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June 13, 2005

Blind Spot - How to Make Easy Blinds or Window Shades

Before_angle2_1 Up until a week ago, our living room windows sported semi-transparent vinyl blinds, circa 1985.  (You can still get vinyl blinds.  We priced them at a local shop; $850 to replace the old vinyl with newer vinyl which supposedly smells less vinyl-y, but the sample in the store smelled fairly rank.) 

Because the blinds were semi-transparent, you could see vague shapes outside when the blinds were closed.  But the transparency let a lot of light in, and consequently heat, so by 5:00 in the afternoon the room was lit in a post-nuclear style and it was 104 degrees in the living room.  I am not fibbing.   Post_nuclear_vinyl

And worse?  The blinds off-gassed.  When the sun was blasting at them, those blinds could smell up the whole house with the odor of a hot vinyl pool liner, circa 1985.  What causes the smell?  Phthalates.  (This word is hard to pronounce, especially if you have an overbite.) 

TIP:  Phthalates crept into widespread use over the last several decades because of their many beneficial chemical properties. Now they are ubiquitous, not just in the products in which they are intentionally used, but also as contaminants in just about anything.  Intentional uses of phthalates include softeners of plastics, oily substances in perfumes, additives to hairsprays, lubricants and wood finishers. That new car smell that becomes especially pungent after the car has been sitting in the sun for a few hours, is partly the pungent odor of phthalates volatilizing from a hot plastic dashboard. (read more)

The acrid smell from our vinyl blinds lingered every evening long after sundown.  Those blinds had to go.  And go they did. 

Half_done If you have vinyl blinds, consider replacing them with good old-fashioned cloth.  The smell disappears and so do the nasty, brain-killing chemicals.  Plus the room is WAY cooler.   This repair takes a few hours and you'll need a huge table or some floor space to lay out the blinds and square them. 

Step 1

Start by cutting the cloth to size.  I was making two 10-foot wide blinds, and I was lucky enough to find some 120-inch wide fabric from my favourite Internet fabric god.  (Total cost, including shipping, about $100.)

TIP:  Square the fabric to the PATTERN ON THE FABRIC'S SURFACE.  (I squared my first piece of fabric by laying it on the floor and lining it up with the floor boards.  But when I hung it, the pattern ran badly downhill.  So I had to start over paying attention to the fabric pattern instead of the measurements.) Emergency_sergery_2

  If you have a serger (or can borrow one from your friend Doreen), serge the edges to the EXACT width of the old blinds.  If you don't have a serger, use a zig-zag stitch to stablize the flat edge on each side.  You absolutely can't use a single fold or double fold hem on the side edges, because the material piles up at the edges when you roll up the blind,  causing the sides to shorten and the bottom hem to curve up into a simpering smile.  Don't ask me how I know this. 

Sliding_aluminium_bar_into_position_insi When you're finished serging, make a double-fold hem at the bottom for the baton (a metal or wooden rod that persuades the blind to hang square and straight.)  Feed the rod into the pocket.  TIP:  Make the rod pocket 1/4-inch deeper than the rod itself.  I sewed my pocket too tight and it was like trying to put pantyhose on an elephant. 

Attach_the_top_edge_to_the_roller_using_ Lay the blind on the floor.  Square the roller carefully to the fabric and press the top edge of the fabric onto the  existing adhesive with your fingertips.  (If you're replacing an old vinyl blind you can re-use the double-sided tape that's affixed to the roller.  If your blind has no adhesive, use double-sided carpet tape.) 

Spraying_speed_starch_onto_the_fabric_to Hang the roller in place and try rolling the blind up and down.  It probably won't be hanging quite straight, so it'll need some squaring.  The fabric should also be stiffened so it will hold its shape without stretching, buckling or sagging.  You can accomplish this with a trusty can of 'speed starch'.  (One spray can did two coats on both of my blinds.)  Spray the starch generously and evenly across the surface of teh blind and then tug the fabric into the correct alignment so it 'freezes' square.

All_done_except_for_the_streaky_wet_starThe starch takes about an hour to dry (you can still see the wet spots on the right blind.  Make the second blind (if you're making two)  same as the first. 

HUGE IMPORTANT TIP:  Before you cut the fabric to length for the second blind, remember to line up the surface pattern so it matches the first blind.  Otherwise you'll always be annoyed when the blinds are closed because the surface patterns are out of phase.   




Wow! I love these blinds. I've been looking for window coverings I can afford that aren't stinky and aren't made in China! I'm definately going to give them a try.


wow!!! so nice cur ten it makes just a simple created but very cool one... I've seen ever in making design....


Your blog is rich in knowledge and I've seen a lot of knowledge

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Great post. The education provided will be very useful for anyone who wants their window blinds custom-made. This site is also informative: http://bestblindsaround.com/. Check it out.

Thanks for sharing. Keep it up.

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