DIY Blackout Shades–Part 1

Charlotte@Living Well on the Cheap  —  June 13, 2012 — 5 Comments

Well, I didn’t completely finish the blackout shades yesterday as I’d hoped, but I did get one finished. And now that I know what I’m doing I feel confident that I’ll be able to finish numero dos in no time. It all started long, long ago when I came across this tutorial from Little Green Notebook on turning cheapo miniblinds into fabric roman shades. I said to myself, self, you will use this someday, so keep it in the back of your brain. Yesterday morning after I published my post for the day I took a few minutes to rest before pulling up Jenny’s tutorial to pour over every detail. Once I felt like I knew what I was doing, I got started.

Step one: Gather supplies (I did this step ahead of time). For this project I used two cheap pairs of miniblinds at Lowe’s for about $5 each and a big canvas dropcloth that I think was only about $10. My original idea was to use two layers of dropcloth to make my shade completely lightproof, but that didn’t work out. More on that later.

Step two: let the blinds out all the way. It’s surprisingly difficult to open blinds when they’re not hanging up. I ended up having to stand on a chair and let gravity do the work.

Then, I took my scissors up the whole thing and cut all of those thing little strings that make the blinds tilt open or closed. Be careful to avoid the thicker lift cord! Muy importante.

The slats are now freed from their bonds and can slide willy-nilly up and down the pull cord.

I used a flat-head screwdriver to remove the little plastic buttons on the very bottom piece so that I could take it off and get rid of most of those slats.

I probably spent more time on this next step than anything else: figuring out how long I wanted my shade to be, how many folds it should have, and how far apart those should be placed. Eventually I decided that since my window is 65″ tall I’d make the shade 66″ just to be safe, and I would have six folds placed 11″ apart. So I got rid of all but three slats and then used my tape measure to make sure the spacing worked well before replacing the plastic bar at the bottom.

Then, I got out my dropcloth. This is when I started to realize I would have to deviate from my original plan. I’d forgotten that long ago when I bought these supplies my idea was to use leftover dropcloth that had been dyed gray for the wing chairs as one side of the lining, but I ended up not having enough. Not only was two layers of regular undyed dropcloth not nearly as lightproof as plain+gray, but my 6×9 dropcloth was not quite large enough to yield four shade-sized pieces. I decided to soldier on and wait for inspiration to strike. I figured the worst case scenario was that I’d have to go buy another dropcloth.

Since these won’t ever be thrown in the wash I decided not to bother with pre-washing the fabric. I cut a piece of dropcloth slightly larger all around than my blinds, then threw it in the dryer for a bit and ran a hot iron over it to release most of the creases it had from packaging. I was kind of annoyed to realize at this point that my dropcloth had a seam in it (how did I miss that during cutting?), but I decided to just place it near the bottom of the shade where it would be folded up most of the time anyway.

Then I laid the blinds out on top of the fabric and started using craft glue to stick the two together, starting at the top. Jenny’s tutorial says you can use any kind of fabric or craft glue as long as it’s not hot glue, which I guess would maybe melt the plastic slats. I left the very ends unglued at the top so that the bar could slide into the mounting hardware.

Then I just worked my way down, gluing each slat to the fabric at its designated placement. I put the side of the slat that curved outwards towards the fabric so there’d be more surface area to glue. I was careful not to get any glue on the pull cords, and when I got to the bottom I just wrapped the fabric neatly around the plastic bar, glued, and trimmed.

If you didn’t care about adding some sort of light-blocking lining you could just fold over and glue down the outside edges and be done at this point. But since the whole point of my shades was to block the light I had a little more work to do. Luckily, I’d come up with an idea. I didn’t want to use traditional blackout lining because it’s at least $8/yard and I would need 2-3 yards of it. But I tested leftover navy blue cotton from the crib skirt with a layer of dropcloth in front of a window and found that it was pretty darn lightproof. So I got the idea to go on the hunt for a very, very dark colored twin flat sheet (the dimensions would be perfect for lining the back of two shades). When I went out to physical therapy yesterday afternoon I stopped by Burlington Coat Factory in the hopes of snagging a cheap flat sheet. Unfortunately, all their sheets came in sets and there were no twin sizes in the color I needed anyway, but I did find this set of curtain panels for $18.

Perfect! The dark gray color was so lovely that by the time I got home I’d convinced myself that I should scrap the dropcloth altogether and line both sides of the shades with this stuff. There was certainly more than enough fabric there. But when I got it out of the package I realized that the thin sateen texture probably would not work well on its own. I was secretly relieved to not have to undo all the progress I’d already made with the dropcloth.

Again, I skipped prewashing and went straight to cutting my fabric to size, then gluing it to the back of the shade. I took advantage of the finished hem at the top as a place to start from, then just worked my way down gluing the gray fabric to every slat. Just like with the dropcloth I took care not to accidentally glue down the pull-cord.

When I got to the bottom I just trimmed away some of the excess, folded it under neatly, and glued.

Then I trimmed the sides of the dropcloth to be a little more straight and even and glued them down so that they folded over the edges of the gray lining.

And with that, my work for Day One was done. Nick was home from work and I wanted to let the glue cure up for a little longer before having him hang it up, so I gave him fair warning that I’ll need him to hang miniblinds for me when he gets home from work today and retired to the couch. I’m sooooo nervous about hanging it up today. Jenny made it look so easy in her tutorial but I worry mine might fall apart once it’s got gravity to contend with. I’m booked up all this afternoon with doctor appointments so I really really hope I can get the second shade knocked out before lunch. I’m so excited to see how it all turns out!

Charlotte@Living Well on the Cheap


5 responses to DIY Blackout Shades–Part 1

  1. Jessica Potts June 13, 2012 at 9:31 am

    Great minds think alike. I just did Roman shades like this a week ago!

    • Charlotte@Living Well on the Cheap June 13, 2012 at 9:39 am

      How fun! Did yours turn out pretty sturdy? I’m not feeling all that confident in mine so far.

      • Jessica Potts June 13, 2012 at 9:47 am

        They are pretty sturdy, but at the same time, mine let a lot of light in. I just used fabric that I liked and didn’t take into consideration that I probably needed to do a blackout shade with it. I need to put in some kind of shade or blind behind the Roman shade otherwise I’m going to have a blindingly bright nursery in the am hours and an equally bright-eyed baby girl. I’m starting to wonder why I decided to make almost everything in the nursery myself . . . Your nursery for Jack is coming along beautifully, and I’m loving keeping up with your progress!

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

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    [...] DIY Blackout Shades Part 1 [...]

  2. DIY Blackout Shades–Part 2 | Living Well on the Cheap - September 6, 2012

    [...] of these shades from a dropcloth and some inexpensive miniblinds, you can read all about it here TweetRelated PostsLook Ma, No [...]

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