Updated: Dec 16, 2019
In episode fifteen of the Sew Much More Podcast: 30-Minutes with Workroom Tech, Ceil DiGuglielmo and Susan Woodcock talk about relaxed Roman shades. You can listen to the episode here: 30-Minutes with Workroom Tech Podcast
What is a "Relaxed" Roman Shade?
A relaxed Roman shade is similar to a standard Roman shade except that the center isn’t square and level, and is allowed to slightly swag. That’s the “relaxed” part… the center isn’t structured and held up by cords.
There are many other types of shades that swoop or swag at the bottom, but they are made with more generous fullness. Examples would be a London shade, with a pleat inset from each end; a balloon shade with gathered or inverted pleats across the width of the shade; and an Austrian shade which that has fullness added to the length that is then gathered up vertically with shirring tapes.
Susan shared that she has three favorite methods for making relaxed Roman shades, but there there are more than three. Before deciding on how you are going to make the shade, you need to need to understand the client’s wishes, and the fabric selection.
1. Window sizes and are the shades inside mounted, or outside mounted?
2. Will the shades to be functional?
3. How much droop or swag is desired on the bottom?
4. What fabrics and linings are being used?
The most basic method for making a Relaxed shade is where the shade is made just like a flat Roman shade, except there are no middle rings. "That’s the method I use most often by sewing shade rings for the lift cords on the outer edges only" Susan said, adding... "this creates an understated shape on the bottom. I describe this as a Mona Lisa smile instead of a Julia Roberts smile.
In the video below, Susan shares a shade made with this method that she recently installed. (Sources: interior design Kenny Ball Antiques & Design, fabric Cowtan & Tout, lining and interlinings Hanes Fabrics, lift system Pro Design LLC.)
You can also sew the rings so that the bottom three or four rings flare out slightly, and the rest of the rings are sewn in a straight column. This creates a little more of a smile because the cord pulls up the fabric more like a swag. It's a very slight difference and sometimes it is difficult to tell just by looking at the shade if the rings were sewn in straight columns, or if the bottom rings were angled out.
The photos below show sample shades made for demonstration purposes in brown chintz, so that the ring placement shows in the photos. You can see the slight differences.
Training and Dressing
Susan likes to train the shades in the workroom by hanging, raising up, steaming and dressing and letting them stay like that. " will even bag them up for delivery in the raised position", she adds. Some fabrics do train easier than others. It's smart to let the client know beforehand that relaxed shades are better as a stationary shade, if they are fussy about perfection. Sometimes you just get lucky and the fabric cooperates! The photo below shows relaxed Roman shades "in training" in the workroom.
Bottom Weight Bar
On all the styles of relaxed Roman shades, a weight bar is needed to hold the columns of rings at a fixed width. This prevents the shade from pulling in on the sides.
Adding a Flare of Fishtail
If the shade is functional and will be used every day for privacy, consider making a shade that’s cut a little bit wider at the bottom in a fishtail shape. You only need to allow two to three inches total to the width. Susan allows for three permanent folds at the bottom and that will be the section that is flared-out (if ring spacing is 6 inches, the bottom 18" will be cut in a flared shape).
A how-to for this method can be found in Susan's book Singer(R) Sewing Custom Curtains, Shades and Top Treatments. The instructions in the book use a pillow cased hem, where there is only a seam on the edges, and no side hem. Susan shared that it's easy to add side hems by making a relief cut inside the doubled hem where the sides flare out.
This looks much better for an outside mounted shade.
The folds at the bottom of the shade are set in a fixed position, so be sure to allow extra length when figuring the yardage, measuring and board mounting.
In the video below, from a Facebook live with Susan Woodcock recorded on April 17, 2019, you can see the different shade methods side-by-side, and learn more about making this style of shade.
The final way to achieve the relaxed shape on Roman shades is by adding a little bit of fullness with pleats, or by wrapping the fabric around the board. Just like with the flared bottom method, it’s very minimal. You can make a tiny pleat on each side and that will give you a swag shape. Wrapping the fabric around the board gives you both extra fullness for the swag shape at the bottom, and covers the ends of the board, which is great for outside mounted shades. You can also combine both a small pleat on each end, and wrapping the fabric around the returns. That’s going to give you a much fuller and softer bottom on the shade. The look is messier, and the sides will be more like a balloon shade.
When a customer orders a relaxed Roman shade, you need to understand exactly what they would like on the window. There's not one specific look. "That’s why I make mock-ups", Susan said. "It helps so much. Even if you agree on a style, you might need to help them visualize how the shade will look on different size windows".
On wide windows, you might want to plan on two, or three "swoops", so the center doesn't get too wide and awkward looking. Adding a little fullness with a small pleat on each end, or cutting with a flare helps to keep it from looking stretched. The wider windows would be more difficult to dress, so it's a good choice for a stationary shade.
Recommended Lift Systems
You can use any system for a relaxed shade. The most common would be a clutch track or tube, or a motorized system. You can use a spring system but you need to be a little more creative., adding a pull ring to the weight bar. Susan recommends viewing the "Method Share" video by The Workroom Channel featuring Elki Horn. Elki includes a relaxed Roman shade in this tutorial. You can view the video below.
" I think that relaxed shades are easy to make, and less work than any other shade styles, but for some reason they seem to be a big challenge for workrooms" Susan said. Her best advice is to not overthink it! If you get a good method that works well for you, then have samples and photos of to show clients, and be sure to follow cord safety standards just like with any other shade.