I want to make sure that you read that up there. Did you see it? NO SEW. For real. You don’t need any sewing skills whatsoever to make a blackout shade for your windows at home. If you can cut and glue, you can make this shade, friends.
A little story: When Little Man was a baby, he was not a good sleeper. We had originally gotten some brown shades for his nursery, which kinda sorta blocked out some light, but didn’t make the room terribly dark. Now, if you have ever had a baby who doesn’t sleep, you know that you will try ANYTHING to get them to sleep. So for a while, I literally had blackout fabric velcroed all around the windows in his room. It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t good for opening the windows to let light in. But it was DARK. Lol.
Then before Bean was born, I found some really nice blackout shades from Pottery Barn. They work fantastic for both blocking light and for, you know, opening windows and I love them. But do you know what they weren’t? Cheap.
Then one day, I was poking around Pinterest and found a tutorial for turning some cheapo blinds into a Roman shade. I repined it, tucking it away for some future use. Sometime later, I was redoing my craft/guest room and looked at the grody old blinds that were in the window when we’d bought the house, and I remembered the pin. I knew I wanted to try it out, but that I wanted to take it a step further and make them blackout shades, so when I have guests they can sleep in if they choose.
And then I planned to share this with you a long time ago, but it was during that time (before keto) that I was struggling so hard with energy and I never made it. So I decided this week was the week to finally share it! And then I went to find that great post I used to learn the basics so I could share it with you and TRAGEDY! It no longer exists! And I didn’t take pictures of the whole process because that post was so thorough and amazing that I wanted to give her the credit due her and just show you how to make it a blackout shade.
Luckily, I’m skilled in the art of Google-Fu and found another similar tutorial, but I won’t make the mistake of relying completely on someone else’s content (lest it disappear) and I’ve created some visuals for you as well. Phew, ok, let’s get started.
What You’ll Need:
- Mini Blinds. The cheap kind works just fine.
- Decor Fabric, large enough to cover your window, plus extra for seam allowances and a valance.
- Blackout Fabric
- Liquid Stitch Glue
- Scissors, or preferably a rotary cutter and mat.
The very first thing you need to do is determine how large you need your shade to be. If you’re using new blinds that are not already mounted to your window, mount them first. You’ll take them down again, but mounting will be easier now than later and it will help you get accurate measurements. You need the width of your blinds at the widest (include the top and bottom pieces when determining the widest part) and the length. The length you need is actually going to be from the top of the first mini blind down to the bottom of the bottom piece. If your blinds are longer than you want your shade to be, measure to where you want it to land. You can cut off the excess later in the process. Write down these measurements to refer to them later. Make sure you buy fabric that is large enough to cover the area you’ve just measured, plus seam allowance and enough for the valance as well.
You’ll also need to determine how far apart you want your folds to be once your shade is pulled up. The rule of thumb for the distance between folds is approximately 10 inches, but you’ll want to make sure yours are evenly divided along the length of your window, so adjust accordingly. Mine are 9.5 inches apart. I also made my valance the same length, but you can make yours a bit shorter if you like.
Preparing the Fabric
Ok, so here’s the first of my fancy visuals, since I didn’t take photos of this part. If you prefer looking at actual photos, I’ll refer you again to this tutorial.
The next step is to cut your fabric to the right size. You’ve measured from the top mini blind to the very bottom of the shade already. You’ll need that number as well as the measurement of the width of your blinds. So, now you need to add on the amount of seam allowance you want. I chose to have 1/2 inch seam allowances on each side, and 1 inch on the bottom. But wait! I also wanted the fabric to be 1/2 inch wider on each side than the blinds themselves and also 1 inch longer so that the blinds didn’t show at all. So, if you’re following along, you need to add 1 inch to each side (for a total of 2 inches in width addition,) and 2 inches to the bottom. Add 2 inches to your measurement in each direction and you’ll be golden.
Iron your fabric first, then cut to the size we just determined in the previous step. I recommend using a rotary cutter and mat if you have one, as it’s just a lot easier to cut really straight lines this way. But you can also use a good pair of scissors. If your fabric has a repeating pattern, it might be helpful in keeping your lines straight, but be aware that patterns are not always printed straight! It’s more important to keep straight to the weave of the fabric as best you can as this will make sure it hangs well.
Next, you need to fold over your seams. I measured 1/2 inch from each side and 1 inch from the bottom and marked it with a fabric pen in several places. You do not need to do anything to the top of the fabric as it will not show on the finished product.Then I folded it under, ironing it along the lines to get a really nice straight sharp seam. At the corners, you can trim the fabric at a 45 degree angle to get rid of excess fabric. Then I glued it! Use a small amount of glue so it doesn’t get messy. Allow to dry 24 hours. Now your fabric is ready.
Preparing the Blinds
Now you’ll need to disassemble your blinds. At the bottom of your blinds, you’ll find some clip-in pieces (mine looked like this, but they can vary in appearance.) Pop them right out, and untie the string you find inside.
As you can see in the picture above, there are 2 types of strings that go through the mini blinds. One (in black above) goes through the center holes of the blinds. It’s thicker. The other (in red above) goes in front of and behind each blind, and then connects between each blind. It’s thinner. You want to cut away all of the ladder string* but do not cut the cord string. I repeat do not cut the cord string.
*See my note later about maybe leaving the top mini blind slat attached with the ladder cord*
Ok, after you have that done, remove the bottom piece of the blinds, and then remove all the mini blinds except the number needed to create the number of folds you’ve determined you need for your shade, making sure you count the one needed at the very top. Once you have the correct number of blinds left on the cords, place the bottom piece back on and make sure your blinds are the right length for your window, the length you determined at the beginning. Tie the cords again (cut off excess if necessary) and replace the clip-in pieces you removed before. Remove the wand that flips the blinds up and down at this point as well.
Putting It All Together:
Above you’ll see how to set up your blinds and fabric. Lay the fabric down, wrong side up. Lay the blinds on top, front side down. Line up the top of your fabric with the top of the top mini blind. This is where things differ for the blackout shade vs. the other tutorials. You can’t glue the front fabric to the very top of the blinds, on the top bar. In the other tutorials, the pull cord ends up behind the fabric, which is fine except that we’re putting blackout fabric on the back, so here it won’t work.
So lay the fabric and blinds down as shown, and then arrange each mini blind according to how far apart they need to be. It may be helpful to mark on your fabric with pencil where each blind needs to hit.
Now you can glue!
So the other tutorials I looked at said “make sure to glue on the curved side of the blind.” Um. Both sides are curved! You want the glue on the convex side as pictured above. 😉 But don’t get glue on the cord! The cord needs to move freely in order to move the shade up and down. So keep the glue a safe distance from the holes the cord goes through or you’ll be sad. Let dry 24 hours.
Now, since we could not glue the fabric to the top bar of the blinds, and since we had to cut away the ladder cord, there’s not actually anything keeping the top blind where it needs to be. I think that you could probably cut the ladder cord just to the bottom of the top mini blind and leave the part connecting the top blind to the top bar, but it didn’t occur to me until too late so I can’t confirm.
So what I did to fix this is just to take a few lengths of thread and tied the top blind around this piece inside the top bar. The one tricky part here is that you need to make sure it ends up the same length on each side or your shade will hang crooked.
Adding the Blackout Fabric
The blackout fabric part is way easier than the front. The blackout fabric does not fray, so you don’t need to hem it. Cut it to the measurements you determined at the beginning, but only add 1 inch width and length to the first measurement. You want your blackout fabric slightly narrower and shorter than your front fabric so it doesn’t show.
Once the blackout fabric is the right size, all you need to do is glue! Apply glue to the concave sides of the mini blinds and press your blackout fabric into it, again avoiding the cords. As you can see in the photo above, I opted to put my blackout fabric right up to the top bar, even though my front fabric isn’t up that high. We’re creating a valance, so this won’t show, but it does help to make the shades black out as much light as possible. Let this dry for 24 hours.
Making the Valance
To make the valance, start by determining what size you want your valance. You’ll make it the same width as you made your front fabric, but there’s a little leeway for the length you want. I made mine the same size as the folds of my shade, but you can also make them shorter. You’ll need to add 2 inches to the length to account for a 1 inch seam allowance on both the top and bottom.
Iron and then glue the seams like you did with the front fabric, with 1/2 inch on each side, and 1 inch on the top and bottom.
Then you need to cut a piece of blackout fabric to line the valance with. I cut mine to be 1 inch shorter and 1/2 inch narrower than the final hemmed front valance piece.
Center it and glue along the edges.
Then you can glue the valance directly to the top piece of the blinds like you see above. Your pull cords should be where you see them above. Once the valance is attached, the pull cord will hang between the valance and main shade. Flip this over and allow it to dry upside down so the weight of the blinds holds the valance in the right place.
Allow this to dry for 24 hours, and then you can mount it using the mounting brakets that came with the blinds. The new shade should not interfere with the mounting system at all.
Here’s the final product! As you can see, it pulls up just like a regular roman shade.
If you look at it from underneath, you’ll see that that blackout fabric creates folds on the other side of the shade. This probably isn’t how most blackout shades look from the underside, but it isn’t noticeable at all and it functions perfectly.
Here’s what it looks like pulled down.
This picture is a little silly, but I wanted you to get a feel for how well it works to block out the light. You can see some little slivers of light coming out from the sides, but it’s very minimal. It blocks out as much (if not more) light than the ones we got from Pottery Barn. And all it cost me was the cost of the decor fabric and the glue, as I already had the blinds and blackout fabric. Even if you had to buy all the materials, it’s still probably cheaper.
And you see that snow out there? It’s not from this year. It’s not even from last winter. It’s from the winter before. That’s how long ago I made these. And they’ve held up very well. The glue has held through many (literal!) ups and downs and they look just as good today as the day I made them. I’ve been really happy with them!
What do you think? Would you take on a project like this?