DIY Top-down/Bottom-up Shades, Part 1.

Upon stumbling across a “Mini Blinds into Roman Shades” tutorial one evening, my wheels started turning.  Though Brian and I had been given two estimates on our quirky living room windows; we were discouraged that any treatments would cost more than we were interested in spending.  (One grand would have been the minimum.)

Maybe there’s something that I can do.

Our house was a model home in the 70’s.  Not only do we have a “conversation pit” complete with two built-in couches, but we also have both small and large diagonal-topped, floor-to-ceiling windows.  (I’m pretty sure our original shades are 40 years old.  Filthy.)

Once the thought came to mind of completing a DIY project, I kept upping my standards and turned this vision into a beast.

I don’t just want fabric Roman shades, I want bamboo

The bamboo tone is too light; it needs to be stained

The bamboo shades let in too much light; they need to be lined

The shades will look so much more polished if I sew dowel rod slots in the back instead of gluing the blind slats…

Home Depot doesn’t sell 36″ dowel rods; we’ll need to cut them ourselves…

The bamboo needs a splash of color; I need wide fabric ribbon to run up the sides…

Nobody sells perfect, wide fabric ribbon; I need to make that myself

I can’t very well sew this ribbon within the bamboo; I’ll have to superglue it down…

And so a two hour project turned into a three week project, consuming all of my free time away from work.

Had I simply chosen a beautiful fabric, this would have been a cinch.  As it is, I’m a square piece and regularly thwart ease and comfort in my life.

The steps to creating my perfect fabric:

  • Buy four roll-up bamboo shades at Big Lots.  Intentions: disassemble each one to use for its parts.
  • Stain the bamboo.
  • Tie the shades together to make two long shades.
  • Measure and pin burlap fabric to snugly line bamboo shades.
  • Iron and sew slots for dowel rods every so many inches.  (Finished, mine are about 13″ apart.)
  • Measure, cut, iron and sew old curtains to create wide ribbon.
  • Measure and place the ribbon so that it runs evenly on either side before gluing down with GEL superglue.  (I nearly had a stroke when our backup, “regular” superglue bled through the fabric.)  You might need some sweets to fuel this tedious task.  (Our tall window is over 10 feet high.)
  • Pin burlap to bamboo.
  • Sew burlap to bamboo with the toughest needles you can find.  Keep your sewing machine on a medium speed.  Anything too fast and you’ll bust a needle (or three).
  • To work with our diagonal top, I used more old curtains to create little valances.  First I measured how much fabric I’d need by using newspaper.

Once I cut a suitable piece of fabric, I pinned it to fit around the frame (kinda like fitting wrapping paper around a present).

I sewed the two corners and used velcro to attach the valance to the frame.

Next up:

How to make your own DIY Top-Down/Bottom-Up Roman Shades!


  1. Holy-Moley, Missie! That looks like one of those projects that takes tenacity and when it’s done, you’ll sit and stare at it with extreme contentment and a sense of satisfaction. Pat yourselves on the back! Can’t wait to see the finished product.

  2. March 11, 2012
    charles armstrong

    Wow, and I cannot wait till next weekend!

  3. March 11, 2012

    Wow, that’s quite a project! You always did like to tackle things head on. 🙂

  4. March 12, 2012
    Margaret Treadwell

    That is awesome, Suzy!

  5. March 14, 2012

    So how did you stain the blinds?

  6. April 15, 2014

    YOU JUST SAVED MY MARRIAGE!!!! I do home staging for a living. I am a DIY freak as well. When clients need custom…I am always shocked at how much money they spend without blinking an eye!!! I have wanted to do this sooooo long…but my husband has been, rightfully so, freaked out that I will buy the roll up shades and give up or blow up my Husqvarna…another had to have…and story! Bless you to infinity and beyond!!!! I can do this…well…you have given me hope that I can!!!!

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