Sewing 101: Roller Blinds

I love roller blinds for their functionality (privacy and light blockage are there when you want it, gone when you don’t), but they’re not always the most exciting thing to look at. (Plain sheet of white vinyl? Snore.) But here’s a simple way to snazz up the situation — sew your own, using a hacked purchased blind as a base.

I think fabric blinds have a minimalism that’s really chic, and they allow you to use bold prints that could be too much in a full-on curtain. Best of all, you can start and finish this project in just a couple hours, so a window makeover is just an afternoon away. Let’s roll! –Brett Bara

CLICK HERE for the full roller blind how-to after the jump!

What You’ll Need:

heavy-duty roller blinds (including necessary hardware to hang them)

medium-weight fabric (determine how much you’ll need in Step 2)

all-purpose thread to match your fabric

measuring tape

sharp scissors

L-square or yard stick OR cutting mat, rotary cutter and straight edge


sewing machine

double-sided tape (optional)

1. Choosing a fabric

Sturdy, medium-heavy fabrics (such as light canvas, cotton twill or decor-weight cottons) work best for this project. A somewhat stiff fabric is preferable over something softer, as the stiff fabric will roll up more successfully than flimsier choices.

If you have your heart set on a lightweight fabric, I’d suggest lining it with fusible interfacing to give it more body and stiffness.

Although I haven’t tried it, stiff sheer fabrics (like the sheer panels sold at Ikea) would probably work well here too.

2. Hack, Install, and Measure

One important thing to note is that you should choose a heavy-weight roller blind (sometimes labeled “maximum light blocking,” or similar). The spring mechanism in lighter blinds isn’t always strong enough to support the weight of a fabric shade, so I suggest playing it safe and going heavy-duty.

Install the original (pre-hacked) blind in your window following the manufacturer’s instructions. Note the direction the blind rolls (ie, with the blind rolling from the back or the front of the roller), as well as which end of the roller goes to the left and right. You’ll need to plan your blind so that it rolls in exactly the same way.

Remove the vinyl shade from the purchased roller blind and reserve it for another use. (I gave mine to a friend who is going to use it as a drop cloth when painting.) Also remove the dowel or plastic bar from the bottom of the blind, and set it aside (you’ll use it later).

Measure the roller bar from end to end, just inside the caps on each end. Add 1″ to this length for measurement A.

Also measure the distance from the roller bar to the spot where you would like the blind to fall, and add 9″ to this length for measurement B.

3. Cut the Fabric

Cut a piece of fabric that’s as wide as A and long as B.

It’s important to cut the fabric straight and even, so that the blind will hang straight. This is probably the trickiest part of this project, so take a little extra care to be sure you’ve got it really straight.

To get a good, straight cut, use the selvedge edge of your fabric as a guide — you can count on the selvedge edge to be straight, so if you work from that line, you’ll be on the right track.

If you have access to one, I highly recommend a rotary cutter, cutting mat, and straight edge for this job, as these tools make it really easy to cut perfectly straight lines and right angles. If you don’t have these, you can use an L-square or a yard stick to mark straight lines.

Make the first cut along the selvedge edge, then measure from that line to make the remaining cuts, being careful to cut right angles so that all edges will be straight.

4. Sew the Sides

Turn under the long side edges 1/2″ and press. (Note: only turn the fabric under once, not twice as you would normally do. It’s best to avoid extra bulk in the seams so that the blind will roll up neatly, and a double-fold would case more bulk. This does mean that the raw edge of the fabric will be visible on the back side of the curtain, but what the heck, live dangerously!)

Sew along the side seams, stitching close to the folded-under raw edge.

5. Hem the Bottom

Next, turn under the bottom edge 1/2″ and press, then turn it under another 1 1/2″ and press again. Stitch in place, sewing close to the interior fold. (Note: the sides of the hem will stay open, which creates a sleeve for inserting the dowel at the bottom of the blind.)

6. Attach the Blind

To attach the fabric blind to the roller mechanism, place the fabric right-side up on a work surface. (The cutting mat works great here, as you can use the grid lines to be sure you’re aligning everything evenly.) It’s important to be sure the roller is aligned perfectly straight at the top edge of the fabric, so that the fabric will roll evenly. (Also take a moment here to be sure your fabric will be rolling in the correct direction, as you noted in Step 2.)

On the blinds I purchased, there was adhesive left on the roller from where the vinyl had been attached, and it was strong enough to hold my fabric panel. If that’s not the case for you, apply a strip of double-sided tape to attach the fabric to the roller.

Then simply roll the fabric onto the roller.

7. Hang the Blind

Pop your blind back into the hardware you installed earlier.

8. Insert the Dowel

Insert the dowel (which you removed earlier from the hacked blind) into the pocket and you’re done!

  1. Emily says:

    Such a great project! They turned out awesome!

  2. Carrie says:

    I am planning on making roller shades for a teen’s bathroom window. I have made roller shades years and years ago with a kit. I bought the correct width of window shades for the rollers. When I installed the brackets, I put them in reverse. That way the roller itself was hidden and when rolled up would appear like a valance. Now I am searching for a kit again. I’m not sold on hemming the edges because of the bulk it may create. Oh and when I attached the fabric to the roller, I just used heavy tape like packing tape.

  3. Jane says:

    This is inspiring…thanks!!

  4. liz says:

    Can you fuse fabric onto the vinyl shade and rehang?

  5. Sheri says:

    I have used wall paper glued to the shade. Works great too

  6. Sara says:

    Curious about the wallpaper — what kind of glue did you use? what kind of wallpaper? and did it roll well? seems like it might be too stiff? I have fabric roller blinds that were custom made for me, and the maker used fabric glue on the edges to prevent fraying, rather than hemming them. it has held up beautifully for 10 years, but i used heavy weight, almost upholstery weight fabric. they are gorgeous, like wall hangings. i have some vinyl blackout blinds in the bedroom, ugly but bought because i am light sensitive — i would like to try the spray adhesive option — i.e. glue fabric down to the vinyl. if anyone has any tips or experience with this, i would love to hear it.

  7. Hilary says:

    Just came across this tutorial. I think it’s a great idea and the instructions are so clear with great pictures.
    A couple of things, in response to some others comments/questions.
    1. Using spray starch would stiffen a flimsy fabric.
    2. You can also buy double sided fabric that has no wrong side such as batiks. This would eliminate the problem of the back side of the fabric showing at the top of the blind.
    Can’t wait to get started.

  8. Allison G says:

    Does anyone have experience with painting the existing vinyl on roller shades? Thinking of using a stencil to jazz up existing roller.

  9. janai says:

    this idea is great! I too like the layered look. Like you said too flimsy to roll up, so why not put the sheer on a tension rod? I’m also a little OCD so the top of the rooler shade I would cover with a simple sleeved valance made out of a coordinating patter or color. To dress it up add a strand of tassles, pearls or beads or fringe.. cannot wait to do this! Thanks for the idea

  10. Carol says:

    Attach the shade to the roller backwards. Then switch the hardware that holds the roller. i.e. instead of slotted bracket on the left, put it on the right etc. You’ll now have a finished looking product without ever looking at the lining again.

  11. Rita May says:

    I agree with Carol.
    the top of the roller should be installed the other way. of course you would have needed to attach the fabric, so the only the right sides show and the top roller is not being seen so much. Like a roll of toilet paper or paper towels, the fabric should roll over the top not from behind. The rest of the instructions were very helpful. Thank you.

  12. Evon Barrera says:

    You can also try painting your exsisting shades or adding wallpaper to them.

  13. Emma Amborn says:

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I knew this was possible but every tutorial I saw for it before made it look like the most complicated thing in the world. The horrible plain white blinds that came with my apartment are getting changed pronto. Now just to decide on the right fabric. Oh, the possibilities. And it’s so easy and fairly inexpensive I can have a summer blind and a winter blind. Again, thank you!

  14. Jacquie M. says:

    You can paint your vinyl blinds with latex paint to match your walls and stencil them. I did this in my childrens rooms in the 80’s and the paint is still in great shape after all these years. I’ve wiped them down and vacumed them because I also trimmed them in my daughter’s room with lace and a big beautiful dragonfly brooch. I’m sure oil based paint would work too. I just rolled open the blinds on my ping pong table on drop sheet and rolled the paint on and let it dry well and then hot glued the trim on and they were done.

  15. Gail A. says:

    Just a thought for those with wide windows….I ended up buying a patterned cotton fabric shower curtain (72″ x 72″) for my 70″ wide window. Cost $29 at Winners instead of $25 meter for double wide fabric. Going to attach the hardware backwards so the ‘wrong side’ rolls up behind. And snip off the side seams (too narrow and thick I’m guessing) and try spray on fabric stiffener to set the edge. Fingers crossed.

  16. Jessica says:

    I just applied a medium weight fabric onto a light blocking roller shade using spray adhesive. I hung it and…it won’t roll up. Any ideas?

  17. katie says:

    Why not leave the roller shade on and just use simple spray adhesive to it with the fabric then your fabric won’t be shone to the outside world and will have double the privacy! much neater. My mother always taught me that proper etiquette is to back your curtains with white fabric!

  18. Suzanne says:

    An even easier way to do this is to leave the vinyl on the roller and with Modge Podge, glue the fabric right onto it. Spread a layer of Modge Podge onto the vinyl, then place the fabric that you have cut the exact same size as the vinyl on and smooth out air bubbles. You can treat the edges with no fray if you wish. Then paint a coat of modge podge onto the fabric and let this dry. Put your blind back into the brackets and you have a professional window treatment that you can accessorize to the room. And when you tire of it, you can just peel the fabric off and put a different one on. BONUS: if you wash the fabric that you peel off, it can actually be used for something else.

  19. Betsy says:

    I’ve been planning to do this with my 72″ wide windows, and could not locate any roller shades (ready-made) other than the thick vinyl black-outs at Lowes and Home Depot. The recommended Walmart cheapies are not available larger than about 38″! I finally gave up and ordered discount polyester shades from online, which I intend to glue the fabric onto. I need a small amount of light to filter through. Did anyone find a long-roller shade available in a store??

  20. Vanessa says:

    These are so cute! I can’t wait to try and make them! Where did you find that fabric?

  21. Michelle Rafferty says:

    I can’t wait to try this out. I have two questions, I’m in the uk but can you get blind kits for large windows and two I have see a reversible curtain fabric I like. how will I finnish the edges so I can hang them either way as curtains. thankyou

  22. jeanne says:

    To do both sides so u dont see the back of one fabric is to do a pillow case system, just sew to pieces together, but should be a lighter weight fabric and use double stick tape to put together to put on roller shade, or u could use duct tape too. if your fabric is heavier, u will need to move your shade down some to make room for the fabric on the shade. very nice idea to add color and patern to a room.

  23. Trying to be DIY says:

    Thanks for the modge podge tip Suzanne! Have not used it since elementary or middle school. I am excited to try this. Although there are many things to dislike about Walmart – I thought I would share that they do have really affordable fabric options. ESP cute fabrics for kids’ rooms.

  24. emily says:

    Yay! Putting together my baby boy nursery, and I love Ikea’s sheer roller, but my problem with that, and all other stores I’ve looked at, the sheer vinyl only go up to 48″, and his window is 52″. Anything over that is either light blocking or super expensive outdoor shades. I wanted it to be light filtering, because I’m putting it behind the curtains, but its such a huge window, I don’t want the curtains to be just open all the time, but they are black out, so they need to be open during the day. This is a huge life saver!

  25. This is the great idea to make our room best presentable. Thanks for sharing.

  26. I like your idea, as I found it cheaper and affordable than buying new blinds from the stores.

  27. Nancy B. says:

    I have been wanting to do this project since finding and old linen roller shade in my basement. This is the best hack ever – I just made the first shade (I need to make 11 so…) as a practice in unbleached muslin and I love it! I think I will make them all like that and thinking of using fabric paint or bleaching out a pattern. Will let you know how that goes! Many thanks for the wonderful instructions.

  28. Sorin Papuc says:

    Fantastic post!!! This is a super interesting new for a great presentation of our blinds in the house… It is very beneficial for me.

  29. must try, look fantastic :)

  30. abby evankow says:

    thanks for your great, clear instructions – I want to make mine out of muslin – any suggestions on how to make them removable so I can wash them? I’m assuming repeated use will get them dirty before too long…..

  31. Debs says:

    Sorry if this has been asked before but I plan to make a roller blind using oil cloth for my bathroom and was wondering if I cut the material to match the inside width of the window or whether I need to hem it along the sides? I think this may make it too bulky….

    I was also wondering whether the fabric may curl at the sides due to humidity etc. and if I should stiffen the back of the fabric somehow?

    Any advice would be great thanks!

  32. Ashley says:

    These DIY blinds are so cool! Definitely looks like a project that I could and would do. The place I use for blinds is so inexpensive I usually don’t DIY this part of my home royal oak blinds but i definitely want to try this project!

  33. This ended up looking like something you’d buy at a store! This is too cool. I’m going to have to try this, but with a mandala pattern tapestry. It would save me a ton of money, too :) Thanks for sharing!

  34. Sunny says:

    How did you mount the sheer panels behind the patterned blinds?

  35. Valerie says:

    I used Velcro to attach my fabric to the roller I have 2 sets of shades and can use the same roller easy to remove the shades for washing and changing seasonally.

  36. Katie says:

    I am looking at doing a window wider than my fabric length and will therefore need a seam in the middle of my roller blind. Is this possible to do? I am concerned about the roller feeding smoothly and also that the seam will show without a lining material?
    Any advice would be great – thank you!


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