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Tutorial: Cordless Classic Roman Shade

2011 April 2
by heather

A few months ago, I painted our kitchen the same warm grey that is in the living and dining room. Having the same color in all three adjoining rooms has made it a lot easier to decorate cohesively.

Ove the holidays, I had a few sage green towels in the kitchen and loved the way it looked with the new walls. I also considered the current rug in the living room and knew it would be a good choice to use as an accent color throughout the rooms.

So, I started looking for fabric that had featured green as well as other neutrals–brown, tan, grey. I soon found this and purchased it with a 50% off coupon (the online photo doesn’t do it justice):

The warm grey is perfect with our walls and the browns tie in so well to the kitchen cabinets and dark pieces in the living room.

I found a tutorial via Martha Stewart and started collecting my supplies. Since I opted to do a cordless version versus the cord and pulley system in the Martha tutorial, I did not need the following items: cord lock, screw eyes, shade lift cord, cord condenser and the cord tassel. Instead, I used metal ring clips to hold up the shades (more details below). It’s not as effortless to open and close the shade this way, but we plan to keep the shades at a specific height most of the time, so we don’t need the option to open and close them on a regular basis. Plus, it’s a lot safer when there’s a toddler under foot at all times. It sounds like the hardware is fairly easy to install once the curtain itself is made. I even found this online store dedicated to roman shade supplies.

As one of the commenters mentioned, the tutorial is very simplified. So, I thought it would be helpful to post a step-by-step tutorial for anyone else who may want to make their own roman shades.

So, here we go!

{ Measure window (inside the frame) and cut fabric to size, adding 4 inches to the width and 8 1/2 inches to the height. }

{ 1 (below) – Lay fabric right side down. Fold and press 2-inch hems on long sides and bottom edge. }

{  2 – Unfold. Fold bottom corners; press. }

{ 3/4 – Refold hems }

{ 1/2 (below) – Slip-stitch corners leaving a 1/4-inch opening on one side for a dowel. Martha’s instructions say to hem the sides and base…I skipped this step. Here’s a helpful video tutorial on how to sew a slip-stitch. }

{ 3. Place lining on shade, wrong sides facing, so shade shows on long sides and base. Slip-stitch lining to shade. }

Note: The next time I make a roman shade, I’ll probably sew the fabric to the lining like a pillow case as done in this tutorial at about 3 min. 15 sec…much less stitching by hand!

{ Determine dowel rod pocket placement and mark them on the back of the shade with a disappearing-ink pen. Pockets should be evenly spaced at intervals of 8 to 12 inches (depending on how wide you want the pleats to be). To determine position of bottom pocket, divide size of intervals by 2, and add 1 (for example, if you’re spacing dowels 12 inches apart, the bottom pocket should be 7 inches from the bottom of the shade). The top pocket should be at least 10 inches from the top. Begin measuring and marking your intervals from the bottom, and don’t worry about the precise size of the top interval. I drew my shade to scale on a piece of paper first so I would know ahead of time how many dowel pockets I would need for each shade (I made two shades). }

{ Sew cotton strips as shown below: Fold in half lengthwise, wrong sides together; press. Machine-stitch a 3/8-inch double hem on the long edge. At one end, fold, press, and machine-stitch a 3/8-inch double hem. }

{ Pin folded long edges of pockets along pen marks; machine-stitch–make sure your bobbin thread matches your fabric since this stitch will be seen on the other side. }

{ Slip-stitch the hemmed edge of the dowel rod pocket to the lining. }

{ Stitch rings (mine were plastic, not brass) to hemmed edge of pockets, forming 3 columns: one up the center and one 2 inches from each long side. }

{ Insert dowels in pockets, and slip-stitch a 3/8-inch double hem. Close up, mine do not look very pretty, but they are hidden by my windows frame so I don’t even think about the imperfections. }

{ Insert bottom dowel into the mitered corner’s opening. Close with a slip stitch. I was able to squeeze mine in between the stitches from the second set of photos above. }

{ Trim the batten to the correct width if needed. Cover ends of batten in scrap fabric; staple to hold in place. }

{ Place the batten at the top of the shade; staple to hold in place; roll to desired length; staple in hidden place to secure. }

Note: The Martha tutorial says to draw a line 6 1/2 inches below the top of shade to determine where your batten will hit. When I did this, however, I decided to measure the fabric from the bottom to make sure the overall height was correct. As you can see below, I was 3/4 of an inch off. Which meant that if I had just gone ahead with the 6 1/2 inch measurement from the top, my shade would have been almost an inch too short. Chalk it up to my own inaccuracy from some of the earlier steps, but it’s still a good idea to double check when you’re doing this step. In fact, I ended up having to use a lot of trial and error when determining the placement of the batten–hold fabric up to window to determine location of batten, roll batten, staple, hold fabric up to window, unstaple if necessary and try again.

Note: We decided to attach the shade directly to our window frame, forgoing the use of any kind of hanging hardware. I feel like I’m Chris Harrison from the Bachelor because I just used the word forgo. Anyone?

{ 1 (below) – Lay the shade on a flat surface as shown below and measure 5 inches in from each end; mark with a disappearing-ink pen. }

{ 2 – Use a screw that is long enough to go through the batten and into the window frame about 1/2 an inch. In most cases, you’ll be attaching it directly to wood, so an anchor shouldn’t be necessary. }

{ 3 – Drill through the marked spot. You may need to clip the fabric with a scissor on both sides so the drill can go through it easily. }

{ 4 – Insert the screws through the bottom of the batten until the point comes through the top. }

{ Hold the shade up to the window and use the tip of the screws to mark the window frame. (no photo) }

{ Drill the window frame where you marked it with the screw tips. (no photo) }

{ 5 – Finish attaching the shade to the window by hand. }

{ Loop metal ring clips into the plastic rings to adjust the height of the shade. }

Phew! That was a lot of steps. But, I’m thrilled with the results. They’re not perfect, but nothing in our house is or ever will be.

42 Responses leave one →
  1. April 2, 2011

    You’re amazing.

  2. Monique permalink
    April 8, 2011

    ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL… I LOVE the material (pattern design) you chose. I am so excited to try this for the first time myself. But after seeing your beautiful design, I’m even more excited! Thanks!!! GREAT JOB!

  3. April 9, 2011

    This looks amazing! I started with Martha’s and saw your link. I’m thrilled, bec. I was overwhelmed with the pulley and cord system. I am also going to keep my shades at one height always … thank you!
    One question, though, where can I find those clips?


    • April 9, 2011

      Hi Natalie! My clips actually came as part of a “retro fit kit” with sets of bamboo blinds from Lowe’s. There were instructions to remove the cord system and replace it with the clips. We decided to keep the cord system with the bamboo blinds, so I had the clips stored away and available for this project. I know I’ve seen the clips in stores, though. Maybe a craft supply store?

  4. Tina permalink
    April 14, 2011

    Hi Heather. Your creation is absolutely beautiful. Great job!

    I have been looking at various sites for info about making Roman shades that don’t take up so much room at the top. Most of them fit inside the window like yours. Since I want to be able to have my whole window when the shade is up I had planned to attach it to the wall above the window (there isn’t any moulding around the window to hinder that idea) and am wondering if I space the dowels closer will that enable me to have a much small “footprint” for the shade? I’m just trying to picture that in my head and I think it will work but as you have hands-on experience I’m thinking that you just might know the answer. Thanks!


    • April 16, 2011


      Hmm…I think I understand what you’re asking. And I think you’re interpretation of doing smaller intervals between the dowels will get you the result you’re after. The tutorial that I followed suggested 8-12 inches between dowels. Mine were nine inches apart. The smaller the intervals, the more folds you’ll have at the bottom when the shade is pulled up. So, you’ll want to keep that in mind for when you have it all the way pulled up. The other things is that you’ll need something to attach the top dowel to the batten so that you have a way of pulling up that top dowel. With my cordless method, I didn’t use the eye hooks that would typically do this with the cord.

      Good luck!

  5. Nancy Power permalink
    April 16, 2011

    Thanks for sharing your experience…I do appreciate your explanation and explicit directions and photos! Your window look fabulous!

  6. April 19, 2011

    Oh dear. I have these huge panels in my kitchen that I want to turn into one roman shade. Well, have my friend help, actually, because I can’t sew. Now I’m all sorts of worried that even though she’s amazing, this is a bigger project than I’d hoped.

    We’ll see! I like your tutorial though, especially since my window is right over the sink, and I’d rather not have a cord dangling down.

    I bet I could use a key ring as a clip. Not the traditional kind, but the kind that open up on a small hinge. Wish me luck!

    • April 19, 2011

      It is a bit of a job, but I think you’ll be happy with the results. Good luck!

  7. Karyn permalink
    April 21, 2011

    Amazing! Can’t wait to try to make my own. I love everything about this blind however, I’m not sure that the clips on the back will look good facing the big living room window. I don’t what else to use to make it pleasantly appealing. Any suggestions?


  8. Kate permalink
    May 21, 2011

    I’m so excited to try making these! Bought some fabric at Ikea yesterday for the project. You can get the clips at the Window Covering Safety Council’s website for free.

  9. grandma permalink
    July 19, 2011

    Hi Heather. Wow is all I can say. The roman shades look great, but I didn’t realize they had been so much work. You did a great job. grandma

  10. Katarina permalink
    August 16, 2011

    Thanks for posting this, I am also making Martha’s roman shades and was totally confused by the way she described sewing the strips of fabric on the back … but now it’s totally clear. Oh and I agree that next time I make these I will just sew the lining by machine. If I had realized that the stiches from the dowels would show, I would have done it this time around as well!

  11. Debbie permalink
    February 18, 2012

    I too started out on the martha site. I sew for a living and the directions were making my eyes cross! I am so excited to do this project!!! Thanx again:)

  12. February 27, 2012

    Thanks for explaining so clearly! I’m going to use this for our newly redone bedroom. Any thoughts on how to add magnets to the back instead of clips? Plan to raise and lower shades pretty often… Thanks!

    • February 28, 2012

      Hmm…not sure how to make magnets work, but that’s a great solution for an easier up and down method. I’m sure there’s something out there in a craft or hobby store that will work.

    • J Mason permalink
      January 22, 2014

      Jamie, Did you ever figure out a way to use magnets? I am about to make some roman shades and would like to make them cordless. Thanks.

  13. Lindsay permalink
    April 11, 2012

    Thanks for your detailed descriptions and especially your photos. I started with the MS tutorial, but I got stuck on the 3/8 inch double fold hem. This was very helpful!

  14. christine permalink
    July 17, 2012

    The safety rings are a form of shower curtain ring, right?

  15. Deb permalink
    August 22, 2012

    This would be perfect for my toddler’s room. No cords to cause a strangulation risk! Thank, you!

  16. Jen permalink
    December 18, 2012

    Thank you thank you thank you!!! I can’t thank you enough. I have been working on some classic roman shades from Martha Stewart’s website for two weeks and was about to throw everything in the trash when I came across your expanded tutorial. Bless you for taking the time to do this! I’ve been sewing the dowel pockets all wrong. I get it now! You are a lifesaver. (Oh, and I did my mitered corners wrong too. Could Martha’s crew have taken the time to write just one or two more paragraphs and taken at least one or two more pictures?)

    • heather permalink
      December 18, 2012

      Jen – I’m so glad this was helpful for you! There area few things I would do differently the next time around to eliminate so much hand stitching. But, I agree that the original MS tutorial was lacking in details.

  17. Shanon Thatcher permalink
    January 14, 2013

    Ah ….maze……ing!!!!
    Thank you sooooo much for taking the time to do this.
    You soooo made my day!!

    I’m so excited to begin my shades I need 4 huge ones and your photos and commentary gave me the confidence. We intend on putting up some wide decorative wooden trim around the window frames our shades will fit in.

    Here’s a site with what we’ll have:

    Happy sewing

  18. Helen permalink
    April 3, 2014

    These look good, we are going to make them. Can you say where you would get the metal pear hooks from, as we have scoured the place and can’t find any (we are not in the U.S. and may need to order online). Thanks, Helen.

    • Nan W. permalink
      August 10, 2014

      When I showed my husband this tutorial, he saw the picture of the clips and said, “Oh, they used shower curtain rings?” :) Come to think of it, yes, that’s what they look like.

  19. October 1, 2014

    Touche. Sound arguments. Keep up the great effort.

  20. October 5, 2014

    Quality articles is the secret to invite the visitors to pay a visit the web page, that’s what this site is providing.

  21. Deedee permalink
    December 30, 2014

    Hi this was so helpful. So it’s my understanding you can never raise or lower these. Am I correct. I could do the same thing as you did but just add a pulley system which I have done before. It’s just that your tutorial is amazingly easier.


  22. Carol Thomas permalink
    February 5, 2015

    Thanks for the detailed tutorial. Your shades looks beautiful. I had made some for my kitchen but used tie ups. I am getting ready to do living room and these would be perfect!

  23. Betty permalink
    February 22, 2015

    I plan on making these Roman Shades for my kitchen window.
    Thank you so much

  24. April 29, 2015

    Hurrah! In the end I got a weblog from where I can truly obtain valuable data concerning my study and knowledge.

  25. Verónica permalink
    October 19, 2015


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  28. heather permalink
    April 10, 2013

    Yep! It’s a manual process, but it eliminates the need for a cord.

  29. Berta permalink
    July 6, 2014

    Hi. This site was so helpful. I’m going to make a shade over sink in kitchen. My opening is 70 1/2″ wide by 54″ high (to ceiling soffit). I would like to use lined burlap. Would this work?
    Thank you so much for making it seem simple. Very understandable directions.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks

  1. Waves, Shades, and Pouches | crossquilt
  2. How to Make Roman Shades: 28 DIY Patterns and Tutorials | Guide Patterns

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