Friday, December 30, 2011

DIY Butterfly Balloon Shades

Butterfly Balloon shades are one of my favorite window treatments.  They have a soft whimsical feel about them and they are fairly easy to make.  If you can sew a straight line and know how to set your machine to a zig zag stitch, then you can make these!  The added bonus...they don't require a lot of fabric or expensive drapery hardware.  Here's a few I've made for clients over the years:

A good friend of mine is remodeling their Camping Trailer and I'm making Butterfly Balloons for the windows.  Follow along and I'll show you how every step of the way.
Here's what you'll need:
Fabric and lining fabric
board to mount shade on
Roman shade rings
Roman shade cord
screw eyes
Cafe curtain rod
"L" brackets
I went online and found a supplier that you can order the shade cord and the rings from.
or you can get these at your local JoAnns, but I know JoAnns prices are a little high for what you get.  I get all mine through Rowley Co. with my Resale license and I get mine for pennies.  Shop the Internet and I'm sure you can find what you need.

First you need to know the anatomy of a Butterfly Balloon Shade.  This may look confusing, but when we do each step, you will understand...I promise!!

I have to pause to pat myself on the back...the drawing above was my first time using Microsoft paint without my teenage sons help....hurray for me.  I guess this old dog can learn a new trick!  Now lets see if I can do the same for a view of the back of a Butterfly Balloon shade.

Sorry, I had a hard time drawing perfect little circles for the screw eyes and the rings, but I hope you can still get the idea.

The shade I'm making is gonna finish at 51" wide x 26" long.  Mine is going to have a contrast band along each side and contrast fabric on the bottom 12" of the lining.  During the sewing pictures, you can just ignore that.  The fabric has a motif, so you will see how and why I place the motif where I do.  Also, mine is going to require 2 seams because this shade is too wide to get out of 1 cut of 54" wide fabric.

The first step is to measure your window and decide your finished size.  Again, mine is 51" x 26".  Now we have to figure our proportions.  Here's a chart to help you figure your division proportions.

Once you know what your divisions or proportions are going to be, it's time to draw it out to figure your yardage and your cuts.  I'll be using my measurements as an example, you just insert your figures instead.

So lets do the math together.
My Width=1/2+1 1/2+8 1/2+6+34+6+8 1/2+1 1/2+1/2= 67"
Yours= 1/2 seam allow.+ depth of board+left wing width+(pleat depth x 4)+width of middle+(pleat depth x 4)+right wing width+depth of board+1/2 seam allowance.

Now lets figure our length.
My Length= 1 1/2 depth of board+26+12 extra fullness+1/2 seam allowance=40"
Yours= board depth+finished length of shade+12 extra fullness+1/2 seam allowance.

If you're still with me, then know that you are almost through the hardest part of this shade!  Now we have to figure our cuts and yardage.  Since home decor fabric is approx. 54" wide, I was not able to get my whole piece out of one cut and since I had a motif I wanted to center in my middle section, it took 3 cuts.  This is what mine looked like.  Depending on your window size and the fabric you use, you may get yours out of one cut or you may need 3 cuts like me.

Whatever your cuts end up being, duplicate those cuts with the lining.

After your cuts are made, with right sides together stitch the 2 wing/side pieces to the middle piece using a 1/2" seam allowance.

Stitch your lining pieces the same way.
Press the seams open on both your shade and the lining.
On a large flat surface lay your lining right side facing up and lay your face fabric right side down.  Align the top, sides and bottom edges.  Pin the sides and the bottom edges together.  Stitch these three sides pivoting at the bottom side corners.

Clip the bottom corners close to stitching.
In order to get really nice crisp corners clip again as shown below.
Turn right side out and push those corners out until they are crisp and square.
Give the sides and bottom a good pressing, making sure the lining does not show from the front.
Pin along the top pinning approx. every 4-5 inches.  Pin it parallel to the top edge approx. 1 inch from top.
Serge the top, removing pins as you go.  This finishes off the top edge so there won't be strings unravelling.  If you don't have a serging machine, you can zig zag along this edge to finish it off.

Now it's time to figure & mark for the rings.  There are only 2 vertical rows of rings and they are spaced 6" apart.  The first ring will be at the very bottom edge of your shade.  To figure where these vertical rows of rings are, a little more math is involved.
Mine were 13" in from each side.  1 1/2+8 1/2+3= 13   So in other words- board width+wing width+ half of pleat.  If you had to seam your pieces together like I did, then it should land on the seams and that is an easy way to mark for your rings.  See my examples below.
To mark the ring placement, make a small dot with a pen.  You want to be able to see where the rings need to go.  Don't worry about the ink pen marks showing, your rings will be sewn over them and they will never show.  Stop the rings approx. 10-12" from the top of the shade.
Place a pin through both layers of fabric at every pen mark.  I place my pins diagonally so they don't get in the way at the sewing machine. 

I usually choose a thread color for sewing the rings on that blends with the overall pattern of my fabric.  If you are using a solid fabric, use a matching thread, but if your fabric is a print like mine, then a color that blends is fine.
Wind your bobbin with the thread that matches your shade.  The thread you use up top will need to match your lining.
Now set your machine to sew a zig zag stitch.  If you're not sure how to do this, look it up in your owner manual.  Now that you have your machine to zig zag, there's a couple other things you need to do.  Since all machines are different, you may need to refer to your owners manual for this also.  You need to raise your throat plate on your machine.  What this does is stop the bottom feed dogs from feeding the fabric through your sewing machine.  In other words when you sew with your zig zag stitch, instead of sewing along, it will keep the fabric still so you are stitching back and forth over your rings.  Here's what my controls look like when set to sew rings on.

My machine set to C & L sets it to zig zag, the red lever you see in the upper right is how wide I want my zig zag stitch.

This lever on my machine is what raises the throat plate.

Now we are ready to sew rings.  With your shade right side down, start with the dot that is at the bottom of your shade.  You want your needle to start on the right side, lower your needle and place a ring right up against it over the ink dot.  Lower your pressure foot, remove your pin and stitch for a few seconds until you think it is secure enough.  Make your last stitch end on the left.  This way you are ready for the needle to start on the right for the next ring.

Lift the pressure foot, but DO NOT clip your thread.  Just move your fabric so the next dot marking the next ring is in place to be sewn.  Again, lower your needle to the right of the ink dot and continue to sew the rings for that vertical row.  After the last ring in that vertical row, you can clip your threads.  Repeat this for the 2nd row of vertical rings.

That wasn't so hard was it?  There's just one more sewing step and then we are done with the sewing machine.  We have to pin and sew pleats in the bottom of the shade.  Using a ruler or hem gauge, fold in and pin your pleats on both sides of the rings.

Remember, my pleats were only gonna be 1 1/2" deep because we were a little short on fabric.  Make these pleats whatever depth you decided on when you figured your cuts.
With your pleats face down, stitch these pleats as shown below.  Careful not to hit your ring with your machine needle.  You might have to move the ring one way and then move it the other way to keep it out of the way when sewing this.

Here's what it should look like on the front side of your shade.
Hooray!!  All the sewing is done!!  All we have left is measuring and cutting our board, covering the board with fabric, mounting our shade on the board, screw eyes.......ok, I guess we still have quite a few steps ahead of us, but they aren't very hard and they go pretty quick.

Cut your board to the finished width of your shade.  I cut mine myself, but sometimes I have my local hardware store cut them for me.  I'm just using a 1x2 which nets a size of 3/4x1 1/2". 

To cover a 1x2 with lining, I cut a strip that was 5 1/2" wide by about 55" long.  Lay your board down on the strip and staple one long edge to the edge of your board.

I staple about every 4" or so.  Then turn your board around and wrap the lining up and over to the opposite long edge.

Again, staple about every 4".  To make the edges nice and bulk free, I trim some of the lining back like shown below.

Then I kind of push the sides in slightly and bring the fabric up over the end of the board and give it 2 staples to tack.
Trim the extra fabric close to the staples.  This is how I cover all boards for board mounted window treatments.
To ensure that everything lines up correctly before stapling, cause I HATE removing staples!  I use a pencil to draw some lines on the top of my board where the pleats are going to go and to help me get the corners mounted nicely.
Since my board is 1 1/2" wide, I draw a line 1 1/2" from both ends of the board.  I also draw lines where the pleats are suppose to go which is your wing width. mine are 8 1/2 " from the edges of the board.

At the top of the shade we need to pin in the pleats just like we did at the bottom,  Pin the pleats the same size and distance from the edges.

The shade wraps around the side edges of the board, so we start with those edges first.  It's a little hard to explain, but I will try to explain how to do this with the help of some pictures. 
You will put 2 staples as shown in this small drawing.   Do this on both edges of the board. 
Now wrap the rest of the top of your shade around to the front of your board and staple every 4" or so.  The edges of the shade should come up and over the sides like shown below.  It makes a nice edge.
We really are close to being done.  Next we will attach the screw eyes.  I used 4 screw eyes on my shade.  One for the top of each pleat, one for the center of my shade just to keep the pull cord from sagging and one close to the edge of the board on the side where I want the shade to pull up.  I have a nifty tool that goes in my drill to make this fast.  But you can use pliers or a screw driver to screw these in.
With your shade face down on your work surface, and the under side of your board facing up, screw a screw eye where each pleat is.
Place one screw eye in the very center to help guide the pull cords.  Now, decide which side of your shade you would like your pull cord on and place your last screw eye about a 1/2" from the edge.

Still with your shade face down on your surface, start to string your pull cord from the bottom of the shade.  I start on the opposite side of my pull cord.  Feed the cord through each ring up to the top and through the screw eyes and then pull enough through so that you will have a nice length to hang down as the pull.
Now starting at the bottom, feed cord through the second row of rings and through screw eyes as shown below.  Leave the same amount of extra for your pull cord.
At the bottom of the shade, gather bottom 3 rings and knot them together with the end of the cord.  I usually knot 3 times.

I dab mine with a drop of glue just to make sure they never come untied.  While that glue dries we will measure, cut and cover our weight bar.
I use a cafe curtain rod as a weight bar.  Nothing fancy.  I can usually get them at my local hardware store for a couple dollars.

Using either wire cutters or in my case bolt cutters, cut the rod one inch less then your middle measurement , using the figures from the beginning of this post.  In my case, I cut my rod 33".

Using a piece of scrap lining, cut a strip that is 2 3/4" wide x a couple inches longer then your weight bar.  Fold this strip in half lengthwise and stitch using 1/4" seam allowance.
Using a large safety pin or in my case a diaper pin, turn this tube right side out.

Now slide your weight bar inside this tube leaving an inch or so extra on each end.

Dab with glue and turn under 1/4".

Dab with more glue and turn under again and pin until  it dries.
When the glue dries (approx 15 min) remove the pin and  hand stitch the ends of the weight rod to the cluster of three rings that are tied together.
Now trim the tail of the extra cord close to knot.

Holding the shade up by the board, pull both cords taught and make a knot a couple of inches below the last screw eye.

Continue knotting the pull cord every 4".  It's VERY important that you DO NOT leave too much of a gap between knots because small children could get their head caught between the cords and strangle.  Anything more than 4" apart is big enough for a child's head.
At the bottom of your pull cord you can add a shade pull knob, a regular large wood bead or you can leave it the way it is....trimming the cords even of course.
You're done!
Now I'll explain how to mount this treatment.  Find the studs above your window and mark the height with a pencil mark.  Using screws, attach 2 "L" brackets to your wall.

Now set your board on top of the "L" brackets making sure you do not have the cords caught on the brackets.  From underneath, screw right through the holes in the "L" bracket through the lining and into the board.

The final step is to attach a cord cleat to your wall or window molding to secure the cords when you have the shade drawn up.

See, it wasn't that hard was it?  Stand back and look at the rewards of your work.
I hope this DIY project was easy to follow along.  If you have any questions please feel free to email me and I will try to answer as quickly as possible.  If you make a Butterfly Balloon Shade from this tutorial I would love to see pics of your finished shade.  That is the fulfilling part for me!  Thanks and keep checking back for more DIY window treatments in the future.
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  1. Thanks so much for the great tutorial! I got a new sewing machine for Christmas...Now I have to get busy! Glad I found you...I'm a new follower. Stop by and visit and follow if you like. Happy New Year

  2. Is the weight bar only attached to one side? I'm a little confused about the cord and weight bar attachment/placement...hoping to make these in the next few days


    1. Randi,
      The weight bar is attached at both sides of the shade. It is attached to the cluster of rings that is tied together at the bottom with the shade cord. If you have anymore questions let me know.

  3. Thank you! I'm sure it'll make more sense once I get there :)... I am absolutely loving your blog and tutorials!!!!

  4. I did it! So easy and the results are fabulous!!! Thank you so much for sharing your tutorials!!! Can't figure out how to upload the picture though

  5. Randi,
    Yay! You did it!! I'm so happy you were able to use my tutorial to make these. Pretty easy huh? Once you understand the concept, they are pretty easy and they look complicated so all your friends will think you are a sewing genius! Once you upload a picture I would love it if you sent one to me!!

  6. I completely agree with you. I really like this article. It contains a lot of useful information. I can set up my new idea from this post. It gives in depth information. Thanks for this valuable information.

  7. Would it be possible to have a band at the bottom that does not get gathered up when the shade is up? I am trying to have a contrasting trim show when it is pulled up. Thanks for any advise and for posting this valance. I have been searching forever for this style of roman shade! Thanks again for sharing.

  8. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  9. Wonderful I love it, this is a perfect tutorial i searched a long time for ;-) Thanks!

  10. So detailed and well done. It must have taken a very long time to do it. But it was just what I needed. Thank you.

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