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Basic Roman Shade

Author Photo
By Susan Woodcock | Sep 19, 2019

The basic, flat Roman shade is simple in style, and simple to make.

Roman shades are made from flat panels of fabric with rings sewn to the back in columns. Cord is threaded through the rings and when it is pulled, the fabric is lifted into even, horizontal folds. Choose stable home décor fabrics that do not stretch and preshrink fabrics by pressing with a steam iron prior to cutting and sewing. Roman shades can be functional and lifted up and down, but because they require cords you will want to familiarize yourself with important cord safety information. Best practice is to use only cord-free window treatments in homes with small children. Shades made today use safety products and cord shrouds to control hazardous cord loops.

Cords run from the bottom to the top within the shroud, lifting the shade.

Shade rings are available in metal or plastic. They all perform the same so you can select the style you prefer. If using plastic rings, make sure they are UV stable and designed for use on window treatments.

Nylon lift cord is available in different diameters such as 0.9 mm or 1.4 mm. Some shade systems require a specific size of cord. You can also purchase nylon-braided cord (also called “line”) in the cord and rope aisle of your local home improvement store.

Back view of a basic Roman shade. Cord is threaded through columns of rings and into the lifting system.

To meet safety standards, special products such a cord shrouds and RingLocks are used on the back of the shade to control how far the cord can be pulled away from the fabric, making it safer because the size of the combined loop of fabric and cord is minimized. Most cord control products are interchangeable with different lift systems but check with the supplier first to see if there are special requirements. You will see different options used for the projects in this section.

Shade cord is woven in and out of a cord shroud to prevent it from being pulled away from the back of the shade.

Getting Started

There are a wide variety of systems used for operating blinds and shades, from tracks with interior spools to roller tubes with a clutch, spring, or motors. No matter which system you use, the process for making a basic shade applies, but it’s a good idea to purchase the system first, to determine if any special processes or supplies are needed.

An assortment of shade rings in metal and plastic.

When mounting Roman shades on the wall outside of the window frame or opening, plan to extend 1 inch (2.5 cm) beyond each side of the window and several inches above if you can, to expose more window view when the shade is lifted. For inside-mounted Roman shades, allow 1/4 inch (6 mm) clearance on each side.

What you will need:

  • decorator fabric
  • lining
  • mounting board
  • metal rod or wooden dowel
  • heavy-duty stapler and staples
  • sew-on Roman shade rings
  • Safe-T-Shade RingLocks or cord shroud
  • shade cord
  • cord adjusting orbs
  • lifting system
  • tools and hardware for installation

An example of two different lifting systems: track with interior spools and roller tube.

Yardage Requirements

To determine yardage, add allowances to the finished size as outlined below.

A Roman shade mounted inside the window opening.

Main fabric

Measure your window and determine the finished width and length of your shade.

A. Finished length of shade ____ + 8 inches (15.2 cm) = ______ ÷ 36 inches (91.4 cm) = ______ yards (meters) of fabric

B. Finished width _____ + 8 inches (20.3 cm) = ______ ÷ fabric width = ______. If this number is greater than 1, double the amount from Step A.

If using more than one width of a print fabric, you may need to match the pattern motif, which could require additional fabric.

Finished length of shade = ____ + 8 inches (15.2 cm) = ______ ÷ pattern repeat = _____ (round up). This is how many of pattern repeats you will need for each cut.

Pattern repeat ____ × number of pattern repeats needed ÷ 36 inches (91.4 cm) = ______ yards (meters)

Roman shades look best when made slightly wider and several inches taller than the window.

Lining fabric

A. Finished length of shade ____ + 2 inches (5 cm) = ______ ÷ 36 inches (91.4 cm) = ______ yards (meters)

B. Finished shade width = ______ ÷ fabric width = ______. If this number is greater than 1, double the amount from Step A.

When sewing multiple widths together, you may want to split widths in half lengthwise for a whole piece in the center, and sew half widths to each side. Study the pattern motif to determine what is best. For shades with a short length, you can railroad fabrics and linings. This will allow you to have a wide shade without any seams.

Making a Basic Roman Shade

(A) Unfold the pressed hems at the corner. You will see the creases from pressing the hems. Measure 6 inches (15.2 cm) from the edge and mark in the center of the hem.

Cut the main fabric the finished width plus 8 inches (20.3 cm) wide and the finished length plus 6 inches (15.2 cm) long. For a large shade, seam together the fabric cuts and press seams open before cutting to size.


(B) Fold the corner on the bias, lining up the cut edges and pinning together. Sew on the marked line.

Place the main fabric face down, and fold over 4 inches (10.2 cm) along one side, iron in a crease, and then fold the cut edge under and press, creating a 2-inch (5 cm) doubled hem. Repeat for the other side and bottom hem, double-checking the measurement across the width of the shade.

The finished corner is neat and has less bulk than the double-folded square corner.

At the bottom left and right corners, sew a mitered seam. This is optional; you can leave the bottom corners square. To create the mitered corner seam, unfold the pressed hems and measure 6 inches (15.2 cm) from the edge on one corner, making a mark at the center of the fold. (A) Draw a line from the inside corner to the outer corner, creating a right angle. Fold the corner on the bias, pin, and stitch on the line. (B) Trim off excess fabric (C), turn right sides out, and press. (D)

(C) Cut off excess fabric.

Place the hemmed fabric facedown and top with the lining faceup, smoothing it out neatly. Trim off excess lining even with the side and bottom edges and tuck the edges under the hems. Secure the hems with pins. Hand sew the hems around all three sides or finish using your preferred method. Secure the top edge with pins. (E)

(D) Turn right sides out and press.

With the shade facedown, fold over 4 inches (10.2 cm) at the bottom and press. Draw a line 1 inch (2.5 cm) from the folded edge, pin, and straight stitch to create a rod pocket. (F)

Mark for the rings on the back of the shade. Begin with the vertical spacing by measuring along the inside edge of the side hem, beginning at the rod pocket stitch line and measuring 7 inches (17.8 cm). Make a small mark on the lining next to the side hem. Measure from that mark up toward the top, spacing marks 8 inches (20.3 cm) apart, until you are within 12 inches (20.3 cm) or less of the finished length. Repeat for the opposite side. This will create 4-inch (10.2 cm) folds as the shade is lifted. You can adjust the vertical spacing. For example, if using 3-inch (7.6 cm) folds with the rings spaced 6 inches (15.2 cm) apart vertically, subtract 1 inch (2.5 cm) from the instructions above. (G)

(E) Cut the lining to the exact finished width and place it under the hems.

Next, mark for horizontal spacing of the rings across the shade. Measure between the outer marks at the side hems and divide by a number that will result in 9 inches (22.9 cm) or less. Mark across the top edge of the rod pocket and continue from the bottom to the top marks. (H)

(F) A rod pocket is sewn above the bottom hem.

Pin together the face fabric and lining at each mark to hold the layers together. Sew a shade ring at each mark using a thread to match the face, sewing all the way through to the front and removing the pins. Rings can be hand sewn or machine sewn using a button-sewing attachment. The rings should be sewn so that they are parallel with the top and bottom. Make sure the bottom rings sewn to the rod pocket are secure, as they will bear the weight of the shade. (I)

(G) Mark 7 inches (17.8 cm) from the rod pocket stitch line and then continue marking every 8 inches (20.3 cm) to the top of the shade.

Cut a metal rod or wooden dowel 1 inch (2.5 cm) less than the finished width and insert inside the rod pocket. Sew or glue the ends of the pocket closed. (J)

With the shade facedown, measure from the bottom to the top, folding over at the finished length and pressing to create a crease. Cut off excess fabric, allowing for 2 inches (5 cm) past the crease line for attaching to the board. (L)This shade uses a cord shroud tube to meet safety standards. The tube is stitched in place at each ring. (M) You can sew rings and shroud all at the same time. Tie off the shroud to the top and bottom rings. The cord within the tube is fished out at the bottom and fastened with a cord-adjusting orb. (N) At the top ring, the cord is fished out of the shroud tube and threaded into the lifting system.

(H) Create a template for ring spacing on a straight edge or ruler with marked pieces of tape. Move the template from row to row. This will save time!

Note: Some cord shrouds are made without the cord and you will thread the cord into the shroud.

Cut the board to the finished width. Cover the ends of the board with the face fabric. Draw a line on top of the board 2 inches (5 cm) from the edge and staple the shade to the board at the line. Continue covering the board, hiding cut edges and staples.

(I) Make sure the bottom rings sewn to the rod pocket are secure, as they will bear the weight of the shade.

Attach the shade lifting system to the board and thread the cords into the system.

(K) A painted steel rod is needed for some lift systems. The extra weight creates tension needed for the system to engage. Otherwise, an aluminum rod or wooden dowel will work just fine.

Install the shade to the wall using angle irons or the brackets supplied with the lifting system. Some fabrics require training to fall into neat folds. To do this, pull the shade to the highest position and steam. Smooth over the fabrics, creasing with your hands along the horizontal folds.

(L) For the most accurate length, measure after the rings are sewn and the rod is inserted in the pocket.

(M) Sew the cord shroud at each ring. Do not stitch over the cord within.

(N) Fish the cord from the shroud and secure with an orb.

Also from First Time Window Treatments:

Learning how to plan, make, and install your own beautiful curtains, drapes, shades, and other window decor may sound daunting, but with the expert, step-by-step guidance of Susan Woodcock in First Time Window Treatments, your goal is within reach. Like having your very own sewing instructor at your side, First Time Window Treatments guides you expertly through the process, including: measuring your windows and selecting fabric; fundamental techniques of cutting, seaming, hemming, and adding frills and trims; making basic styles of curtains, shades, blinds, and top treatments; and essential tips and tools for installation. There’s a first time for everything. First Time Window Treatments will help you decorate your windows with your own stylish designs.

Reprinted with permission from First Time Window Treatments: The Absolute Beginner’s Guide by Susan Woodcock and published by Quarry Books, 2019.

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