Introduction: Sliding Patio Shade

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To make our patio more comfortable on sunny days, I made a couple of sliding shades from materials you can find at many building supply stores. I can draw the shades closed when needed, and open them when I don't need them (like when there's a roaring fire in the fire pit below)! We have been using these shades for about three months with great results.


Step 1: Design

From the photos, you can see the idea I had in mind to cover a rectangular area of the patio with two shades. Each shade would be supported on a series of tubes and each tube would be suspended from a wire at two points. The sketch shows an outline of the house and the patio area where the shade would be built.

Step 2: Build a Frame

I have a fence on one side of the patio and my house on the other, so I used the steel fence posts to support 8-foot 4x4 posts and ran a 2x4 across the top so I could choose where to attach the steel rope, without having to locate each end exactly where the steel fence posts were.

Step 3: Hang Guide Wires

As I drew the wires in red in the prior sketch, I intended to use a single steel rope, starting at the house and zig-zagging to the frame and back through eye bolts and finishing back at the house. I also threaded the rope through the eye-bolts which would later be attached to the tubes. For the final tightening, I used a turn-buckle.

Step 4: Cut and Drill Tubes

I cut the tubes to my chosen lengths and drilled two holes through each at the points where I would fasten the eye bolts threaded on the steel rope. To make the holes parallel, I marked a line lengthwise through both points using a door as a guide. A door frame works as well, if the tubes are short enough not to hit the ceiling. A punch can make a good starting point, but I also chose to use drill centers, which are less prone to wander on a round surface than a regular drill bit. I used a home-made v-block of wood to hold the tubes in my drill press and a counter-sink bit to deburr the holes.

Step 5: Cut Cloth

The shade cloth came in 6-foot wide bolts. Since both shades are more than 6 feed wide and less than 12, I would need to cut and join two pieces together for each shade. I cut 4 pieces to length with my mat and rolling wheel cutter. I measured the widths I needed (half the final shade width plus 1 inch for the seam) and cut the same way.

Step 6: Fold and Iron Seam Edge

To join the pieces, I decided to use a lap seam, similar to the side of blue jeans. I folded the cut edges over 1 inch and ironed them to retain the shape.

Step 7: Pin Seam

Before stitching I pinned the two pieces together with the folded seams overlapped so that the cut edge of each piece was inside the fold of the other piece. To help manage these bulky pieces, I took over the dining room table and supported the rolled-up pieces on my conduit with a chair under each end as shown.

Step 8: Sew Seam

After pinning, I laid out the whole thing flat on the floor, then rolled up the edge parallel to the seam to get under the arm of my sewing machine as shown. I ran a stitch down the center of the seam, then one more stitch on each side of the center.

Step 9: Fold, Iron & Pin Hem

On the ends of the shades, I folded one inch over twice for a hem and ironed as before. This time, to move my shade less, I made a small ironing board from a towel wrapped around a piece of wood and clipped with safety pins, as shown.

Step 10: Mark and Install Grommets

I measured the spots on my shade where the eye bolts would go through and into the conduit and marked them with chalk. I then installed grommets according to the manufacturer's instructions using the tools provided with the grommets, plus scrap wood and a hammer.

Step 11: Install Shade

Installing the shade was now a matter of running the eye bolts hanging from the steel rope through the grommets in the shade, then through the conduit and fastened with nuts.

Step 12: Hand-Stitch Corners

Because the shade was not constrained at the ends of the conduit, I pulled the corners over the ends of the conduit and hand-stitched the shade to itself as shown.

Step 13: Tie Down One End

I chose to leave the shade attached to the fence end of the run, then to attach it to the house with a hook. I used wire ties to retain the first conduit tube against the frame as shown.

Step 14: Make Hooks

I found some medium-gauge steel wire to make my hooks. I cut up one of those wire frames used to hold up campaign yard signs. I made a hook long enough to reach (black) and attached it with an eye screw to the center of the tubing on the traveling end of the shade. I used another piece to make a catch (white) I could reach from the ground and attached it behind the gutter. I repeated the same for the other shade. Now I can reach up, grab the hook and draw the shade closed and latch it.

Step 15: P.S.

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