Ask CRAFT: DIY Roller Shades

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Cybele writes in:

My question deals with pull shades. I want to make my own. There are so many lovely boutique fabrics out there right now, and I’d like to make some pull shades from them. Since we have a Victorian home (or should I say a really big Victorian restoration hobby…), pull shades are actually appropriate.

I am a knitter/seamstress/crafter so I get the basics of this project; trimming/edging/fusing a fancy fabric to probably a canvas, and adding a dowel on the bottom to attach a cording as a pull handle and attaching it to a larger top dowel with a spring. However, when I look at the pull shade kits out there, I see these things with really ugly plastic cording and roller parts. I don’t want to use those; I would rather make the whole thing from scratch, wooden doweling, springs… or find a kit that has the original, simple top parts. But how does the main top part work? My next step was to look for an old shade and tear one apart (don’t have one, so I’d have to beg, borrow or steal…), but thought I’d ask you first. Do you have any pointers or links to help me out?

What I can offer you is a compendium of links for your project. I’ve never re-done or made my own roller shades before, but it seems like you have the two options you mentioned above: either use a roller shade bracket/spring kit with your own other materials, or replace the fabric on an existing roller shade. Here are the resources I managed to find, in order of relevance:

It seems difficult to find a hardware kit for the spring-type roller shades, so I’d recommend taking apart an existing one if you really can’t make the bead chain type work in your favor. Follow one of the tutorials for taking the thing apart, and examine the parts. If you can’t live with the plastic parts, you might try spray painting them or recreating them in wood (which would be super hardcore, go for it!). You likely don’t have a metal shop in which to make the precision bracket system and other little metal parts, so keep those from the shade you take apart. Like you said, replacing the fabric is the easy part of this project. You might try searching eBay for vintage pull shades, but as usual, it’s hit-or-miss. Please share your results with us! If you have additional tips or guidance for Cybele, share in the comments below!

4 thoughts on “Ask CRAFT: DIY Roller Shades

  1. Kelly says:

    …and didn’t have good luck with it. I used the existing roller and replaced it with plain white canvas. It turned out very wonky, and the canvas was a bit too thick for the roller (something you might want to think about if you are planning on fusing fabric to canvas, which would be even bulkier). I do advise coming up with some way to stop the edges from fraying without doing a traditional fold-over hem – the bulk of that is no good for this project.
    If I were to do it again, it would have to be for a room where a little light was acceptable, and I’d use just regular cotton fabric. And a lot of starch. And fray-check on the edges.
    Just my 2-cents.

  2. Sandra Kathryn says:

    When the previous tenant moved out of my rental ( a craft sewer) she had left behind at the bedroom windows, homemade pull shades. The fabric was plain medium weight cotton of a funky multi blues and white floral to match the wall paint. The side edges were zigzagged and the bottom sported a wide band of satin that seemed heavy enough without the use of a dowel. I’ve raised and lowered many times, they work easily and wind straight. The roller however, looks like a craft thing and not one that was torn apart. I have no idea where she got that (the reason I’m here, scowering the web looking for it) but it appears to have a slot to slide the fabric across. Maybe the top of the fabric is thickened by multiply fold overs or a pocket sewn in that has a plastic strip…? I would have to take them down and apart to know. But they are really pretty and I plan on leaving them for the next tenant. So the above poster has addressed the issues of bulk correctly I think based on these shades. I’m off to keep looking for this special roller.

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Becky Stern is a Content Creator at Autodesk/Instructables, and part time faculty at New York’s School of Visual Arts Products of Design grad program. Making and sharing are her two biggest passions, and she's created hundreds of free online DIY tutorials and videos, mostly about technology and its intersection with crafts. Find her @bekathwia on YouTube/Twitter/Instagram.

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