How to Make a Roman Shade


Roman shades, with their clean lines and classic look, are continually a popular style of window treatment. Not only do these shades look great, but they are also fully functional, providing privacy when you want it, without the harsh look of mini blinds. Want to create beautiful, stylish roman shades for your home? It’s not as hard as you might think, and is actually a project that you can DIY.

Our latest how-to video will show you step-by-step how to make your own roman shades.  In the video, you will learn how to measure the window, pattern the fabric, calculate spacing for the dowels, build a headrail, and install the shades.


A roman shade is made from a flat fabric panel that when raised, folds up accordion style via a simple ring and cord system. The sewing required to make a roman shade is pretty basic (almost like a pillowcase!). The shade is transformed by the placement of dowel rods between the decorative fabric and the drapery lining and the installation of the cord system.

Making your own roman shade will allow you to customize the design and save you money. Store bought shades come in cookie cutter sizes that might not fit all windows and they can be pretty expensive. By taking your own measurements you can get a perfect fit for your window. Plus, when you make your own shade, you can make all the design decisions like how much space it takes up in your window, how many times it folds, and where those folds fall.

You can choose any style of fabric for your roman shade, but we recommend using a lighter weight fabric so the folds will train easier. The back of the shade is lined with drapery liner. A thinner liner will fold best, but if you’d prefer the curtains to block out more light, you can use a thicker liner.

Materials Needed:

Find the perfect fabric for your roman shade at

Have you made a roman shade before? Share your projects, process and thoughts in the comments!

  1. Barbara Roth said:

    As a custom drapery workroom, we are required to be compliant with the current safety regulations. These shades in your video are not complaint, with the main problem being the lift cords. Lift cords cannot be accessible so that a child can pull the cord and wrap it around their neck. There is also a spacing maximum for the rings that are sewn on. In addition, the hanging cord that lifts the shade must be secured as it is another choking hazard. Please make sure that this video is changed or removed so that we don’t have any more children at risk. Thank you.

    • Nikki said:

      You’re absolutely correct, Barbara! If anyone plans to make roman shades or other curtains to sell or gift to someone else, they should comply with all the latest safety regulations. These particular video instructions are geared toward anyone making roman shades or curtains for their own home. That being said, we are in the process of adding a few safety annotations to our video so that anyone building their own shades can know about the risks and use their best judgment during design and installation.

  2. Janell Trapp said:

    I found the sewing machine setup and worktable seen in your video very helpful in figuring out how to sew my roman shades without the shade hanging over the edge of the table. Do you have any details such as width and height that could be helpful for me as I set up my temporary workroom.

    • Nikki said:

      Hi Janell,

      Our machines are setup in a typical sail loft arrangement. This means that we have built Philocraft brand tables (metal legs with heavy smooth surface plywood tops that interlock) in a manner that surrounds the standard sewing machine table. Hope this helps!

  3. Cheri Howard said:

    I’m making a roman shade per the Sailrite video and materials but am having trouble with the rib placement using the formula. My shade is much wider than it is long – 58″ wide x 35″ long. What would be recommended placement?

    • Nikki said:

      Hello Cheri,

      Since your curtain is a finished 35” high you will have 4 dowels or ribs and 5 segments in the curtain. The height from the bottom finished edge up for each rib is:Lowest Segment 7.9” the next 3 segments should each be 6.4” the highest segment should be 7.9”.

      You will use 5 lift lines for your width of 58” (about 41 feet of lift line).

  4. Gwen Embry said:

    On another entry you mention a new product that removes the need to use the tear mend. Please expound on that product.

    • Nikki said:

      Hi Gwen,

      You’re right, we now carry Iron-on Roman Rib Tape which is essentially an iron-on pocket that attaches to the back of the shade to hold the dowels. Here’s a link to that product:

      I do hope to make another Roman Shade soon, using some of the new hardware we’ve added to show different construction methods.

  5. Linda said:

    I tried to make shades by gluing the dowels to the decorative fabric, but the glue did not hold. Then I ordered the Roman Rib Tape and ironed it on the back of my decorative fabric. For the most part it held well, but there were a couple spots where it lifted. Will it work to iron it on the back of the lining fabric on the back of the shade?

  6. Julie MacNaught said:

    Great video. I successfully made one shade, but now I have to make one that is pretty wide, and requires 2 panels to be joined. I used the fabric calculator to work out the panel sizes, but says to cut one panel to 35″ wide, and the other to 34″ wide, so I’m wondering what type of seam is supposed to be used to join them.

    • Nikki said:

      Hi Julie,
      The fabric calculator always allows for a 1″ seam allowance. To seam, lay the panels on top of each other (outside surfaces facing each other) and sew about a half inch away from the raw edge. Unfold the panels, but don’t top stitch. This will make the seam less noticeable. Let us know if you have any other questions!

  7. Linda said:

    Can you explain how to add a top down bottom up feature to roman shades?

    • Nikki said:

      Hi Linda,

      That’s actually a new one for us, so we’re actually not sure how to do that. I’ll add it to our list of projects to research and try, though! Maybe other commenters have experience with this?

  8. Donna said:

    How would you mount this on the outside of a window? Thanks!

    • Nikki said:

      Hi Donna,
      To mount a Roman Shade on the outside of a window, you would make the shade the same way, but wide enough to cover your window’s molding too. And then you’d hang the mounting board directly to the wall above the window. Hope that helps to clarify things!

  9. Linda said:

    I plan to make these to add to a window that already has blinds mounted to the inside . The demonstrator says these can be made for outside mount but doesn’t explain how they should be measured or mounted. Advise please

    • Nikki said:

      Hi Linda,

      To measure for an outside mount, you select the spot on your wall where you’d like the top of the shade to start and then measure down to where you’d like it to stop (probably around the bottom of the window’s molding). Then do the same thing for the width. You’ll probably want to measure enough height and width to cover the window molding, but since you’re not limited by the dimensions of the window well, you can really make your shade any size you want!

      When it comes time to mount your shade, you’ll want to screw through the front of the board into the wall (use anchors if not on a stud) instead from underneath. But otherwise the whole process should be the same. I hope this helps you!

  10. Geannie said:

    I have a window that measures 51 x 82. It currently has wooden blinds that we’d like to replace with a shade. What hardware would you recommend? We are hoping not to have more than one shade, is that possible? Thanks.

  11. Angela said:

    My window is 31″ wide by 72″ tall. I’m confused how to cut my decor fabric. Is it 35″ x 80″ ?

    Is 31″ considered the finishes width?

    • Nikki said:

      Hi Angela,

      So, if your finished size is 31” x 72” here are the steps for cutting the fabric:
      Decorative Fabric:
      Finished width + 2” + 1” = Cut Width
      Finished Length + 8” = Cut Length (this 8” includes for extra fabric, just in case you need it)
      Lining Fabric (if any):
      Finished width – 1” = Cut Width
      Finished Length + 8” = Cut Length

      • angela said:

        Thank you! I’m planning on purchasing your rib tape. Quick question. Is 12oz fabric ok for roman shades?

  12. Nikki said:

    Hi Angela,
    A 12 oz. fabric will work just fine for a Roman Shade. In fact, sometimes heavier fabrics even work better!

  13. Raysha said:

    The window I am making a custom shade for is 79 inches wide and 45 inches high. How thick should my dowel rod be for this window? Also, do you think that three or four pulleys will be best for it? I want to make sure what I make can support the weight of the shade without bending or breaking.

    • Nikki said:

      Hi Raysha,
      I would use the ¼” dowels or ribs for your shade segments. You can join sections of our ribs (#104987) together to add to the length using splices for plastic ribs (#104986). You will use 6 lift lines for a shade this wide. The bottom rod should be 3/8” (you can use ours, item #104889) and add to its length a rodding splicer (#104988). You will also want to use the Large Cord Lock for your shade (#104857). You can find all these parts in our Roman Shade Hardware category:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: