Making Drop Cloth Roman Shades

They're up! My faux-grosgrain-ribbon-drop cloth-Roman shades are finally up! These and these were my inspiration. Pottery Barn doesn't even carry grosgrain linen shades anymore (although these are kind of close) and the only other similar shades would have cost around $700+ to cover these three windows. (That middle window is 50" wide which is not a standard size.)

I spent under $60 to make all three shades. The breakdown is like this:

Drop cloth: $15
Dowels: $20
Firring strip for mounting board: $1
Cord, wood tassels, pulleys, lift rings: $20 (I bought in bulk since I'm teaching a friend how to make shades and got a discount.)
All other materials I had on hand

I thought a drop cloth would be perfect material for these because they sort of look like linen, but they're  much cheaper. Then instead of spending $15 or so on grosgrain ribbon, I used what I had: fabric medium and navy latex paint. I figured if I hated the painted look, I could always sew on ribbon over the painted stripes.
I spray painted the wooden handles copper to match the DIY pendant that hangs over the kitchen sink.
I still have some work to do in the kitchen, like hanging some art, replacing the pendant light and getting shoe molding back on the baseboard. I may even paint those grey metal chairs. I'm thinking either solid aqua or white with 10 or so inches of gold or copper legs.
Even with all the unfinished projects, things are looking more "us" then when we first moved in. 
Here's a crazy brass pendant I found at an antique store. I love it. It's definitely going somewhere, maybe here. 
Now for the instructions on how to make these shades!

Here's what I used to make ONE 26" x 54" shade:

A drop cloth (I got all the fabric I need for 3 shades out of one 9'x12' cloth.)
Matching thread
Button thread to match the painted stripe
Fabric glue
5/18" wooden dowels (6 for a 54" long shade) cut 1" shorter than the width of your shade
6 lift rings
1.5 mm shade cord (read step #12 under "Directions" for yardage)
2 flat pulleys and 4 screws
A 1"x2" wood firring strip (for mounting board) cut to size (Home Depot will cut for free)
3 1.5" or 3" wood screws for mounting the shade (read instructions to determine which size)
Fabric paint or latex wall paint + fabric medium
Stencil brush
Newspaper (to protect your floor from the paint)
Painter's tape
Cord cleat

Needle for sewing on lift rings
Sewing machine
Tape measure
T Square or ruler
Staple gun

Before we get started, here are some things you need to know about drop cloths:

1. They have uneven edges. Either rip out the existing seams with a seam ripper and iron out. Or cut the seams out making sure you cut in nice straight lines.

2. There may be some marks on them. Mine had "9x12" written on it. Put the drop cloth through the wash. If that doesn't work you can learn to love the industrial chicness of it or cut your shade from a mark-free area of the cloth.

3. A 9x12 drop cloth is not one solid piece of fabric. It's sewn (not so evenly) together in 4 large pieces (Kind of like my illustration below.). Keep that in mind when cutting. You'll want to avoid the seam if possible. Otherwise, make sure the seam is running down the middle of your shade.
Directions for Inside Mount Shade

1. Measure the length and width of your window. You should always measure the width in three places at the top, middle and bottom. Use the smallest measurement as the width. Make sure you have enough space in your window frame to accommodate 1" or 2" mounting board. You can turn the mounting board (firring strip) either way, but you must decide before you staple the fabric to the board. 

2. Cut fabric 8 inches longer than the length of the window and 3/4 inch wider than the width. You will make double 1/4" seams down the sides, but the shade should be 1/4" narrower than the width of your window. 

3. Now cut a piece for the valance. Cut the width the exact same width as your shade. A length of 18" will make a 10" long valance.

4. For both the shade and valance sew double 1/4" side hems. Sew a double 3" hem on the bottom of both pieces. Leave tops of both pieces raw. 

5. At this point you'll want to paint the fabric. Click here for more on that!

6. When the fabric is dry, place the valance on top of the shade right sides up. Line up the raw edges and pin in place. Sew valance to shade leaving a 1/4 seam allowance. 
8. Before you staple the shade and valance onto the mounting board, it's a good idea to hold it up in the window to make sure that the length fits the window. Adjust the shade accordingly on the mounting board before stapling to the board. 

9. Glue on the wooden dowels. The placement of dowels depends on the length of your shade. Place the top dowel 12" from the top of the shade. Place the bottom dowel 8" from the bottom of the shade. Use a calculator to evenly place dowels between top and bottom dowels. 

10. Wait about 4 hours for glue to dry. 

11. Attach flat pulleys to the mounting board using a drill. For a 26" wide shade, I used 2 pulleys, each about 1" from the ends of the mounting board. For the wider, 50" shade, I used three pulleys. 

12. Cut the cord. See diagram to figure out how to measure cord. Run the cord from the bottom dowel, up to the top, across the top of shade, and to the edge of the shade. You will also need an additional 2' (or longer if you want the tassel to hang lower when the shade is pulled down). 
13. Now sew on lift rings. They must line up directly under the flat pulleys that are mounted to the firring strips. You can use a yard stick to line up the placement of lift rings with the flat pulleys. Using button thread, sew on a lift ring at every other dowel starting with the bottom dowel. 
14. Now string the shade. Attach the cord to the bottom ring with a double knot and run each cord through the ring above, then through the pulley and out to the side. 

15. Slide the tassel (or cord drop) through the strings and knot the strings at the bottom. 

16. Attach a cord cleat to the window trim or wall. 

17. Mount the shade to the window using wood screws. The screws need to be one and a half times longer than the thickness of the mounting board. So if you stapled the shade to the narrow side of the board,  then you will need 3" screws. If you staple to the 2" wide side of the board, then you will need 1.5" screws for installing the shade to your window. Drive three screws through the board, one in the middle and the outer screws about two inches from each end of the mounting board. 

Click here to see how I painted on the stripes. 


rz said…
Hey there, these are great! I'm wondering what you did about making sure the dowels were long enough for your wide window? Did you just use more than one? I haven't found dowels longer than 48", and I have a 60" window...
Vanessa said…
Hi. Yes, that's a problem with wide windows. I got away with a 48" for a 50" wide window. That's a little shorter than it should be, but worked out OK. For a 60" I'd say order plastic dowels that snaps together to fit any width. Terrell Designs is a place that sells them and I've ordered there before. Or you could do a search for plastic dowels. Let me know how they turn out!

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