DIY: Window Treatments

With a handmade shade, you can add some style while saving some energy

By Lindsay Kurz

As the weather turns colder and energy prices stay high, one of the best things you can do for your budget and your carbon footprint is to better insulate your home. In this, the first in a weekly series of do-it-yourself projects, we show how to reduce heat loss through your windows by hanging a simple flat panel known as a Roman shade.

Store-bought versions of these window treatments can easily run upwards of $200 per window; more if you have them custom-installed. But with an old (but clean!) bedsheet, ribbons leftover from gift-wrapping or old clothes, found garden stakes, and needle and thread you probably already have stashed in a drawer somewhere, the only cost is whatever your time is worth (it’ll take about 2 hours). To maximize heat retention, instead of a bedsheet use a thicker, heavier fabric such as canvas—though it won’t let in as much light.

Below are step-by-step instructions for making your shade from green materials. We opted for maximum simplicity, employing a design that is rolled up and manually tied.

-    Tape measure
-    Fabric scissors
-    Iron
-    Needle and thread
-    Small saw (perhaps you can borrow one from a neighbor)
-    Hammer and nails (ditto!)

MATERIALS (Measure window height and width before buying)
-    Old bedsheet or a large piece of fabric ($15 to $75 per window, depending on whether you go with cheap remnants or choose an organic or natural textile)
-    7 bamboo garden stakes or wooden dowels (about $7 total), each about 1/4” in diameter and at least 6” wider than your window, or cut to size (see below) at hardware store.
-    Ribbon that matches or complements the fabric

1.    Measure your window. Cut the fabric down to the size of the window, leaving two extra inches to the height. (NOTE: If you are making shades for more than one window, chances are you can make two window shades out of your bedsheet by measuring before you cut.) Fold over all four sides of the fabric, making the narrowest hem possible (about 1/4”), iron and stitch flat.

2.    Carefully saw five of the bamboo stakes or dowels to the width of the window, minus 1/2”. Saw down the remaining two stakes to the width of the window plus 4”.

3.    Fold the fabric over one inch at the top and at the bottom and sew across, making a loop or “tunnel” at the top and bottom where the two long bamboo stakes will thread through.

4.    Take the remaining 5 bamboo stakes and space them horizontally on the fabric, evenly from top to bottom. Securely sew each stake in place with a simple loop stitch at three equidistant points across.

5.    Cut two pieces of sturdy fabric ribbon, each roughly 14” long, and securely tie them on to the bottom bamboo stake at each end where they poke out from the fabric.

6.    Hammer in one nail at each side of the window at the top, angling each nail upward.  Hang the window shade from the nails by laying the top bamboo stake across the nails.  Hang the shade so that the bamboo stakes face the window. To open the window, roll the window shade up and use the ribbon to tie the bottom bamboo stake to the top. Create a pleasing bow!

If you do not have an old bedsheet or wood dowels/garden stakes at hand, we’ve compiled several good sources of eco-friendly materials:

All three of these fabric vendors provide friendly and accessible customer service and are happy to help recommend an appropriate fabric for your project:
- Pickering International offers several choices of eco-fabrics including organic cotton, linen, hemp, bamboo, and soybean. Swatches are available and they also sell remnants. 415-474-2288.
- Furnature supplies certified organic cotton in a variety of colors and weaves.  Remnants available. 800-326-4895.
- Green Sage sells organic cotton, linen, hemp, and flax in a wide range of colors, weaves, and blends with a minimum purchase of only one yard. 415-453-7915.

Wood Dowels
Look for wood bearing the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) label; many Home Depot stores offer several sizes. Bamboo gardening stakes in a variety of lengths are sold at

Presto! A little modesty at a modest price.


I thought this article was a great and simple way to help insulate your home... and cheap too!