How To: Make Rice Paper Roller Shades (Guest Post)

published Mar 1, 2006
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Ever thought of making your own shades? If you’d like to know how to make rice paper shades, here’s how I do it.

(Watch. Ask Questions. Have confidence. Curse me for making it look so easy…)

I love these shades because they’re simple and organic and function well. They glow like Naguchi lamps. They work splendidly for our San Francisco Victorian or Bungalow tall, narrow, double hung windows (38″ wide max, unless you can find wider paper). When I first came up with this solution for my zen-fem friend, Rebecca, ten years ago, I was concerned that the paper would be too delicate. But we only just now had to refurbish them.

Price: about $85 per shade 33″x 60″.

rice paper
1″ wooden dowels
2″ white cloth tape
roller shade hardware

tape measure
carpenters square
carpenters straight edge
sewing machine
crosscut saw for cutting wood dowels
screwdriver or screw gun for mounting hardware

The Measuring:
You start out measuring your windows for roller shades; width and height. Here’s where you need to decide where they will be mounted; on the wall or trim (outside mount) or in between window casing or shelving (inside mount) and which side of the window you want the controls. At least 13/4″ depth is needed for an inside mount shade. The paper will be narrower than this overall measurement by 1″ to 1 1/2″ to allow for hardware. The shade is limited by the width of the rice paper. The widest I’ve found the rice paper on a roll is 38″.

The Rice Paper:
You need rice paper sold by the yard on a roll. You will need a piece of paper the length of your window plus 12″. Great resources for paper are Miki’s Paper, Kozo Arts, and Flax.

The Hardware Store:
Pick up 1″ dowels for the hem. They will be cut to the width measurement of your finished shade. Also cloth tape, wood screws, and any tools you lack. Some of my favorite hardware stores are Cliffs in The City (that’s San Francisco) or Pastime in the East Bay.

The Rollers:
Order the rollers from a custom roller shade shop. Ask them to make the allowance for inside or outside mount shades. Order a bead pull, not a spring loaded roller.
Specify left or right control. In S.F. try Art Shade Shop. In Berkeley, Alcatraz Shade Shop.

Don’t leave the window open when it’s raining.

– Kristin

(Kristin has been making and designing window coverings and fabric furnishings for bay area homes and feature films for 20 years. You can reach her at