There are many ways of making fabric shades, and just as many ways of describing them!
Festoon shades are sometimes known as cloud or balloon shades, and Austrian as Festoon. So don't worry if you have other names for them, because they are known by various names in different geographical areas.
(Shades or blinds? Technically, shades can't block all the light, whereas blinds can. But this isn't applied in many countries, and everything from Roller to Austrian are referred to as blinds.)
A major advantage of fabric shades is that you can bring the charm of a delightful fabric into your room in a simple but effective and practical way.
Different types of fabric shades
These were the earliest shades used, and are still some of the most useful. They are sometimes called 'Holland' shades, as they were originally made from a finely woven glazed linen called Holland.
Roller shades can be made from any fabric which can be stiffened or laminated, or which is firm enough on its own to roll up. The fabric is wound around a roller which is either spring loaded or has a side chain mechanism to wind the shade up and down.
The fabric can be finished in many ways, such as stenciling, painting, or trimmed in contrasting fabric or braid. The base can also be shaped.
A reverse roller blind is where the fabric is rolled from the bottom up, by means of a pair of cords, although the cords can eventually rub into the fabric.
In the eighteenth century in Europe, in what is usually known as the 'Rococo' period, Austrian shades were fashionable. Many people think Austrian shades are fussy and unruly, but in the right circumstances they can enhance a room.
These fabric shades have fullness in the width. You can use any sort of heading, but pencil pleats are the most common. The shade is raised and lowered by cords running through rings sewn onto the reverse of the shade. When fully down, Austrian shades look very much like a standard curtain.
A variation of this sort of shade is the 'tailed' Austrian shade. You simply omit the cords from the sides, causing the sides to form tails when the center section is raised.
These are very similar to Austrian shades. The difference is that Festoon shades have fullness in the length as well as the width. When they are fully down, there is fullness in the length as well as the width. In other words, there is (usually) twice the length of fabric in the finished drop. As with Austrian shades, cords are used to raise and lower the shade.
When a Roman shade is down, the fabric is flat - there is no fullness in either the width or the drop. The fabric has thin battens or rods inserted at intervals horizontally. Cords are attached at the back, and when pulled up, the fabric falls into neat folds.
You can line and interline Roman shades, or use blackout lining, or no lining at all. For effect, you can edge or trim the shade, or inset borders on one or more edges.
Look in any book on how to make fabric shades, and you'll find many variations on shades.
- You can have Roman shades with fullness across the width, called Shirred Roman shades.
- Roman shades with folds fixed so even when fully down the fabric is not flat but still has folds.
- Austrian or Festoon shades with alternate cords attached at different heights to achieve unique effects.
For more information go to the page on fabric window shades
When you're making your fabric shades - especially Austrian or Festoon - if they are large, make sure the fittings you use are adequate to support the weight. Double fullness of fabric in a Festoon shade with lining can result in considerable weight. For Roman shades you can get geared mechanisms which make it easier to raise and lower the shade.
Also make sure the fabric shades can be raised without too much effort! A strong person can fit a shade and easily pull it up, but could his frail grandmother operate it? You may want to consider using rails powered by electric motors which are available for most types of shade.