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.
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.