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Thursday, September 3, 2009

DIYikes! Adventures in Making Your Own Roman Shades

If there is one decorating "don't" that everyone can agree on, it's horrible plastic apartment mini-blinds. Like the lovely ones below that have graced the main window(s) of my living room for over a year now. After pulling them all the way up to the top and tucking away the cords, I tried to forget about them, but they were just the elephant in the room. However, given that I am a renter, I didn't want to spend a ton of money on shades that I probably wouldn't be able to use beyond this apartment.
I was inspired by this great post about making your own semi-custom roman shades on The Newlywed Diaries. The best part was that they made use of your existing mini-blinds to use as the foundation of the roman shade. I cruised over to Martha Stewart's instructions for making roman shades totally from scratch, but after reading them am convinced that I'd have better luck performing brain surgery. Batten? Cord lock? Um, pass. But I was inspired by her sample picture:
Make Your Own Roman Shades
The first step in making roman shades from mini blinds is to remove the blinds from their mounts and cut off the string that turns the blinds open and closed. That's a lot of cutting.
As I cut...and cut...and cut (remember, I had 3 separate shades to do). Of course, you have to take care no to cut the main cord that controls the up/down function.

Next I cut out my fabric and lining to fit the windows, leaving a little extra room to roll the fabric over the top and bottom parts of the blinds. I also cut the fabric a little larger than the lining so that the fabric would overlap onto the back of the shade a little bit. That way you wouldn't see the lining from the side. Then I sewed them together.
For fabric I chose a basic white linen. I also purchased some grosgrain ribbon to make a trim with. If I had to do it all over again, I might have chosen a print...but more on that later!
And of course every good project involves lots of ironing! Here you can see the lining side up.
Are you tired yet? Because I definitely was. Next, I removed the bottom strip of the mini blinds in order to take off a bunch of the actual vinyl strips. I only left 5 strips on the cord- those are the anchors of your mini blinds. Then I put the bottom back on. After that I laid out the mini-blinds full length on the lining side of the shades. I spaced the mini blinds out evenly along the back at about 9 inch intervals.

Then I got out the fabric glue and went to town. You just need to remember not to glue the actual cord part down! It has to pull up and down through the vinyl slats.

Incidentally, I had never used fabric glue before, and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by how strong it was.
At that point I quit for the night- I had run out of fabric glue! The next day I measured out the grosgrain ribbon to use as trim. Rather than just go down the sides, I wanted it to go horizontally across the bottom of the shade also- sort of like a squared off "U" shape. To make it turn the corner neatly, I sewed the sections of ribbon together on the diagonal.

All was going well until I attempted to lay out the ribbon on the front of the shades. Out of nowhere I received a surprise attack from my cat, who jumped on the shade and skidded across the floor on it a la Tom Cruise in "Risky Business." A momentary setback.

I also used fabric glue to affix the ribbon. At this point I was VERY ready for this project to be done with. I must say probably the hardest part was having to spend so much time crawling around on the floor gluing everything. For one shade it would not have been bad, but with three my back started to hurt! If you had a large crafting table or desk, you'd be much better off!
After letting the ribbon dry for a bit, I was ready to see the finished product. I must say that one of the advantages of using mini blinds as your base is that you can just pop the shades back into the already-mounted brackets and not have to do any additional drilling. At least that part was easy.
The finished product:

Do they look a TON better than mini blinds? Yes! Would I attempt this project again? Probably not. It wasn't hard, but it was very time consuming and detail oriented. By the end I was just ready to pay $250 to Pottery Barn for some ready-mades, to tell the truth!

I think one tip that would make this easier is not to do the trim. It does add another step to the project. If I had used printed fabric, I would not have used trim. I opted for a simple, inexpensive solid fabric since I wasn't sure how the project would turn out. Which in the end, doesn't really look all that different than what you could get ready-made. Live and learn!
In the end I'm glad I gave this project a shot, though I would NOT suggest you attempt three windows at once! But to be rid of the mini blinds- priceless!


Anonymous said...

What a FANTASTIC post today! I have always entertained the thought of attempting Roman shades on my own. I'm halfway decent in the sewing department, but you are sooo right about all those scary "terms". Totally love, love your end results, esp. the trim selection. And after reading of all those steps (exhausting!)I see why they are so pricey.
Kittie is precious!

Sarah said...

Wow, awesome!! They really look great!!! HUGE improvement over mini-blinds!

Karen@StrictlySimpleStyle said...

I am so impressed! They look great! I definitely think the ribbon makes the project. I'm sure it was a lot of work though. Did you consider buying inexpensive ones from somewhere like Target and just adding the ribbon or are your windows an odd size?

Jaime said...

WOW bravo- that is impressive. I could not do this DIY... a bit too complicated for me. But great job! :)

Julie said...

Impressive! I don't think I'd have the skills to do this at all, but they look great.

LindsB said...

Ok, I've seen this all over the internet and I'm convinced I need to try it now- I have two AWFUL blinds in my bedroom and being an apartment renter like yourself, I think I just need to take the time and do this little project.

Thanks for the inspiration!

Alaina Kaczmarski (Live Creating Yourself) said...

Those look fantastic. I am so not DIY-savvy. Any time I attempt something, it always comes out flawed. Even when following instructions. Why is that?!

Jennifer said...

they look great! I agree that this is a cumbersome project. I need to make another set for my bedroom, but first I need a break from it!

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