How to Make Relaxed Roman Shades

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Relaxed roman shades are like swagged valances over your windows when they are pulled up. The cords to raise the shade are attached to the back near both side hems, and the shade pulls up, forming gentle folds that sag in the middle. It's less tailored than the look of classic roman shades, and the shades are simple to make, with or without a sewing machine. Line the shades for better shape and to block light. Leave an open-weave fabric unlined for very casual translucent window coverage.

Dream, Measure and Pin

Collect your supplies; the fun part is picking out the perfect fabric for your window. Relaxed roman shades work well with a medium- to light-weight fabric. Use lighter weights for filtering, not blocking, light. You need:

  • Flat board or piece of molding that fits inside the window frame
  • Fabric (and optional lining) that is 8 inches longer and 3 inches wider than the window
  • Scissors
  • Cord, 5 times the length of the window
  • Cleat
  • Plastic rings
  • Needle and thread
  • Screw eyes
  • Yardstick
  • Dressmaker pins
  • Drill, screwdriver
  • Sewing machine 
  • Iron-on tape (optional)
  • Iron

Stitch -- or Stick -- Drill and Staple

Pin the lining to the wrong side of the fabric; fold the layers wrong-sides together at each side, and press. Then fold the pressed edge over again and press again before stitching it down. Use iron-on tape if you don't want to sew hems -- you'll need to iron it according to manufacturer's instructions to set the adhesive. Fold the bottom hem up 1 inch; press and fold over again 2 inches, pressing again. Stitch -- or stick -- the bottom hem in place. Measure 12 inches from the top and place a pin 1/4 inch in from the edge of the side hem on both sides of the shade. Measure and pin every 6 inches from the first pin until you reach the bottom hem. Hand-tack the plastic rings to the shade at the pins down both side hems, using the needle and thread. Drill two holes through the board where you will screw it to the window frame. Staple the top of the shade to the back of the board, letting the rest of the shade hang down over the front of the board.

Assemble, Hang and Test

Screw the board, with the hanging shade fabric, to the inside top of the window frame. Screw two eye hooks to the board, directly aligned with the plastic rings on either side. Cut your cord in two pieces this way: Fold the cord in half; measure the width of the window and add it to one half; cut the cord there to make two uneven pieces. Screw the cleat to the inside of the window frame, either high enough so it is invisible when the shade is raised, or lower, at a convenient height for the person who is using it. Tie the long piece of cord to the bottom ring on the side of the shade opposite the cleat and thread the cord through all the rings on that side, through the eye hooks and over to the cleat side. Tie the remaining piece of cord to the remaining bottom ring and run it through the rings and the eye hook just above them. Tie the loose ends of the string together. Pull up the shade and wrap the cord around the cleat to secure it.

Handy Tips

Help the shade to fall into even folds the first time you raise it. Thicker fabric will take more guidance. If you make relaxed roman shades in a pattern for several windows in the same room, be sure to match the fabric so every window pattern is identical. Relaxed shades work best on windows 54 inches wide or narrower. Wider windows need a center line of plastic rings and an extra length of cord, which gives you a shade with two drapes or swags in it. The alternative is to make more than one shade per window or try a London shade -- the cords run about 6 inches in from the side edges and create a flounce at either side with a drape in the middle when the shade is raised.

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