Cascade Shades – The Softer Roman Shade


Without the dowel rods to keep the pleats tight, a cascade shade can be soft and flowing when your decor warrants it. 

Cascade Shades are the softer version of the Roman Shade.  Roman shades have wooden dowel rods inserted in their pleats so they stay rigid and straight.  Cascade shades have no rods; they simply allow the rings and strings to pull them up in soft, gentle swags.  This shade will be marvelous over nearly any window.  If the window already has a blind or shade, even better, because the layering adds interest!  These would be fine under draperies as well.  They are versatile, functional and I promise they are easy to make.


Materials List:

  • Fabric of your choice
    Lightweight cottons to  medium weight decorator  fabrics are perfect
  • Lining
  • Matching thread
  • Ring tape
  • Cording
  • Velcro
  • Scissors
  • Sewing Machine
    *see second materials list for mounting the shade


1. Designing, measuring and figuring out fabric amounts along with fabric cut sizes is the toughest part of this project.  You must begin with a clear picture in your mind, or better yet, on paper, as to what you want your shade to look like.


What I mean is how many swags, distance between swags, amount of fabric left to droop at the ends, any additional details like ruffles, piping, trims, etc.  I drew mine out on paper and changed the dimensions several times before settling.  I’m making one large shade for over a sliding glass door and two smaller shades for two tall narrow windows along the side wall.

For example, my small window is 25” wide.  I want the batten board at the top to be 27” wide.  I will have one swag at 17” in the center (which includes 2” additional to give the swag some fullness) plus two side “droops” (my own term) at 6” each, thus equaling 29”.  Since this is wider than the batten, I will have to gather the top edge just a touch.

For the length, the window is 72”, plus I am mounting the batten up 2” so the finished length needs to be 74”.  I am planning a 2 ¼” ruffle at the bottom so the finished length of the shade without the ruffle is 71 ¾”.


2. Once the design, measuring and figuring is complete, you can cut out your pieces.  Each small shade required a cut of fabric measuring 30 ½” wide which is the 29” plus two 5/8” seam allowances along the side edges.  The length of the fabric cut was 73” or 71 ¾” plus a top and bottom seam at 5/8” each.

I cut out a piece of lining fabric exactly the same size along with a strip of fabric 5 ¾” wide by 58” long for the ruffle.  This is 2 ¼” doubled plus seam allowances and twice the length of the finished shade for the length.


3. The first step of sewing is to create the ruffle.  To do this, fold the fabric strip in half lengthwise and sew two basting stitches along the raw edges, one at 3/8” and one at 7/8” in from the edges.


Grab the two bobbin threads in one hand, and push the fabric in the opposite direction to start gathering up the ruffle. Gather the ruffle up to about 4” less than the finished width of the shade.  I do this because I like to turn the ends of the ruffle up and sew them into the shade instead of finishing off the ends.


4. Pin the ruffle to the right side of the bottom edge of the shade, with raw edges meeting.  Turn the ends of the ruffle up and into the seam allowance making sure the entire ruffle is within the finished width of the shade, or 5/8” from the edge. Sew in place. Once attached, remove the basting stitch that is showing on the right side of the ruffle.


Once the ruffle is attached, the right side of the shade should look like this.  The extra fabric along the edge is the seam allowance for the side edge of the shade.


5. Next, pin the lining fabric to the shade with right sides together and the ruffle tucked inside.  Pin all the way around leaving an opening at the top to turn the shade right side out.  Sew the lining to the shade.


6. Clip the corners and trim the edges and turn the shade right side out.  Now it’s time to go to the ironing board.


7. At the ironing board, pull the edges out to the stitching and iron flat.  Don’t allow any of the lining fabric to peek out from behind the front face fabric.  This is tricky and will make or break the look of your shade.  A professional would cut the lining piece narrower and the front piece wider to eliminate this issue.  It does make the figuring of the fabric cuts a bit more complicated, and I have found that I can be happy doing my lining either way.  Check other projects in the sewing section for lining added that is narrower than the front face fabric.  Both ways can work.


8. In this step we’re going to do three steps in one. First pin the opening closed at the top of the shade.  Then, pin the soft side of the Velcro to the back side of the shade along the top, and at the same time, ease in the fullness a bit for the shade to fit on the batten.  Then, when we sew the velcro on, we will be hitting three birds with one stone! This is a bold move, but sometimes you just have to move things along a little faster!  Now if you so desire, you can hand stitch the opening closed, you can stitch gathering tape to the top of the shade and gather it slightly to match the length of the batten.  Then you can sew the Velcro to the top of the shade over the gathering tape.  I will admit that option 2 is the more professional way to do things.


9. To add the ring tape, measure in and mark on the back where the tape is to be located.  On this shade the ring tape was to be 6” in from both edges.  This ring tape has the rings spaced every 6” so start the first ring 3” up from the top of the ruffle.  Pin the ring tape in place and then you have options.  You can machine stitch the ring tape on the shade using two lines of stitching along both edges of the tape.  Or, you can hand stitch the rings in place using thread that matches the front face fabric.  I chose to hand stitch the rings in place so the front of the shade looks neater with less stitch lines.  You might say why use the ring tape then instead of just a bag of rings?  Well, the ring tape automatically spaces the rings and that makes things much, much faster.  I sew the rings on watching TV or something like that.


10. To add the cording, tie one end to the bottom ring with a square knot and thread the cording up through the rest of the rings. Let the shade sit until the mounting hardware is in place.


Materials List for Mounting the Shade:

  • Finished shade
  • 1” x 2” batten the width of the shade
  • Saw
  • Extra shade fabric
  • Staple gun
  • 5/16” staples
  • #214 screw eyes
  • Awl or nail and hammer
  • 1 ½” “L” brackets
  • Screwdriver or cordless screwdriver


1. To mount the shade you must first prepare the mounting batten. Cut the 1” x 2” to the length you need.  I have the most fabulous saw made by Stanley, called The Shark.  It works like a dream.  Of course I wish I had a whole shop like Matt.  Instead this is my recycle tub turned upside down with my foot for a clamp….hey we make do!


2. Cover the batten with the shade fabric using a staple gun or I’ll bet you could use a hot glue gun.


3. Staple the rough side of the Velcro to the narrow edge of the batten.  I make sure the best side of the batten is facing down since you probably will never be up high enough to see the top once it’s mounted.


4. Locate the position of the two screw eyes to line up with the rings.  Although the rings were sewn at 6” from the edge, with the shade cinched up a bit, the eyes are now located 5 ½” from the edge.


5. Use an awl to get a hole started or a nail and hammer will start a hole as well.  Then, insert the screw eye and twist it in place.


When it gets difficult to twist by hand, I use a narrow screwdriver to help me along.  Determine which end you want the cords to hang and add a third screw eye at the end of the batten so the cords will drop at the end of the batten instead of 5 ½” from the edge of the batten.


6. Mount the batten above the window using the “L” brackets.  (This is very difficult for me because Matt used to take care of all this “boy” stuff.  So, you see I chipped the stucco, that is my third screw trying to bite in, and I could only muscle one into both the wall and the batten.  In my case, I’m letting this go because I am not going to raise and lower this shade.  It is going in the up position, it is getting dressed to look pretty, and then it is staying there as a topper since there is a silhouette shade in the window already.


7. While velcroing the shade to the batten, thread the cording through the screw eyes towards the end you want the cords to hang.  Finish attaching the shade and tie a knot in the cording up high on the window.  Remember, you’ll be pulling the cords to lift the shade and you won’t want them hanging too low.


8. When you pull the shade up for the first time, here’s what to expect….  The folds won’t show up, the ruffle will be all jabberwocky and it will look like heck.  Don’t fret; this requires major dressing of the folds.  Until the fabric gets a memory of this, it will continue to go up in shambles.  This is the reason I’m leaving mine up at all times….my fabric is a type that will never get a memory.


9. If you are planning to raise and lower your shade, add a cup hook to the wall to hold the knotted end of the cording and hold the shade up. If you are leaving it up like I am, create a large enough knot at the last screw eye to keep the shade in place.

Some Final Thoughts:

I will admit here that I had to safety pin the ends of the folds together so they would stay up enough for the bottom edge of the shade to look right.  My fabric is too stiff to hang nicely at the ends.  When I make the shade for the sliding glass door I’m going to put my ring tape closer to the ends to keep the ruffle from drooping so much.

I wouldn’t consider this a beginner project since we were designing this as we went along.  Sewers, use your experience to get the look you want on this cascade shade since we are basically custom sewing here.

Beginning sewers, place your ring tape within 2” of the edge of the shade and then divide the rest of the shade up evenly into swags of between 12” and 18”.  That should make the project go more smoothly for you.

Good luck all!


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