Tips on Sewing a Custom Roman Shade

Close-up of Ribbon Detail on Shade

Close-up of Ribbon Detail on Shade

I was recently commissioned (i.e. asked very nicely) to make a custom roman shade for my friends’ new nursery. The job was first planned in the months leading up to the birth and the shade was installed when cute little Ellis was a few weeks old.

The couple wanted a shade in solid navy to complement the room. They looked into ordering one and got quotes of upwards of $800. I knew I could make it with a little Pinterest-ing and sewing time. After some research and fabric shopping, they decided on a navy thick weave upholstery fabric with a 3″ green grosgrain ribbon edge detail. We purchase the navy upholstery fabric and blackout fabric at High Fashion Fabrics, an excellent local Houston decorating fabric emporium and the 3″ grosgrain ribbon from TeaPartyRibbons on Etsy. The remaining supplies were from Home Depot and Joann’s (supply list in reference tutorial post).

Tha main challenge with this project is the size of the window – about 70″ wide x 58″ tall. They wanted it to be all one shade rather than two, which meant that wide width would add some complexity since there would have to be a seam to cover the whole window. After searching for tutorials, I found one that was very helpful. I won’t rephrase those instructions, but comment on modifications I made.

How to Make Custom Roman Shades by Brown Paper Packages
This was the main tutorial I followed. It is a great tutorial and carefully explains what materials you need (tube tape is one of the best crafting inventions ever! Never roman shade without it! I’m not kidding, ring tape is sooooo 1990s). She has very clear instructions on how to space your tube tape and drapery cord lines to make sure everything is well supported and a great materials list with formulas for calculating what you need to purchase – drapery cord, tube tape, lining, wood for mounting, etc.

I followed Brown Paper Packages’ instructions for the most part. I had to make some changes due to my width and I changed the side edges. Since we were adding the edge detail with the green ribbon, I created the front navy piece from three panels and hid the seams under the ribbon. For the blackout fabric, I made a vertical seam in the center. Offsetting the seams in the front and blackout panels also helped reduce fabric bulk when it was hung.

I followed the advice from another blog post (I’m bummed I can’t find the reference!) for the edges. I wanted the navy to wrap around the edge for a more finished look. I measured my panels so the navy wrapped 2″ onto the back.  The technique is to create the front panel 4 inches wider and the lining 4 inches thinner than the finished width. Then, stitch them together along each side at the appropriate point in the process.  This creates a 2 inch wrap around of the front fabric.

The ribbon embellishment created additional complexity. I wanted to sew over the grosgrain ribbon as little as possible while achieving a finished look – that is, as little visible sewing as possible. It required additional hand sewing, but I think it was worth it. Here is a summary of the steps I took for assembly that differed slightly from the referenced tutorial to eliminate the need to sew over the ribbon.

Assembly Steps:
1. Assemble blackout fabric lining panel (vertical seam in middle of panel) and hem bottom edge. I used a 1″ seam.

2. Assemble front panel from three pieces of fabric with two vertical seams where you want the ribbon to be. The outer edge of my ribbons are about 8″ from the finished edge. For a thinner window, you would likely have them closer to the edge.

3. Sew on the two vertical pieces of ribbon over the seams. I sewed an 1/8″ seam on each edge of the ribbon.

4. Hem the bottom edge of the front panel, switching thread colors when sewing over the ribbon. I sewed with navy thread in the three sections of fabric and then switched to green thread to sew over the ribbons. I sewed a 2″ hem to correspond with the 2″ overlap the navy will have in the sides. (Note: this is the only visible time I sew over the ribbon in this project.  I sew over it in step 7 with the horizontal ribbon)

5. Sew front and lining/blackout panels together on both sides with right sides together. I positioned the blackout panel about 2″ about above the front section to match the 2″ overlap in the sides. Flip right sides out. (Because of the size of this shade, I double checked all my measurements at this point)

6. Flatten the shade so the navy overlap on each side is equal at 2″ wide. I sewed down the length of each side about 1″ from the edge to keep everything together. I only did this step because the thick weave upholstery fabric completely hid my stitches. I wouldn’t recommend this on other fabrics that will show stitching unless you want that seam visible. You could also hand or machine baste the sides at this point. I felt it was helpful to steady the piece for the next steps.

7. Based on where I knew my lowest tube tape would be positioned, about 6 inches above the bottom hem, I was able to attach the horizontal ribbon to the shade, sewing through both layers. Depending in your spacing and shade dimensions, you may need to sew on the tube tape first or slightly adjust the position of the tube tape near where you want to sew on any ribbon embellishment.

8. Next, I followed Brown Paper Packages’ instructions in sewing on the tube tape. I sewed from the back (top thread white, bobbin in navy), but the big difference for me was that I did not sew over the ribbon embellishment. While pinning each length of tube tape, I also pinned to indicate the edges of the ribbon and did not sew over them.

9. Another difference was the edges since I wanted the navy overlap. I left about 1 inch of tube tape at each end. My shade had 6 rows of tube tape to cover the 58″ height.

9. Because of my desire to not to sew over the ribbon, I now had some hand sewing to do. I hand tacked the end of each tube tape row by tuning under about 0.5 inches and sewing it down with a hidden stitch. The tape ended about 0.25 to 0.5 inches from the edge of the shade. I also hand tacked the two edges of the horizontal ribbon. I folded a bit under to match the edge where eye navy stopped, 2″ in from the edge.

10. At this point I went back to following Brown Paper Packages’ tutorial for adding the drapery cord (I had 8 cords for my width!), covering the top wood piece with navy fabric, adding eyelet screws, and mounting it in the window. Instead of the Velcro that Brown Paper Packages’ used, installed the shade to the top wood piece and mounted it directly to the window frame. After hanging we inserted 3/8″ diameter wooden dowels in the tube tape to get crisp pleats. This is a must unless you have a very thin shade and so easy with the tube tape.

Overall, the project turned out pretty well. The navy fabric stretched a bit at the top because of the thick open weave, but it was able to be installed pretty well.

Roman shade installed in the nursery

Roman shade installed in the nursery

One word of warning when working with blackout fabric – it is not self healing. Because of the plastic layers used to create an opaque fabric, the fabric does not heal after being punctured with a needle. Therefore, take your time when sewing it since ripping out stitches will leave small holes through which light can pass. This was an issue in this project because the navy fabric had such an open weave. When the shade was hung and the bright sun was outside the window, I could see each seam of the tube tape across the shade. It’s probably something only a DIYer would notice, but worth mentioning.

-Stephanie, HoustonDIY


Paving Stones for Über Beginners

I am admittedly not a green thumb or very good with most things yard and garden related. I did yard work as a kid under duress but am now learning to appreciate all things green and natural since I bought a house. Included in my yard and garden category of work is really anything on my property that doesn’t involve sipping a sangria in my Adirondack.

As my blog tagline indicates, living in a big city brings along with it a few hurdles for DIY. In my case – space. I have a three-story house with good square footage, but a very small footprint. My builder generously left no room for anything but the house on my plot, which limits the mount of grass to mow (only 1200 sq ft!), but also severely limits any outdoor storage possibilities. Case in point, and the focus of this post, nowhere to store my lovely City of Houston issued trash and recycling cans.

Unlike some of my neighbors, I am against the idea of storing them in my garage – gross. Being a corner unit, I had only one option. The picture below shows my dilemma.

Before picture of paver project

How do I get my cans in between our houses?

The only feasible solution was to take out the bush and store my cans between our houses. With only a few inches to spare between downspouts and hose bibs, it was going to be tight. Another challenge was the uneven drop off of the driveway. This would require beginner hardscaping! I had professionals do the heavy lifting on my patio – which turned out great – and figured I could handle his small project.

After taking out the bush, the challenge was to create a gentle slope of dirt that I could compact enough to support rolling my cans up and down. Since the area over which I had to make the transition was small, the gentle slope couldn’t be that gentle after all.

After shaping the base with a manual compactor, I sprinkled baking soda on the dirt to prevent weeds for growing. Then, I laid down my Lowe’s pavers in two rows. I adjusted as I went and they fit pretty well. Finally, I added sand to fill in the cracks between the pads and hopefully add some stability to the ramp. It’s not pretty, but I’m not as uncomfortable at the idea of hardscaping anymore.

Completed paver project

Success! Only one plant had to be sacrificed.


Homemade Pegboard – Get Organized!

As part of my ongoing effort to get organized, I’ve been wanting to make a pegboard for my garage for a long time.  I finally had some time recently and I think it turned out pretty well.  This is a very basic woodworking project.  I didn’t use any power tools except for a drill and just hand sawed a few pieces.  It’s straightforward and an easy way to organize a garage, craft room, sewing room, or game room.  I made mine 2′ x 4′, but there are larger pegboard options available and your local home improvement store.  The directions would be the same, except for the changing dimensions.

Supplies Needed:

*  One 2′ x 4′ piece of hardwood pegboard (home improvement store, ~$15)
*  Two 2″ x 2″ x 8′ furring strips
—-  Cut one in half into two 4′ lengths
—-  Cut second in half; then cut one piece in half again to get two 2′ lengths (you’ll have an extra 4′ piece)
*  15 – 20″ long piece of scrap 1″ x 4″ or similar wood to make a french pleat
*  Box of 1.5″ wood screws (you’ll need ~20-30)
*  Power drill
*  Basic supplies – tape measure, level, pencil, etc.

The overall plan for the pegboard is to create a frame of furring around the outer edge behind the pegboard material.  The furring strips will be attached to the board and to each other to create a strong frame with the pegboard that is held away from the wall a sufficient amount to allow you to hang hooks through the holes without your wall getting in the way.

To start the construction, place the furring strips in a rectangle on the floor or a sturdy surface with the pegboard on top.  The assembly should look as it would on the wall.  For each furring strip, carefully align it to make sure everything is straight and aligned with the pegboard and drive screws from the front of the pegboard, through a hole and into the furring strip.  The head of the screw should not fit through the hole and should secure it to the frame of furring strips.  I put about 4 to 6 screws on each of the 4 sides.  Once all of the furring strips is attached to the pegboard, flip over the board and secure the furring strips to each other at the corners for added rigidity.

At this point, you should have your pegboard essentially assembled.  If you want to spray paint the whole thing, now is the time.  (I kept this one au naturel since it was for the garage, but am considering a white one for my craft room.  That’s for another weekend…)

The next step is to hang the pegboard on your wall of choice.  Feel free to hang this however you’d like, but I’d recommend a french pleat.  The whole assembly has some weight to it, so you’ll need something stronger than hooks or nails.  The french pleat is a good solution because it provides a hardy hanging surface.  This technique is frequently used hang headboards when they do not attach to the bed frame.

You can find a lot of tutorials in the blogosphere about french pleats.  They are pretty simple if you have a good picture.  Here’s my attempt of a descriptive photo:

Intro to a French Cleat

HoustonDIY’s introduction to a French Cleat

The key is find a piece of scrap wood that is ~1 – 1.5″ thick.  depending on the shape and weight of your pegboard, you can either create a long french cleat across the whole length of the piece you’re hanging, or you can use two pieces on each edge like I did.  I found a 1″ x ~18″ piece of scrap in my garage.  I first cut it in half on the short length to create two 1″ x ~9″ pieces.  Then, using a miter box or table saw, cut a 45 degree angle cut through the shorter length of each piece.  If you are using one large cleat, cut a 45 degree cut down the entire length of the piece, the long way.

Then, the method will be to attach one piece that you just cut to the wall and the other, matching piece attaches to your pegboard.  The key is to make sure the piece attached to the wall is oriented with the cut, angled edge upward and with the higher side away from the wall.  This creates a triangle shaped ridge at the top of the piece of wood on each side of where the peg board will go (or along the entire length, if using one large cleat).  Then, attached the matching piece of wood to your pegboard oriented downward with the longer side away from the pegboard.  Then, you can easily hang the pegboard by setting it onto of your french cleat.  This makes the item very secure but easy to hang and remove.  Make sure to attach the wall cleat to a stud with 2 to 4 screws.  If using a long cleat, attach at every stud with at least 2 screws.

I found making this DIY pegboard was an easy and fun way to get organized.  The key was to figure out what size I wanted and how to hang it.  Once I mastered the french cleat, and with some rigorous measuring to make sure it would be level, my pegboard was wonderful and put to use right away.  You can also cut the peg board to make the personalized pegboard that fits your space.  Happy DIY-ing!

DIY Pegboard

DIY pegboard proudly displayed in my garage


Handy Paint Chips – Decorating Tip

When decorating a new place or redecorating your humble abode, sometimes deciding on paint colors is the hardest part.  Once you’ve finally made the leap and committed to wall colors, the last thing you want is your furniture, curtains, rugs, accessories, and everything else not to match.

I got frustrated with not knowing how to match the blue-gray in my guest room.  Although I have the original paint chips from Sherwin Williams, I think having the other 4 colors on the strip is distracting and there is never a large enough swatch to make real comparisons.  I decided to take my decorating game to the next level by making my own swatches.

I created swatches by painting tongue depressors with all my paint colors (and a few paint samples I had bought during my quest for the perfect wall colors).  First, I wrote the name and color number on each stick with ball point pen.  Then, I painted each side and let them dry.  I also stained a tongue depressor with a gray stain that I recently used on a project (post to come…).  Once they were all dry, my amazing swatch collection is ready.

Paint chips freshly painted with all the wall colors of my house

Paint chips freshly painted with all the wall colors of my house

The revelation in this project was using the perfect container – a plastic container that the packets for 2-qt crystal light comes in!  It is the perfect size for these sticks and there is room for fabric swatches or other inspiration items that I may need while shopping.

Paint Chips in Bottle

The paint chips in the convenient bottle, ready for a decorating adventure!

Happy decorating!


Backyard Update – Part 1

After a year in my new house, I am finally starting to update my backyard into something useable.  The builder, in typical builder style, just threw down some St. Augustine sod on their way to the final punch list.  That was fine, at least there was something out back.

My house is a 3-story single family home with a very small back yard – about 25’ wide by 18’ deep.  Enough for a small dog or patio or pergola, but nowhere near the backyard that most of the houses around me have.  It’s perfect for me, less to keep up so I’m happy.  Now it just needs to be usable.

Here is the starting point, pretty plain backyard with my A/C unit and small concrete pad off of my back door.

Backyard before any work started

Backyard before any work started

Another view of my backyard before any work started

Another view of my backyard before any work started

I’ve thought about a few different options include a wooden deck, concrete slab with tile, or concrete pavers and all of these with or without a pergola.  What about trees?  What about plants?  What about planter boxes? Edging options? Water features? Fire pits?  The blank canvas is overwhelming, so many options!

I finally decided to start with a paver patio.  My neighbor had a patio installed by Pablo of PR Construction in Houston, TX.  I really liked it and it fit our small back yards perfectly.  I got the recommendation and Pablo came and helped my plan my back patio.

I was originally thinking of something quite plain and straightforward – a rectangle of travertine.  After Pablo’s consultation, he convinced me to consider one of the multi-colored paver varieties in gray with a dark gray border.  We decided on a herringbone pattern for the main body with a soldier edge in dark gray.  Pablo was nice enough to drop off some samples while I was out of town so I could make sure everything matched my house paint color.  After I saw the pavers in person, I knew Pablo was right.  He started the installation, and…

My patio after PR Construction built a beautiful gray herringbone paver patio.

My patio after PR Construction (Houston, TX) built a beautiful gray herringbone paver patio.

I couldn’t be happier!!  Pablo installed everything in a day and a half and was professional, tidy, and helpful.    He answered any questions I had and recommended maintenance.  I couldn’t recommend him any more highly.  My neighbor has recently had Pablo come back for more work on his side yard.  Pablo is the unofficial paver of the neighborhood.

I know most of you may not be in the Houston area, but if you are I can’t recommend Pablo highly enough!


HoustonDIY Household Tips: Part 1

Hello everyone,

For this post, I thought I’d share a few household tips that my life a little easier.  I do a few simple things that are easy and super helpful.  Some are super simplistic, but I don’t apologize for that since some of the easiest things turn out to be the most helpful!

Tip #1:  Use bookends to help organize unruly tupperware.

As most of you have experienced, but tupperware cabinet is unruly at the best of times.  I take my breakfast and lunch to work, so my tupperware is in a constant state of flux.  I found something really simple to help me keep it in control.  I use a set of inexpensive bookends to keep the lids separated by size and organized.  These particular bookends were from Ikea and are small enough to fit in my small cabinets.

Tupperware organized with bookends

Here are my tupperware lids organized by simple bookends.

Tip #2:  Use toilet bowl cleaner to remove mildew stains on caulking in the shower

I have to thank my wonderful friend and neighbor Susan for this tip.  For those of you like me in an older house or condo without tiled and grouted showers, you’ll know about mildew stains on caulking.  Even if your shower is clean, an unsightly black stain can exist on the caulking.  To eliminate this easily, use toilet bowl cleaner with bleach.  Any brand will work as long as it contains bleach and is the thick kind that you usually dispense right under the rim of the toilet bowl.  For the shower, just apply the cleaner liberally to the caulking that is stained and allow to sit for at least 30 minutes.  Then, rinse liberally with water to remove all of the cleaner and voila!

Before and After of shower cleaning

Here is the before and after pics of my shower cleaned with toilet bowl cleaner.

Enjoy these tips.  There will be some more on the way soon!