How To Make a Soft Fold Roman Shade
the Super Easy Way
Looking for an easy way to add some style and privacy to your windows? Make a soft fold Roman shade, or folded shade window treatment. Super easy, stylish and inexpensive!
This project is super easy to do, and it only takes a few hours from start to finish. Plus, you can customize the shade to fit your needs and taste.
For me and my office, I need to keep it light, but to also offer me (and my neighbor) a sense of privacy. Actually, it was really about controlling the view.
In our lake community, most of the houses are very close together. Our neighbor has lovely freshly painted siding and a great stone chimney, I just don’t like peering in each others windows, especially when I’m at my desk late at night. It just feels a bit icky and intrusive.
So I wanted something that is light and fresh. I wanted my window covering to block just the upper half of my office window. The upper half is a view into her windows, the lower half is her siding, stonework and lovely plantings — all desirable!
And if I could lower it when we have overflow guests and some end up in here, all the better.
What’s so great about Roman shades?
They are clean-lined and can be as simplistic as you like — great for a modern, minimalistic window treatment.
They are one of the easiest window covering to make and customize to your style and your windows.
Roman shades add style without fussiness. But if you want more, you can always add stationary side panels as I did.
And did I mention, inexpensive?
Why DIY vs. buy?
Since roman shades typically fit inside a window casing, 95% of the time, they need to be custom ordered. That means time and money, lots of money!
But lucky for you, I have a way to make a Roman shade that is super easy to make, easy to customize and easy on your budget.
How easy you ask? Only hands-sewing skills required — like first-time-ever-sewing skills!
So, if you’re up for a little DIY project, read on for instructions on how to make your own soft fold Roman shade.
What makes this way so easy?
Glad you asked!
To make window treatments, can be difficult and time consuming because of cutting and stitching those long hems on all sides.
But what if we can eliminate the cutting and hemming? Your project turns all easy peasy, right?
The Secret Ingredient-
My secret is to use a shower curtain — yes, a fabric shower curtain (not the plastic liner).
Most shower curtains are 72 x 72-inches. That 72-inch width was perfect for my double window that is 60-inches wide. The length is longer than I need, but I only have the shade down when my office is being used as an overflow guest room. And I can live with that.
If your window is narrower, try substituting a tablecloth or a drapery panel.
If your window is small enough, a beautiful shawl or pashmina may be the perfect answer.
You’re looking for a textile that has finished edges and is either the width of your window or a bit larger.
NOTE 1) if you are using a shower curtain or drapery panels, use one without the large metal eyelets or you can cut off the top part of the curtain, provided you don’t need the full length. The top part will be stapled to a header board so it’s not really a big deal.
NOTE 2) it’s easiest if the bottom hem of your shower curtain, or substitute, has a deep enough hem to slide a board or a metal rod into. Otherwise, you can turn up a hem and stitch a rod pocket across the bottom.
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I bought my shower curtain three years ago at Marshall’s, but here are a few options that would work great:
(hover over images for some details, click for all the details and to order)
Materials & Supplies-
- Fabric (see notes above)
- Button or Upholstery thread to match (all purpose thread will disintegrate in bright sunlight)
- Two wood boards
- Plastic rings
- Drapery cord
- Eye screws
- Drapery cleat
- Staple gun & staples
- Sewing needle
- Drill and bit
- Screwdriver or equivalent drill bit
- Appropriate wood screws
(Click on image for full details and to order)
How to Make Soft Fold Roman Shades-
Step 1) Measure Window and Plan Fabric-
Determine the desired width for your Roman shade. Now select a soft fabric that is at least that wide and more if you want folds like I did.
Folded shades work best if they sit right inside the window frame.
My window is 60-inches, inside the frame. So ideally my fabric would be between 72 and 78-inches wide.
Step 2) Cut Your Wood–
Because ours are replacement windows with a funky interior trim, I improvised a bit. My shade fits inside the frame, but the header or mounting board extends beyond the frame, hidden behind the stationary side panels.
In this case, my lower board is 1/2-inch narrower than the finished shade, but the top board is 4-inches wider than the finished shade.
Adjust as needed for your window.
Cut your boards and paint them white so they don’t show through your fabric.
TIP: Or better still, purchase pre-primed white boards and have the home improvement store cut the boards for you.
Mark the center of your top board.
Step 3) Arrange Your Pleats-
Plan your pleats. Ideally, you want to have the same thickness of fabrics (number of layers) at each column of rings that you’ll attached later.
Because I needed to reduce the width of my fabric by 12-inches, I took a 1-inch pleat on both sides. That reduces 2-inches on each side. So my center inverted pleat is 4-inches across, reducing the fabric width by 8-inches.
Step 4) Attach to Header Board-
Lay your pressed fabric face down. Lay your header board across the fabric an inch or two below the top edge. Arrange your pleats under the board with your inverted center pleat lining up with your center marking.
Wrap the edge of the fabric over the board and staple in place along the backside of the board.
Trim off excess fabric.
Step 5) Press & Finish Your Pleats For Your Soft Fold Shade-
Now that your pleat placement is dictated by stapling the shade to the header board, press your pleats all the way to the hem. Measure as your go to make sure they remain straight.
When you get to the hem, with your needle and thread tack them in place.
Insert your bottom board or metal rod and tack the side openings closed.
Step 6) Install Eye Screws-
Install one eye screw into the bottom of the header or mounting board of your Roman shade. They should be directly above each pressed fold where you will be attaching the rings in the next step.
TIP: Be sure to drill a pilot hole for these screws so you don’t split your board.
Step 7) Sew on Roman Shade Rings-
There will be four columns of rings, One column on each outer edge pleat fold and a row on each fold of the center pleat.
Figure the distance between your rings. Divide the length of the shade to determine an even spacing between the rings.
The larger the distance between rings, the deeper the horizontal pleats will be and the fewer the number of pleats which means less stack back when the shade is fully raised.
Aim for a spacing between 7 and 9-inches. My rings are 8 1/2-inches apart. And I have 9 rings in each column.
Mark the spots for each ring.
Sew each ring in place
TIP: Thread your needle and knot the double strand of thread. Pull through the fold at the marking and slip the needle between the two strands before the knot and pull tight.
Loop the thread through the ring and the folded fabric several times. Tie a slip knot in your thread around the ring tightening to the loops of sewn stitches. Tie a second slip knot right at the threads. Then a third slip knot roughly a half-inch further up the double strand and cut between the two knots.
Now you have a knot ready for the next ring — doesn’t sound like it but this is a huge time and frustration saver for me!!!
Here’s a short video to help with this great time-saver:
Step 8) Install
Attach header board inside, or to the face of, your window frame with appropriate screws..
Step 9) Attach Roman Shade Strings-
Starting at the lowest ring on the side farthest from where the cleat will be, thread the drapery cord up through each ring and then through each of the eye screws and a foot or two past where the cleat with be.
Cut the cord. Securely tie the end to the bottom most ring.
Repeat with the next column of rings, through three eye screws,
Third cord up and through two eye screws. and last cord, up and through one eye screw.
You should have four cords fed through the last eye screw.
Step 10) Install Drapery Cleat-
Install a drapery cord cleat with supplied screw either to the side of the window frame as I did or to the wall.
Keep in mind safety and install your cleat out of a child’s reach.
Step 11) Finish Off Roman Shade Cords-
Now that you have your cleat in place, with the shade hanging loosely, gather all four cords together making sure they are the same tautness. knot them together with a slip knot just past the last eye screw, or lower if it’s hard for you to reach.
Trim the cord ends.
To keep them from fraying, you can dab each cord with a bit of white glue.
Operating Your Roman Shade–
To raise, pull the cord lifting the the bottom to your desired height, secure the cords around the cleat several times and adjust the folds as needed.
And that’s it!
In a nutshell: Fold and Press – Staple – A bit of Hand Sewing – Thread the Cord – Hang – Pull Cord!
Surprisingly easy, right?
Think of all the money you just saved and you still have a custom window treatment!!! That’s a double win in my book — a veritable cupcake with cream-filling AND cream cheese frosting too!
How about another minimalistic window covering, but this time covering the lower part of the window? I’ve got you covered — well, your window covered — right here.
Or do you need custom extra long curtain rods without the extra large price tag? Check it out.
How about sheer curtain panels for your patio or deck without expensive and expansive rods? I’ve got that for you too.
I hope you are inspired! If you have any questions, snags or just comments, don’t hesitate to reach out or leave your thoughts below! I read every one and will get back to you.