Make your own fabric-covered roller shades, plus I do research to cut the kit price 30%

Based on a tip from reader Tony, I started prowling around the DIY videos from Rowley, a company that specializes in materials and hardware to make window treatments. I really liked the video below — which shows to how to make your own, custom fabric-covered window shades — just like the gorgeous shades that we saw in that fantastic Scarsdale, NY, time capsule house last fall. Not only does Rowley give us the video how-to, they have created a kit with everything you need to make these shades using any fabric of your  choice. I also researched the kit pieces — and found a way you might cut the kit price another 30%, especially if you have multiple windows to do.

I love cloth window shades for midcentury houses. And using the time capsule Scarsdale house as an example, you can see how great it looks with you repeat the fabric on the valence, upholstery, pillows, etc. Matchy matchy mid mod heaven — but timeless, really.

Laminated Shade Kit from RowleyDIY.com

The Rowley process includes applying a special adhesive on to a special, blackout shade backer, then rolling the fabric of your choice onto the backer, pretty much like you would apply wallpaper. You cut the finished product to size. It’s also stiff enough that you can cut out other decorative elements like scallops. In this example, the presenter also has added ball fringe.

Rowley offers a complete kit that provides all you need to get started making one shade. Along with adhesive and the shade backer, it includes a roller shade clutch system that you can use to install the finished shade. The kit is $99, which seems about… $40 too much to me, given this is all petrochemical products captured in material form.

If you want to avoid buying the entire kit, I did some research to see if you could piece everything together less expensively. Here’s what I have found so far:

  • Clutch kits from sailrite.com. The cheapest that I’ve found so far — not sure if there’s a quality difference, or how big that difference might be, manufacturer-to-manufacturer. (This is still too much money, I think for a bunch of plastic pieces. Can anyone find it cheaper, even piecemeal?)
  • Shade laminating adhesive, $11.49 for a pint, from DraperySewingSupplies.com. I *think* this might be Rowley, can’t read it, type too small, but I bet — because Rowley is also a big wholesaler.
  • Shade cloth is $60 for three yards or $100 for 10 yards, also from DraperySewingSupplies.com. I’m gonna bet this is also Rowley, wholesaled. If you can commit to several windows. I do not know enough about the laminating process to suggest whether another substrate would work.
  • Bottom line with this piecemeal plan — 10 yards shade cloth/5 clutch systems/2 pints of adhesive (enough ?): If you can commit to about 5 windows, you could get the materials (not including fabric) down to about $65 per window by my calculation vs. $100 each if you buy the kits.

One final thought: When I first moved into my house, I ordered cloth shades on a clutch system like this from Smith & Noble. They were not fabric covered — just one piece of special fabric that didn’t ravel on the edges. Each shade was at least $110, as I recall. If you want to do not want to do fabric-adhered-to-backer, you could craft even simpler shades using a fabric with edges that do not unravel. I am pretty sure I saw this at my big factory outlet. “Solar cloth” or something else you could repurpose. Then, just order the $41 clutch system, and you’re almost done. Alas: Yet another thing to scrounge for at estate sales: Roller shade clutch systems that can be repurposed. Please, though: Be sure to use them safely, study up on window treatment cord do’s and don’ts.

  1. Vanessa says:

    Has anyone tried buying the cheap vinyl roller shades and applying wallpaper to them? That way you wouldn’t have an issue with sewn edges. But I wonder if the heat would eventually make the wallpaper warp.

    Also, for those people looking for blackout blinds, JC Penny’s sells a line of blinds called Saratoga that you can order in custom widths. They’re vinyl, but they’re textured to look like fabric, and they come in several colors. They periodically go on sale for 50% off, and when they do, they’re really cheap – not much more than the cheap white Lowe’s ones (especially if you have a coupon code on top of that). I’m always tempted to order them, but I want something that lets the light through, and these don’t. Still, I wonder if the roller mechanisms are any better quality than the Lowe’s ones. It might be worth it just to cannibalize them. Has anyone tried them?

  2. Pat says:

    I went to Lowes and purchased cheap, cheap roller shades for about $11 with mounting hardware. I cut off the cheap plastic shade material and used my own fabric. I used this approach with linen on narrow windows that were about 27″ by 48″.

  3. Karen says:

    Does anyone know about the glue you use for lamiating the fabric to the plastic? Could it be just an water soluable glue such as Elmers? Rowley and Elmers both have information on there lables cautioning freezing! I would like to make a shade but need to purchase the glue from my neighborhood hardward store or JoAnn’s. Please help

  4. Marta says:

    If regular window shades won’t roll up, you can sometimes fix the problem by removing the spring end (rectangular metal piece) from the slot and carefully winding it and slipping it back into the slot.

  5. Donna Munshower says:

    Any suggestions for a 72″ wide window over a kitchen sink? I cannot figure out how to come up with a roller that will not sag. A roller shade would be the perfect solution for light control.

    1. pam kueber says:

      I think you would need to do several. Three. You could cover the hardware with a pretty fabric valance. Alternatively: Simple pleated shade. The kind that kind of accordian down.

      1. karen says:

        Or a Roman Shade (the kind that gathers up in folds at the top) — could also tuck into a valance, though they look pretty tidy by themselves, and sometimes have a top flap that hides the gathered shade. When down, the look is very similar to the look of a roller shade (you know, flat).

  6. Kirsten says:

    This past weekend I did three DIY roller shades for my home office using June Tailor No Sew Shade kits I picked up at JoAnn Fabrics (using a 40% coupon, they ended up being about $35 each). The kit includes an expandable bar (for windows between 26″ and 40″ wide), a clutch system (with safety attachment for cord), fusible interfacing, a wooden dowel for the bottom, and templates to make a decorative bottom edge. They are not blackout, however. The fabric attaches to the roller via strong double-sided tape that comes on it. I had no expectations, but they turned out fab – even without a valance (may consider adding a single valance that spans all windows). Like a wall of mod fabric! Not sure of the durability of the mechanism over time. They won’t be raised up that much in the room because I primarily wanted to block the view but still let in light.

  7. Ann-Marie Meyers says:

    My mother is the queen of window treatments in our family. I think I will talk this over with her. The ancient blinds in the alcove window in my living room failed completely this year and fell apart. There is a sheet hanging there now, and I have been unable to figure out what else to put there. The window is tucked between two bookcase cabinets leaving no room for any window treatments I have been able to think of. This may be the answer to my prayers!
    It is not a window that I would be opening or closing the shades on often, so the catches wouldn’t wear out soon.

  8. clampers says:

    Very neat. The valences are key. They make it look so pulled-together…almost makes me wish I had saved the old roller shades that came with the house. Although I do love my pinch pleats a lot. 🙂

  9. karen says:

    I’ve made fabric roller shades for our bedrooms and kitchen (6 in total) based on this tutorial:


    The shades I bought were cheap-o vinyl, maybe 4.99 each? The fabric was thrifted vintage sheets, and I used roller-shade fusible backing from the fabric store. That would make each shade cost about 10 or 12 dollars. The light is filtered beautifully, as opposed to “blacked-out” — it’s a lovely custom look, I think

    1. pam kueber says:

      Sounds good. I really like my clutch-driven roller shades, though — they make it so easy to move the shades up and down evenly vs. the old-fashioned kind. Also, I wonder about the edges “bulking up” if you sew them. In another story I did on this topic once, there also are fabric stiffeners if you choose to go with a fabric-only shade.

    2. Lisa says:

      Not a bad idea. But I think today I would upgrade on the blind itself because I have had some bad experiences lately with the cheap ones purchased at Lowes. I couldn’t get them to stay down and they wouldn’t wouldn’t roll all the way up like they are suppose to.

      With that said, it may be a wise idea to test the blinds first before applying the fabric.

Comments are closed.