101brett baraDIYdiy projectssewing 101

Sewing 101: Roller Blinds

by Grace Bonney

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!

Suggested For You


  • 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.

    • OH MY, you are awesome!! I don’t know if I can do this but I’ve been struggling to find a cool idea, and I’m going to try. I wouldn’t even mind sewing material to ( if I can figure that out) the existing shade and keeping it down most of the time. WHAT A BRILLIANT IDEA. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR SHARING IT!!! You’re brilliant! Thank you again, EDJ

    • I just found this post, so I’m sure you figured this out years ago, but if you didn’t (or for anyone else reading this now), the amount of fabric around your roller basically determines how far you can open the blind – let me explain. Most casements are 4″ deep (this applies to newer homes – my home, built in 1939, only hs about 3 ½”), so you have to make sure that when your blind is rolled completely up, it fits inside the casement with ample space between it and the window, otherwise, it won’t have enough space to roll up and down. I would recommend laying your fabric out on the original vinyl blind, temporarily with a non-permanent adhesive (two-sided tape, water-soluble glue, etc) so you can easily remove it if it’s too thick. Then manually roll the blind up all the way, and lay it centered on the sill of your window. Measure how much space you have between the blind and the window pane, while the blind is centered. If you have at least ½” clearance, you should be fine – if not, but you’re close, you may be able to move the hardware forward enough to compensate, but you want to make sure that the rolled up blind isn’t hanging outside your sill, because if it is, then it will be outside the casement when it’s hung, and will look awkward, in which case you’re better off skipping using the original roller blind altogether and just using your fabric. Also, the weight of your fabric is important, for two reasons: If you’re using the original roller blind and mounting the fabric to it, the roller mechanism may not be able to accommodate the extra weight – don’t use upholstery fabric, for example, even with a heavier blackout roller, because pulling the fabric down could actually pull the whole blind down. Fabric used by itself, however, has to be heavier (and somewhat stiff, but not starched-stiff), in order to hold it’s shape after being rolled up and down repeatedly and still look good (you still don’t want to use upholstery fabric tho – it’s still going to be too heavy, even on it’s own). Also, roller blinds come in other than white, and also in other than vinyl, so you’ll want to think about the color and fabric of the original roller blind in combination with your fabric – you may want to show off a darker pattern, perhaps, or maintain or increase your privacy level. For example, if you’re putting up a black patterned fabric, and the majority of your pattern is black, you can go with a darker roller blind, but if your black-and-white fabric is more white than black, you will want to stay with a white roller blind. Also, you wouldn’t want to use a textured roller blind if your fabric also has a texture – not just because of the contrast but also the increased thickness…

    • I don’t think so, but you can use iron on interfacing that will help keep them sturdy and stiff. I too made mine from a kit, and it was a roller with brackets along with the iron on interfacing. Only had to ad fabric.

  • 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.

  • 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.

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

  • 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

  • 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.

    • There is one downside to this option. The backside of the roller will now expose a portion of the Right Side of the fabric to the sun coming in the window. I live in San Diego and in no time…that exposed section of the shade will fade, and would show up when the shade is down. I did a mock up and realized this would happen. I am putting mine in the conventional way….it’s for a wide but short window in a shower. I’ll cover the exposed lining side of the roller with a simple sleeve on an adjustable rod. I also opted to line the shade and cut it a bit longer and wider for a cleaner back side edge.

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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?

    • I’m sure you’ve solved this by now, but if not, I replied on something similar to this under Liz’s question dated 1/28/12, above – if you’re still having problems, maybe that will help…

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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??

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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…..

  • 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!

  • 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 http://www.royaloakblinds.com royal oak blinds but i definitely want to try this project!

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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!

    • Katie, you won’t be sewing a traditional seam here – it’s more like working a jigsaw puzzle or putting together a scrapbook page – you’re going to manipulate your fabric so it looks like one solid piece, even though it isn’t. First of all, make sure you pick a lightweight cotton or linen fabric that doesn’t fray easily (no polyesters, as they stretch too easily, and you won’t be able to get it to lay right), with a repeating pattern that can easily be lined up – florals, or large checks are good. (It doesn’t matter if the pattern has a difference of even 6″ or 8″ in the repeat, you only need to worry about the part of the fabric that will fit within the dimensions of your blind (i.e. if your blind is 36″X48″ you may need two lengths of fabric that are at least 60″ long in order to match your pattern, but that’s ok, what isn’t inside that 36″X48″ area is scrap, might be 6″ above on one length of fabric and 6″ below on the other, that’s okay). Make sure you iron it before you start, and do not use starch (your adhesive will add some stiffness, and starch on top of that can a) keep the fabric from adhering to the adhesive, and b) make your vinyl/fabric combo too stiff to roll easily). Use spray adhesive (like 3M) on one side of the vinyl roller, and lay your fabric carefully over the adhesive, working any bubbles out from the center by gently lifting as you lay it out. Do only one side at a time, you’ll focus on the pattern matching with the second piece of fabric. Your selvage line should kiss, but not overlap – make sure there are no gaps between the two pieces of fabric, the entire length of your blind. When you’re done, leave it flat for a good 24 hours to ensure the adhesive is completely dry – you don’t want your blind to stick to itself when you roll it up. Attach the finished fabric to your roller and roll it up before you place your hardware – this way, you can ensure it’s centered in your window casing the first time. I posted a comment for Liz, above, that talks about how to determine if the fabric you want to use will work, her post is dated 2/28/2012 – you might want to read it as well, so you don’t end up doing a lot of work just to find your fabric is too thick for your window casing or too heavy for your roller hardware. Good luck, I’m excited for your project!

  • Wow, those blinds turned out really beautiful! I love the black, gray, and yellow fabric that you used! My husband and I have been wanting to get some roller blinds for the past few months now and I would love to use a unique fabric like you did! I don’t think I have the skills to make my own but thank you for sharing the process! Thanks for sharing!

  • I have an extra wide window and am thinking of using the fabric from a queen duvet cover and spray gluing it on. Anyone tried that? Would it work? Thanks.

  • Keeping the inside of the house and its residents is an important thing. Many people crave for privacy and looks to install curtains and other materials by which their privacy is maintained and better safety to the indoors are availed. Usually people will be troubled with the dust, smoke, light and heat from outside and look to restrict the entry of those elements into the house. It is not good to shut the doors and windows in order to get relief from such issues as you will be devoid of fresh air entering the room. Using the window blinds have been a most opted alternative by which the inside of the rooms can be protected along with better privacy.

  • I saved the rollers from old vinyl shades that had cracked, hoping I would find a way to make fabric shades. Thanks so much!

  • Just found this and am going to use these very straight forward instructions today. Most cheap bought blinds have a beaded roller. I am reusing old inherited blinds and can’t wait to get started. I know this is an old post but the instructions are so clear. Thank you so much!

  • Quite some time ago I made a roller blind, I soaked the fabric in some stiffener, hung it on the line to dry and why I ironed it it became very stiff. I cant remember what liquid I used. Can anyone help please. I don’t want to use spray or paint it on.


      • I will look at this thank you. I just know I mixed it with water before I soaked the fabric. I have used something since that did not mix with water and it was not as good. Next time I find something I would like I will write the name down.

        Again Thank You

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