind, but it is necessary to ensure that it hangs properly.

At the bottom of the blind, fold up the excess fabric to create a pocket for the weight bar. Handstitch the top of the pocket along the back of the blind, making sure that the stitches only pierce the lining and do not go through to the front of the blind. (If you want to avoid handsewing, you can machine sew through all the layers, but those stitches will obviously then be visible at the front of the blind.) Leave one short end of the pocket open to insert the weight bar.

At this stage, you should have a perfectly flat rectangle of fabric, with the front fabric wrapped around the back along each side to create the return. Press it flat using a steam iron.

The Headrail

Let's leave the sewing now for a while now and focus on the hardware. Start by cutting the headrail to size, if necessary.

Then replace the plastic end-cap into the cut end of the headrail.

Attached to the headrail are the cords used to draw up the blind. You will have at least three cords; one at each side and one in the centre. With larger blinds, you may have another two cords in between. These are adjustable, so you will need to determine their final position and tighten the screws to hold them in place. A good rule of thumb is to position the outer cords 10cm (about 4") from the edges and, if you have extra cords, place these between the middle cord and the ones at each side. 

Next, fix the brackets onto the window. Mark the positions of the brackets and drill a hole. Hammer in the plastic wall plugs and then screw the brackets into place. 

Note the locking lever on the brackets. This should be in the open position.

To fit the headrail, clip it into the brackets so that the velcro strip is facing into the room, not out the window, and close the locking lever.

Next - and this is very important - pull the beaded chain at the side until the cords are at their longest position.

Stab Stitching

I promise this is not as violent as it sounds! In fact, it may not even be necessary if your blind is about 1m (3') or less. However, if your blind is wider than that, you may need to consider the rather dramatically-named stab stitching. This will ensure that the fabric and lining will move together when the blind is drawn.

The fabric and lining should be stitched together precisely to prevent the stitches from causing puckering. To do that, I found it helpful to temporarily hang the fabric on the headrail using the velcro strips.

Then pin through the fabric and lining in several places along the top of each of the rod pockets. 

When you are happy with how the fabric is hanging, remove it from the headrail to do the stab stitching. This really just involves making stitches that are so small on the right side of the fabric that they are barely visible - literally only picking up a couple of threads of the fabric. I did a couple of these stitches in each place I had pinned. 


Stab stitches should be practically invisible at the front

Inserting the Rods

Using a hacksaw, cut the rods 1cm (½") shorter than the rod pockets and slide one into each rod pocket. If your rods are made of fibreglass, like mine, I strongly recommend using gloves when handling them to prevent loose glass fibres becoming embedded under your skin. If you think I learned that lesson the hard way, you guessed right! 

Then fold over the open end of the tape and stitch it closed.

Cut the weight bar 2cm (about 1") shorter than the bottom pocket. Once the bar has been inserted, stitch the end closed. 

When finishing handstitching, tie a knot and then use a needle to pull the loose ends in between the layers of fabric and out again. Pull gently on the thread ends and trim off. They should then disappear back between the layers of fabric and be hidden from view.

Your blind is now complete and ready to hang!

Roman Blind Rings

Measure and take a note of the position of each of the cords along the headrail. To draw the blind up evenly, you will need to position the blind rings directly below the cords. My preference is to use clip-on rings.

Fix these onto all the rod pockets, except the lowest one. 

Cord Stoppers

The cord stoppers also clip onto the rod pocket and they contain a spring-loaded toggle to grip the cord. 

These are fixed onto the lowest rod pocket only. They should be placed so as to continue the line between the cords and the cord rings.

Hanging the Blind

After all that hard work, you are almost there! I found it easier at this point to remove the headrail from the brackets and work on a flat surface. Use the velcro to attach the blind to the front of the headrail.

Check that the headrail cords are at their lowest position, as though the blind is closed. Then, thread each of the cords through the rings underneath and then through the spring-loaded cord stoppers at the bottom. 

Clip the headrail into the brackets on the window.

Allow the blind to hang in the closed position and then reach behind to adjust the cord stoppers so that the blind hangs flat and even.

Trim the cords just below the cord stoppers. Be careful not to trim too close to the cord stoppers as you may need to make adjustments later as the blind settles. To comply with safety standards, do not tie a knot in the blind cord. Also be sure to correctly fit a safety cord guide to the beaded chain.

Important: To avoid strangulation or injury, please refer to the Standards to Protect Children from Window Blind Cords published by the National Standards Authority of Ireland.
Also please see my personal disclaimer.

Now you can pull the beaded chain up to open the blind. The fabric should fold like an accordion at the top of the window. The picture below shows the rods in the open position, pulled together at the top of the blind. This gathering of rods is why we needed to allow a 2cm headrail allowance at the outset..

You may need to neaten the folds as they open at first. I recommend keeping the blind open for a few days to allow the folds to set in. 

Et voilà! You have just completed a handmade Roman blind that looks custom-made!

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