Introduction: Top-Down-Bottom-Up Lined Roman Blinds / Shades

This instructable will demonstrate how to make a Roman Shade that can be drawn up from the bottom like a traditional Roman Shade but can also be lowered from the top so that light can come in from the upper part of the window but the view from the bottom is still obscured, a handy option in some circumstances. One could also make a regular Bottom Up Only (BUO) Roman Shade from the directions. While I will be explaining a lined shade, the instructions for the structure of the shade so far as rings, lift cords and hardware would be the same for an unlined shade.

Materials needed:

Front Fabric

Lining Fabric

Thread – regular and upholstery/quilting

¾” Velcro

Nylon Cord (I used 2 mm)

Pulleys or eye hooks

Rope Cleats

Mounting Board (I used 1x2 boards)

Battens (I used 3/8” dowel rods)

Metal Rods for top and bottom of shade (I used Aluminum Flat Rod 1/8” x ½” x 8’)

Hardware to mount board (I used L brackets 1” x ½” )

Tools Needed:

Measuring tape, rulers, quilting rulers

Marking tools – pencils, markers

Cutting tools – scissors, rotary cutter, cutting mat

Sewing machine, needles

Staple gun and staples

Silicone caulk and caulking gun

Iron, ironing board

Drill, hammer, screwdrivers

A Worksurface – the bigger the better! I used my kitchen island that is 30” x 60” and it was a struggle. The floor is definitely an option and is where I cut the fabrics I used. A really large table or a couple of conference tables would be excellent. I did use my ironing board as a table extension with my kitchen island a lot of the time which helped considerably, especially with the largest shade.

Step 1: Understanding Roman Shades

This is a diagram of the two types of shades from the back so that you can see batten channels, cords, rings and hardware.

Differences between TDBU (TopDownBottomUp) and BUO (BottomUpOnly or Traditional) Shades:

1. BUO shades are attached directly to the mounting board (using Velcro) while TDBU shades are attached to the mounting board using the TopDown hardware and cords and a short valance is attached to the mounting board with Velcro to hide the hardware.

2. TDBU shades have 2 sets of cords – one set to pull the shades up from the bottom just like a BUO shade and one set to lower the shade from the top down – and a separate set of hardware (pulleys or eye hooks) for each set of cords. Each set of cords also requires it’s own rope cleat for holding the cords in position (usually mounted on opposite sides of the window to keep the cords from tangling or interfering with each other).

4. The requirements of 2 sets of hardware and a valance require the mounting board for TDBU shades to be projecting and outside of the window frame. An “inside mount” (within the window frame) is not possible with TDBU shades.

5. BUO shades have an even number of batten pockets while TDBU shades have an odd number of batten pockets although the top one does not have a batten in it but does have rings attached to it.

6. TDBU shades have a pocket at the very top of the shade to which the drop down rings are sewn and a rigid bar of wood or metal is inserted into the pocket to give structure to the top of the shade when it is lowered.

In the diagram of the TDBU shades, the blue rings and cords are for operating bottom up and the red rings and cords are for operating top down. Note the round circle near the pull of the red cords. This is a knot that keeps the shade from dropping below your desired lowest point.

Step 2: Designing the Shade

The first step is to design the shade and that starts with determining the size of the shade. If you intend to do an “inside mount” (TDBU can NOT be inside mount) with the shade covering the window but not the frame of the window, the size is easy to determine by measuring within the frame of the window. If you are going to mount outside of the window covering the entire window, frame and all, (required for TDBU shades) you need to decide how much larger than the window you want the shade to be, whether you intend to mount it directly above the window frame or higher up, closer to the ceiling. In any case, you must determine the height and width of your shade. I would recommend going at least 1” wider than the window frame (1/2” on each side).

The height of a BUO shade is the full height of the window treatment, from the top of the mounting board to the bottom of the shade. For a TDBU shade, the shade starts at the bottom of the hardware, so it is the full height of the window treatment minus the mounting board and hardware.

Once you know the height and width, you need to determine the spacing of the battens, the top border and the bottom border. In a BUO shade, you will have an even number of batten pockets with battens in them; a TDBU shade will have an odd number of batten pockets and the top one will not actually have a batten but will have rings attached. My shades have 6” between the battens with a total of 9 batten pockets. I’ve seen shades with anywhere from 4” to 12” between the battens so it is mostly a matter of personal preference.

For the top border, with a TDBU shade, you will have a pocket at the very top for the rigid bar (typically ¾” or 1”) and very little space (<1/4”) between that pocket and the first batten pocket. For a BUO shade, you can pick whatever size you like for the top border but it is usually at least the space allowed between battens on the shade.

The bottom border can be whatever you choose, although typically it is at least 4”.

Step 3: Determine the Size of Your Fabric and Lining.

I made my blinds with ¾” seams so all calculations will reflect that. If you choose a different seam size, you will need to adjust your calculations.

You want your front fabric to be larger than your lining fabric so that it “wraps around” to the back of the blind, giving you a nice clean crisp edge with no lining showing.

For illustration purposes, let’s assume we want to make a blind that is 36” wide and 56” long.

Determining Width:

Finished width = 36” + ¾” + ¾” seams = 37.5”

If we want the front fabric to wrap around to have ½” on each side of the back of the blind, we will need to add 1” to the front fabric and subtract 1” from the lining so:

Front fabric = 36.5” wide

Lining fabric = 38.5” wide

Determining Length:

The lining will be longer than the front fabric because it has the batten pockets. In my design, the batten pockets each require 1.5” of lining fabric. The pocket for the top rod is ¾” and the space between each batten is 6”. The length from the bottom batten to the bottom of the shade is 7.5”. So for my 56” shade:

Top Pocket of shade: ¾”

Spaces between battens: 8 x 6” = 48”

Space below bottom batten: 7 ¼” Total = 56”

For the front fabric, allow 4” at the top and 6” at the bottom for hemming = 66”.

For the lining, you will need the same allowances for hems and also 1.5” for each batten pocket, in my case 9 x 1.5” = 13.5”. So the length for the lining is 66 + 13.5 = 79.5”

Final measurements:

Front fabric 36.5” wide by 66” long

Lining fabric 38.5” wide by 79.5” long

HOWEVER, I would allow a few extra inches of length when cutting both fabrics in case you have issues squaring things up.

Step 4: Let’s Talk Materials...

I used canvas drop cloths for my shades because I like the look of them – kind of like Belgian linen – and I needed to make a lot of blinds so the low cost was a plus. They are loosely woven, though, and easily fray, both of which complicate the process of making a blind. I would recommend that you use a tightly woven fabric so that it is easier to work with, to achieve exact measurements and crisp folds.

You can use whatever lining material you like but be aware of a few things if you intend to use fabric made specifically for window treatments such as blackout lining or thermal lining. I used blackout for my bedroom blinds and thermal for my living room blinds so I have experienced both. They both have a side that is sort of rubbery which is the *back* side of the fabric. When sewing with that side up, the presser foot of my machine would “grab” the fabric too strongly. This can also happen with some upholstery fabrics. One way to deal with this is to put regular Scotch tape on the bottom of your presser foot, which worked fine for me with the blackout fabric but was inadequate with the thermal fabric. The second way to deal with that problem that is pretty much guaranteed to work is to cut a sheet of basic tissue paper into strips and sew through the tissue paper strips. This will allow the fabric to move freely.

I wanted to make shades (BUO) for my bedroom and shades (BUTD) for my living room. I knew there would be a learning curve so I made one shade for my bedroom, then the second shade for my bedroom which was a considerable improvement over the first shade. Then I moved forward on the living room shades, making one for a single window and then making 3 that hang together over the large front-facing window. I would recommend taking a similar incremental approach.

Step 5: Preparing the Lining

Carefully cut your lining fabric to the appropriate width.

Mark the lining fabric on the front side with a pencil to show all of the sewing lines and folds.

The first 3 photos show the process of sewing the battens.

Carefully fold the fabric on the lines for the battens with the front of the lining fabric out. Press and pin all of the folds.

Sew at ¾” to make the batten pockets.

Press all of the batten pockets so that they point toward the top of the blind.

Photos 4 - 6 show the preparation of the rod pocket at the top of the lining.

Fold and press the fabric at the top to make the pocket for the top rod, then sew it in place. Note: be careful not to catch the top batten pocket as you sew.

Photos 7 - 9 show the preparation of the bottom hem.

Fold and press the fabric at the bottom to make the bottom hem (typically about a 2” hem with about an inch folded under), then sew it in place.

The last photo shows the fully prepared lining.

Step 6: Make the “tube”

Now you want to sew the lining to the front fabric on each side to make a tube of fabric. Remember that your lining is not as wide as your front fabric so you will pin and sew one side at a time. You should be very liberal in your use of pins, pining close to where you will sew and then another line of pins further away to make sure that the weight of the fabric does not pull things out of place as you sew.

With the front fabric facing up, place the lining with the batten pockets facing down on top of the front fabric, aligning one side of the fabrics and making sure you have proper allowances at the top and bottom of the fabrics (Photo 1). Remember that ***the batten pockets must be pointing toward the top of the blind***!

Sew the first side seam with the lining on the top as you sew. Sew through tissue paper if needed to keep the fabric feeding freely into the machine. If you are using blackout, thermal or a similar lining material, the sponginess of these fabrics makes it nearly impossible to remove stitches using a seam ripper so sew on some scraps first to make sure everything will feed correctly. If you are not confident, sew the seam first with long basting stitches and then resew with a normal stitch length. If you run into problems, the long basting stitches will be removable where regular stitches would not be.

Lay the sewn fabric on your workspace with the lining side up as you did when you pinned it in place and remove the pins. Using a ruler, mark the other side of the front fabric where the top and the bottom of the lining should be to align correctly, then pull the lining fabric over to that edge of the front fabric and pin in place. Once again, pin liberally and have another extra row of pins to keep the fabric from pulling when it is stitched (Photo 2). Sew this second seam with the lining on top. It is important to sew both seams of the “tube” with the lining on the top as it will twist and get out of true alignment if you do one seam with the lining on top and the other with the lining on the bottom.

Press the seam allowances toward the lining fabric (Photo 3). This is an important step and you want to make sure that the seam allowances are firmly pressed toward the lining fabric. This will allow you to press the front fabric to get nice, crisp edges on the sides of the blind without the seam allowances causing problems.

Now turn the tube right side out and manipulate the tube to get the lining fabric centered over the front fabric and roughly equal amounts of front fabric showing down each side (Photo 4). Press well (Photo 5) and lay out on your work surface with the lining side up. Make sure everything is in place and smoothed out and then carefully pin lines across the blind above each batten pocket, between each batten pocket if needed, and at the top and bottom of the blinds. You want the fabrics pinned together well so that you can complete the blind without things shifting out of place (Photo 6).

Step 7: Cut Batten and Rod Pockets

On one side of the blind, carefully cut the batten pockets through one layer of fabric as close to the seam with the front fabric as you can get. This will allow you to insert the battens later. You will also need to make a similar cut for the top rod pocket and for the rod that goes in the bottom of the blind. Make the cut for the bottom near the top of the hem. You will be able to insert the rod easily and it will drop to the bottom of the hem pocket.

Mark the locations for the rings on all of the batten pockets even though you will only sew rings to some of them. With a 36” shade, I marked 3” in on each side and in the exact middle of the shade, giving me a total of 3 columns of rings (and cords). The shade that I made that were 24” had only 2 cords and the one I made that was 46” had 4.

Step 8: ​Sew Tacks

Sew tacks under each batten pocket roughly lined up with the marks you made for the rings. These tacks are each a single tiny stitch with regular sewing thread that matches your front fabric that hopefully will not show on the finished blind. The tacks are necessary to keep the fabrics moving together as the blind is operated. The tacks are sewn behind the batten pockets because if they are done anywhere else on the shade, light will shine through at those points when your blind is hung and it doesn’t look great (learned this the hard way). I sewed each tack over a toothpick so that the stitch would be loose. If the stitch is too tight, it will cause the front of the shade to pucker.

Step 9: ​Sew the Plastic Lift Rings in Place on the Batten Pockets

Sew the plastic lift rings in place on the batten pockets. You will sew rings to every other batten pocket starting at the bottom batten pocket and ending with the top one (Photo 1). Since I had 9 batten pockets, I sewed rings to 5 of them on my blinds. These are the rings that will be used to raise the blind up from the bottom of the window the same as regular Roman blinds. Sew the rings to the fold of the batten pocket with the needle entering 1/8”-1/4” from the fold. Sew around the ring 3 times, then wrap the thread around the stitches 2 or 3 times as when sewing a button, push the needle through the fabric and tie off (Photo 2). Photo 3 shows the blind with this step completed.

Step 10: Complete the Top Rod Pockets and Bottom Hem.

Mark, fold and pin the front fabric for the top and bottom hems of the blind. Hand sew these into place being careful to leave enough room for you to be able to access the pockets for the metal rods. You can go ahead and put the top rod in before sewing the top hem if you like but don’t put the bottom rod in yet. Sew the bottom hem leaving an opening so that you can insert the rod later.

Step 11: Sew the TopDown Rings

Before you sew on the rings for TopDown operation, you have to determine the cord length and tie the cords to the rings. You will want your TopDown cords to be on one side of the shade and the BottomUp cords to be on the opposite side of the shade so figure out which way you want them to go. Your cords for TopDown will need to go from the ring positions on the top of the shade, across the top of the shade to the side you have picked and then down the length of the shade to the bottom. Be more generous than I was with this! You can add length to the cords after you have installed the shades but it would be far easier and nicer to simply cut the cords extra long! I would go a couple of feet longer than the length of the shade if I were doing it again!

Tie the cords to the rings using upholstery or quilting thread. Now sew the rings to the top pocket of the shade. If you have not put the metal rod in the pocket, do so before you sew on the rings. You want to sew the ring to the fabric (I did so at 4 points) and then sew through the fabric and around the metal rod 3 times for each ring before tying off your thread. You need to firmly attach these rings to the metal rod so that the fabric doesn't slouch or pull when tension is on the rings.

Step 12: Install Cords for BottomUp Operation

Your cords for BottomUp Operation will be tied to the bottom rings, thread through the rings in each column to the top of the blind, then go across the blind to the opposite side from the TopDown cords and then go down the side of the blind. These cords do not need to be as long as the TD cords so taking them to the bottom of the shade should be more than enough.

I used safety pins to keep the cords in place until I installed the shades. I place safety pins across the top in the places near where the pulleys or screw eyes would be on the mounting board and also had a safety pin at the sides of the blinds and tied the cords around these safety pins in a large, loose, easily undone knot. This kept them cords neat until installation. If you do this, be sure to have the safety pins below the top of the blind or they will make installation more complicated!

Step 13: Cut Battens and Mounting Board.

Measure the length of your batten pockets and cut your battens about a quarter to a half inch shorter. Press your blind again and then insert the battens (I used 3/8" wooden dowel rods) into their pockets. Remember that you do not put a batten in the top pocket on a TDBU shade.

Measure the finished width of your shade and cut your mounting board (I used a 1 x 2) to the length you prefer. I cut mine to 1" wider than the shade to allow for a 1/2" projection on each side of the shade but this again is personal preference. You can cover the mounting board with fabric if you choose but it is not necessary. I did cover the mounting boards for some of my shades and used clear silicone caulk to attach the fabric to the boards which worked quite well. I attached the fabric the way you would wrap a gift.

Step 14: Add the Velcro and Hardware to the Mounting Board

Attach the male 3/4" velcro to the mounting board front and sides. I glued it on with clear silicone caulk, allowed it to dry and then stapled it to the board as well.

The photos for this step are from the first TDBU shade that I made for my living room and I put pulleys on the front with screw eyes behind. The hardware in front will be used for the TopDown cords while the hardware in back will be for the BottomUp cords. The diagram that I was referencing was wrong about this so for my later shades, I reversed them, using screw eyes in front and pulleys behind. You can use only screw eyes or only pulleys if you prefer.

The photos show this arrangement.

Assumptions are bad...

When I made my first TDBU shade, I thought the middle of the hardware should align with the cords so I prepared everything accordingly. I found when I installed the shade that it was about 1/4" to one side of where I wanted it to be. To fix this, I had to take the shade back down and remove and re-sew the rings at the top of the shade for TopDown operation. It was a royal pain so I've prepared some additional photos to save you from learning about it the hard way.

Step 15: Learning From My Mistakes...

Actually, I had to take my first TDBU shade down and re-sew the TD rings TWICE. The first time, I had sewn the rings to the fabric but not around the metal rod. It pulled the fabric out of shape terribly and the ring would "ride up" on the pulley. The tighter it was pulled, the more the ring "rode up" and the more the shade got pulled to one side. So sew the rings around the rod as instructed to avoid this problem.

I used a scrap piece of 1x2 for these pictures and attached a screw eye and a pulley. As you can see from the photos, the hardware does not align with the rings and cords in a straight-forward manner. I made 3 shades - one quite wide and two narrow to cover my front picture window which is actually 3 windows and had to have the 3 shades align properly with each other. Having learned my lessons from the first shade, I actually installed each piece of hardware with the shade and cords lying on my work table so that I could make sure each part was where it needed to be. Doing this will save you a lot of time and trouble.

The last photo is passing on an old tip I picked up years ago. When installing screw eyes, you can use a basic nail to screw it in quite quickly. A screwdriver will also do nicely for this task.

Step 16: Add L Brackets and Hang the Mounting Board.

Attach L brackets to your mounting board. I attached them next to the hardware for each cord going with the theory that the stress would be on the board at these points. It worked just fine for me. Attach the mounting board above your window and you will be ready to install your blind!

Step 17: Add Cleats and Install the Shade.

Add rope cleats to each side of your window frame. I put mine slightly higher than the middle of my windows on the inside of the frame. It would be easier to operate with the cleats on the outside of the frame but I wouldn't like the look. You must have both cleats in place to install your shade.

I installed the single shade by myself but had a friend help with the larger shades. It is easy to install BU shades by yourself but TDBU shades are a whole lot trickier and two sets of hands make it much easier.

Thread the cords for TD operation through the front set of hardware. These are the cords that hold the blind to the mounting board at the top of the blind. When all of the cords are threaded through to the appropriate side of the shade, pull the shade up into place. If you only have 2 cords, this is pretty easy but if you have 3 or 4 or more, it gets very tricky. You need to get all of the cords pulled to the right tension so that the blind hangs straight. This is where an extra set of hands is helpful. One person holds the "completed" cords while the other gets each cord individually to where it needs to be. When all of the cords are together held my person #1, person #2 can grab the cords below where person #1 is holding them and tie them into a knot near the bottom so that they will all stay together. (Note: you may need to do this several times before you get it right! Have patience!) With the shade pulled as close to the mounting board as you ever want it to be, wrap the cords around the cleat on that side of the window.

Now get between the shade and the window and thread the cords for BottomUp operation through the appropriate hardware to the opposite side of the shade from your TopDown cords. Once they are threaded through, pull each one so that the tension on the bottom ring of the shades is the same and tie the bottom into a knot as you did with the TopDown cords. Pull the cords to see the shade fold up from the bottom. You may need to "help" it a bit to get it to fold as you want it to but once the fabric has been folded like this several times, it will be "trained" and will no longer need any fussing. Lower the cords so that the shade is full length but the cords do not have any unnecessary slack in them and wrap the cords around the cleat. NOTE: you can't have any slack in these cords because they hold the bottom batten in place when you want to operate the shade as a TopDown Shade. Now you can go to the TopDown cords, unwind them from the cleat and drop the shade down from the top. When you have determined the lowest point that you want the shade to drop to, mark it on the cords and tie a knot at that point (or attach a bead or whatever you need to block it from going through the pulley or eyehook).

You can also add nice pulls to the bottoms of your cords if you like. I stacked a few beads to the bottoms of my cords to act as "pulls" and they work just fine. Whatever you prefer.

Step 18: Make and Install Your Valance.

The valance of a Roman Shade is not the same as a decorative valance for draperies. For draperies, valances are quite deep, usually 18" or more but for a Roman shade, they are just meant to cover the mounting board and hardware and are normally pretty shallow, 6" for mine. Google Roman blinds to check out how others have done them and decide what depth you want for yours.

The valance is very simple, just a long strip of fabric with velco attached (Photo 1), folded in half with right sides together. Sew around the 3 open sides leaving enough open at one end for you to turn it right side out. Turn right side out, press and hand sew the opening (Photo 2). Attach to the mounting board with the velcro.

Enjoy your shades!!!

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