Learn how to make your own DIY Bamboo Shades with this detailed tutorial. Includes photos and videos, as well as pros and cons of the project.
I love the layered window treatment look, specifically bamboo shades layered with curtains. I knew from the beginning that I wanted that in my bedroom. But when I started pricing it out, I ran into trouble.
Two set of Ikea curtains, enough to cover all the windows, was between $60 and $80, depending on the curtain I chose. Drop cloths weren’t much better – $60 to cover everything sufficiently – plus, drop cloth curtains can be difficult.
Add in an another $100 for the mostly-decorative shades, and I was looking at prices that I really couldn’t justify.
So, as per usual. I thought about it and researched alternatives. Pinterest has a plethora of faux shades, aka, shades that look like bamboo, but are non-functional and don’t actually move.
But I’m picky about about privacy at night and sun shining into my bedroom in the morning (I’m that rare person who wants more sun,) so I wanted my shades to actually work!
I’ve made roman shades before, so I figured bamboo roman shades couldn’t be that different. I went ahead, and priced out a DIY project for two shades:
(Which, short plug here, I love my Project Planner! It’s the first thing I grab when I’m planning a project. You can get it for free here!)
I was looking at $78 for the project, compared to $100 for two shades. Honestly, this wasn’t the best money save in the world, but I was willing to give it a shot. I ordered the fencing off Amazon, and put the project on my calendar.
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- Bamboo Fencing – So, full disclosure, I actually used willow twig fencing, only because it was a darker color. From what I can tell, bamboo fencing is pretty much identical, just lighter, and you know, bamboo.
- 1/2″ Dowel Rods – I purchased four 72″ long 1/2″ thick dowel rods. Since I was cutting them to the width of my window, 33″, I was able to get two rods out of each purchased dowel rod.
- 1″ Plastic Rings – You’ll need 8 per shade, or 16 for two shades.
- Lining– This is technically optional, but since my shades were in a bedroom, I wanted them lined. I cut a Walmart twin sized sheet in half and was able to use it for both shades. (Be sure to read Part 3; I’m not sure I would do it this way again.)
- 1″x 2″ Board – In the length of your window.
- 2″ Angle Brackets – Two per shade.
- Small Screw Eyes – Two per shade
- Electrical Staples – For attaching the mounting board to the shade.
- Nylon String
- Miter Saw
- Miter Saw – For cutting the fencing to size. You might be able to make another saw work, but this was what I used.
- Glue Gun and Sticks – For attaching lining.
- Drill/Driver – For installing shade.
Part 1: How to Make A DIY Bamboo Shade
Step 1: Cut Fencing to Size
Using a miter saw, cut the fencing to the length of your window. This is a bit tricky, since the fencing is bulky, so the saw doesn’t go all the way through, but I just would stop and turn the fencing around. It took a little longer than a normal miter cut, but worked.
Then unroll the fencing out on the floor. To decide the length of the fencing, add 5 to the length of the window. This will give you room to mount the fencing, as well as a little extra shade just in case.
Then cut your fencing at the determined length by cutting all the wires directly under that length. Normal scissors worked for me, although this probably dulled them a bit.
Once the wires are cut, twist them together to secure the new length.
Step 2: Add Dowel Supports
Since I was using dark twigs, I started by staining my dowels to match so if they were visible they wouldn’t be super noticeable. This is probably unnecessary if you are using the lighter bamboo.
Then I determined where to place my dowels by dividing the final length of my shade (not the fencing, the shade) by 4. Lets call that number X.
I placed one dowel right at the bottom of the shade, and the other three dowels X distance up from the next lowest dowel. In other words, there should be X inches between each dowel.
To place each dowel, I simply slipped it into the wires that holds the twigs in place. Occasionally I’d have to remove a twig or two to make it fit, but for the most part there was enough space in wires to add the dowel.
As I did this, I also added the plastic rings to the dowel rod. I made sure that each ring was inside the outermost wire. If that’s not possible, secure the rings in place with some hot glue.
Step 3: Add the Lining
Lay out your lining on the shade, cut to size and hemmed if necessary. Then grab the hot glue, and start hot gluing the edges of the lining to the fencing.
As I worked my way around the perimeter of the shade, I snipped the sheet wherever I found a plastic ring. This will allow me to attach the shade pulls later!
Step 4: Make the Mounting Board
Cut the 1×2 to the width of your shade, and an angle bracket to either end of the shade. I was mounting my shade on the window frame, so my angle brackets were on the ends of the board.
You can also mount the shade on the wall or back of the window frame; to do that just move the angle brackets so they’re against the back of the board.
Then add a small screw eye three to four inches in from either end.
Just to be super clear, the other end of this board looks exactly the same!
Step 5: Attach the Mounting Board
To attach the mounting board to the shade, I used electrical staples around the wire. I first tried to use the staples around a twig, but the twigs aren’t strong enough to hold the weight of the shade. The wire was a much better option.
The electrical staples I used screwed on, but the nail ones should work too!
Step 6: Install the Pull-String
There are two main strings that operate the shade. The first should go through every single ring, including the two eye screws at the top of the shade, as shown in the photo below.
Tie a secure knot on the lower right hand side to keep the string secure. I used a bowline knot here; I say this as if I’m a knot expert, but actually, I just googled “secure single-string knot,” and that came up. I watched this youtube video to figure out what to do, and so far it’s held up perfectly!
The second string only goes through the left hand rings, as seen in the photo below.
One end of the second string should be tied to the bottom ring. The other should remain loose.
At this point, you should have two loose string ends on the left side of the shade. Tie these two strings together with a Double Fisherman’s Knot. (Once again, I googled a “strong knot for two strings.”
Step 7: Hang Shade
Using the angle brackets on the mounting board, hang the shade in place.
Doesn’t it look nice? Spoiler alert: that’s my staging and photography skills coming through, there.
Part 2: Why You Shouldn’t Make a DIY Bamboo Shade
This shade… actually sucks. Let me tell you why.
1. It’s Ugly
“But it looks so pretty…” is what you must be thinking. Take this as a lesson that us bloggers can make anything look good. Take away those nice curtains flowy curtains, and you get this:
The shade is super, bulky and sticks out inches from the window. It’s, frankly, unattractive, as are the old maroon curtains that are too short and don’t match anything in the room. Please ignore them.
But maybe you’re thinking “put them down! They must look better down.” No. They don’t. At least, not during the day. The sun shines through awkwardly, showing off my bad shade job.
I was trying to save money by using one sheet for two shades. It’s not quite wide enough for the job, and therefore, looks bad when it can actually be seen.
Admittedly, it does look decent down, at night. But that sheet is thin, and the world can probably see right into my bedroom. So, even then, it’s not really ideal.
2. It Doesn’t Work Well
The shades/twigs are heavy. That means the string is not super inclined to lift it up when you pull, like string would lift a normal fabric shade. In order to make it work, you have to pull the string and lift the shade from the bottom. It’s awkward.
Who wants to do this every morning? Nobody.
3. It’s Not a Big Money Saver
Two shades cost me around $80 to build, and I already had some of the supplies in-stock. I could’ve purchased two new bamboo shades that fit these windows for around $100.
Frankly, I wish I had. The $20 savings wasn’t worth it at all. To be totally honest with you, I’m taking them apart and banishing the pieces to the “random crap” section of my basement. Maybe someday, I’ll make them into something. Stay tuned.
Part 3: If You’re Completely Determined to DIY…
If someone stuck a gun to my head and told me to build DIY Bamboo Shades again, I’d try using a bamboo mat/rug instead of fencing. Rugs are flat, and theoretically, using that instead would create a flatter, more attractive shade.
I’m not sure if bamboo mats are lighter, but I’d like to think so, since they’re less voluminous than my twigs. If so, that would solve the other problem I had with operation, since if they were lighter they’d be easier to operate.
A few steps in the process would have to change – securing the dowels would probably need to be accomplished differently, but I’m sure it could be done.
However, I think bamboo mats are pretty pricey, so I’m not sure if this option would actually save money. If you try it, please let me know how it goes in the comments below. I have so many questions: Did it work? Was it flat? Did you save money? Basically, tell me everything.
If you found this useful, or think you’ll be tempted to make DIY bamboo shades in the future and need a reminder of my disaster, go ahead and save this post to Pinterest!
And if you want to see more projects and/or epic fails, follow me on Pinterest! It’s sure to be entertaining!
Tuesday 7th of April 2020
Hi Wendy, I am wondering if these shades would go up easier and not shed breaking bits on the edges if you hot glued a sturdy cloth border on the edges like bias tape is used when hemming a skirt. I once found two matching beach mats at a garage sale that might work for this project like you said. You get an A for trying. Everything you try will lead you to the answers in a future project.
Tuesday 7th of April 2020
Good idea - I think it could definitely help!