how I made light-blocking shades for a skylight (and hid our ugly venetian blinds)

The boyfriend has always wanted a skylight. A year and a half ago, a contractor doing work on the bedroom said that with only a day or two of extra work, he could put in a skylight. The boyfriend was psyched--finally, a skylight in his bedroom, just like he's always wanted!
We were both really excited at first. The skylight brightens up the room, and we were both enchanted by the idea of looking up and seeing stars at night.

After a couple months, however, I came to hate the skylight. I'm a very light sleeper, and I'm really light-sensitive: to fall asleep, I need darkness. To stay asleep, I need darkness. Look at the picture above. Do you see the blinds? How light gets in between them? After a couple months, I began waking up with the sun every morning and having trouble going back to sleep, because light crept in through the edges of the blinds. Even at night, if the moon was full or if there was a Red Sox game (thanks to Fenway Park, the whole Boston skyline lights up on the night of a Red Sox game), I had trouble falling asleep because of how much light the blinds let in.

We looked into buying light-blocking shades. A lot of them run $200-$500, but honestly, it would have been worth it for me to start sleeping better. But we found out that a lot of skylight models have limited options for what kinds of blinds are compatible... Our model in particular is ONLY fitted for these metallic Venetian blinds. And I have to say, even if they could block the light, I think these Venetian Blinds are pretty ugly.

I found a temporary solution:
I shoved a thick blanket between the window and the screen. It looked ugly, it began to warp the screen a little, and it made the room dark, but I finally slept better. The boyfriend, who had spent good money making this skylight happen, was a trooper, and was glad to let me get some sleep, but I could tell it was sad for him not to actually use the skylight... and I felt a little guilty. Plus, on bright sunny days, when we weren't trying to sleep, it was a lot of work to get the screen off and the blanket down just to get a little sun in our room.

I once had bought light-blocking curtains for our living room that were much too big, so when I had them shortened, there was a lot of extra material that the tailor let me keep. Looking at my blanketed skylight, I decided to put that old curtain cloth to use and make my own light-blocking shade. Because I wanted the shade to be easy to lift, I attached it to the Venetian blinds. (Another benefit of doing it this way: hiding the ugly Venetian blinds!)

Cloth (thick and/or lightblocking if you're trying to block light, but if you just want to cover up ugly Venetian shades, anything will work)
Needle and thread
Venetian Blinds

First step: I took the blinds down from their track on the skylight. I was actually planning to do it with them still on the window, but the boyfriend pointed out that it would've been a lot more work.
I cut the cloth to be the width of the Venetian blinds, and added an extra two inches of height, so I could do a quick sort of hem on the top and bottom.
I cut little tabs on each end of the hem, to slide over the edge of the blind, then just closed up the tab with a bit of thread. You will note that little green dot: because the skylight is higher up, an inexact hemming job looked fine, so I saved myself time by just making little loops every couple of inches. (I don't have a sewing machine, so hemming would have taken me quite a while.)

After I sewed the top tabs around the top blind, I counted down every six blinds and sewed the edge of the curtain around the edge of the blind:
I went back and forth several times, leaving about a finger's width of slack, since the blinds turn when you raise/lower them. When I did this, I made very tiny stitches on the front, so you can barely even tell they're there.
I did this on both sides, every six rows, until I got to the bottom. I treated the bottom like the top; I fake-hemmed it, cut little tabs in the sides of the curtain to slip over the edges, and then sewed the ends of the tabs to the curtain.

We put the blinds back on their track and: voila!
The only thing I'm not crazy about with this is that it bulges a little at the bottom. I could have avoided that by making a center tab in the bottom hem, which I think I might actually have done near the top? But it looks fine, and we rarely have the skylight closed when there are guests over, so no one notices it but me (and now you).

The thing I like best about this shade is the way it looks when we open it:
I don't know if you can see it well in the picture (my camera was not happy taking pictures of the open skylight), but it bunches a lot like a Roman shade! In this picture it wrinkled a little along the gray crank on the right, but that doesn't happen often.

Now both the boyfriend and I love our skylight: it lets in lots of lovely light, AND it lets me sleep.


Végébon said... Best Blogger Tips

Wow, what a great job !
You managed to make something so pretty and useful out of these venitian shades and leftover fabric !!

jd said... Best Blogger Tips

I can't believe I haven't told you how amazingly creative and awesome you are yet.

Guess what?

You totally are!

This DIY stuff is so impressive! And when I'm rich enough to afford a house (instead of an apartment), and, therefore, a sky-light, you're gonna have to hook me up with a home-made, light-blocking, shade fo' sho' :)

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Lino Kosters said... Best Blogger Tips

If it bothers you at night, then you can always cover it. Or better yet, just enjoy the night sky. I’m sure, you’ll fall asleep counting the stars. Have you tried that one?

Mariam Freame said... Best Blogger Tips

I think what you did is quite nifty! You were able to block the lights from the skylight in a fraction of a price! I think you can make this a permanent solution. But do enjoy the sky once in a while. I think the night sky looks beautiful, especially on a full moon.

Conner Spear said... Best Blogger Tips

You did a wonderful job! It may be temporary, but for me, this one’s already perfect! No one would notice that you used an old curtain cloth because it turned out beautifully! It’s nice because you can easily turn this up if you want to look up the sky and see stars at night! ;)

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