Tag Archives: problem solving

Roman Shades: What to Do When Things Go Wrong

Roman shade

Loryn: No matter how much crafting experience you have, things often go wrong when you’re designing a custom project. The trick is not to get discouraged, and use your creativity to come up with a solution!

Roman shade

I’ve been wanting roman shades for my living room, and I thought I would get started on this window because it is the smallest of the three (it’s a Victorian house, so the window panes on the downstairs windows are over 6′ tall on most of the windows). I just needed one piece of fabric that was 55″ wide by about 40″ long. What could be easier than that? Famous last words!

Linen cotton fabric

For my fabric, I have a bolt of upholstery-weight linen cotton fabric that I picked up at a garage sale for $10. I bought it specifically for these shades. I love the horizontal woven stripe. The fabric is 56″ wide, so I had one inch to spare for a hem.

First check. After I cut the length I needed, I discovered this stain along the folded edge of the bolt. I need every bit of this fabric for my three windows, so going down to the unstained part of the bolt was not an option. No problem, I’m used to getting stains out of vintage fabrics. I soaked the fabric in Biz (which is what I had on hand) for several hours. Biz is great at getting out greasy stains, but it didn’t have any effect on this stain.

I went out and picked up some oxygen detergent, and used the boiling method to clean it a second time. Stain didn’t budge.

I tried the oxy method again, and this time I boiled the fabric for nearly an hour. Stain didn’t budge.

The oxy method removes just about every stain but rust, so maybe that’s a rust stain. I soaked the fabric in Yellow Out for several hours, which was a pain because it gives off a lot of fumes. Stain still didn’t budge.

By this time, I was ready to admit defeat and start looking for other options to hide the stain.

Roman shade ribbon decoration

One option would be to cut out the stain and put vertical seams in the shade. I didn’t want to do that in this case because I wanted to emphasize the horizontal lines of the fabric. Roman shades often use ribbons on the front of the shade where the tapes are, so I bought some bias tape that could cover the stain. One piece would go down the middle (over the stain), and two pieces would go at each edge.

Before I could iron the tape on, I needed to run the fabric through a regular laundry cycle to get all the Yellow Out rinsed out. When I pulled the fabric out of the washer, the stain was gone.


Don’t ask me why regular laundry detergent worked where all my other cleaners didn’t. Who knows.

Roman shade binding

I scrapped the bias tape idea, and went back to my original plan. It should be smooth sailing from here, right? Those of you who’ve worked with linen or cotton fabric can probably guess what went wrong next. I dried and ironed the fabric, and then decided to double-check my measurements so I could hem the sides. Only to find that the heat from boiling had shrunk my fabric by 2″. It was now only 54″ wide, and the window is 55″ wide.

Sigh. I guess it needed a decorative binding anyway, didn’t it? It adds a nice accent color, and nobody has to know it’s covering up a mistake. I cut a 4″ strip of fabric to add a 1 1/2″ finished binding that extends past the edge of the main body and adds the width I need. I cut the binding horizontally across the fabric rather than on the bias so that I could have horizontal stripes along the sides to match the horizontal stripe in the main fabric.

I had a great tutorial to show you on how to make perfect mitered corners for binding. Unfortunately, I learned that my method does not work when the binding extends past the edge. Instead of nice, flat, square corners, the binding pulls, giving my shade convex corners.

This time I admitted defeat. The convex corners are staying! They’re just as hard to see in person as they are in the photos. I’ll show you how to apply binding on another project!

I tried one final new idea on this shade: I sewed on eyes (from hook and eye sets) instead of rings for the shade strings.

I have a huge lot of vintage hooks and eyes that came from an estate sale. I thought I would try using them in place of rings to guide the ropes that raise and lower the roman shade. They were easier to sew on, but I don’t recommend them for shades that you’ll raise and lower a lot. the sharp eyes will cut the ropes eventually.

After all of that, I finally have a finished shade that I really like. Challenges will always arise when you’re designing a new project. The more you exercise your creativity to overcome the obstacles, the easier it gets. And in the long run, those creative solutions will become your best work!