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How to Make Your Own Blackout Blinds

In my role as a medical representative I am often on the road away from home.
When I used to look after the East Gippsland region of country Victoria, I had the pleasure of staying in a beautiful bed and breakfast just out of Sale.

Minnie’s B&B is a self-contained house on a 10 hectare farm.
It is better than most ‘home away from homes’ and I loved that I could sit in front of the huge windows and watch the cows gallivanting about in the fields or the rabbits out for a morning hop and sniff while I was eating my breakfast.

Grass-fed Gippsland Cows

Grass-fed Gippsland Cows

But in hindsight, the best part of this B&B was the luxuriously thick floor-to-ceiling blackout curtains in the bedroom.

Whenever I stayed there I used to have the best sleep and I would wake up feeling completely refreshed, centered and eager to get going with my day.

Unfortunately, this was in stark contrast to the situation in my bedroom at home.
The sickly orange glow from the streetlight outside our front bedroom fights with the yellowish floodlights that the neighbours across the road leave on all night, to light up the area in front of their garage.
Why…oh…why would you need to do this?

Our blinds could not be further from blackout, so much of this light would insidiously seep around the edges of our bedroom blinds while we were sleeping or trying to sleep.

Before blackout blinds

Before blackout blinds

At the time we did not consciously realise the effect this was having on the quality of our sleep.
It was not until recently that I put two and two together when comparing how I felt waking up after a night spent in a completely dark room versus a night spent in our seepy light bedroom.

Sleeping in a totally dark room makes a massive difference to my motivation, mood and get-up and go in the mornings.

The Problem:

Blackout curtains can be hideously expensive and installing anything permanent was just not an option for us because we are renting.
I checked out some pre-made blackout curtains and not including the rail and
fixings they were $104 each for something that was 80-140 cm x 213 cm…the quality was pretty dodgy and you would still need to install them yourself.

The Solution:

The spirit of kiwi ingenuity flows strongly in me …[my dad is quietly chuckling away to himself right about now]… so I decided to make my own blackout blinds.
They needed to be simple and easy to put up at bedtime and take down in the morning.
Also, any trace of them ever having been there had to be easy to remove when we do move out.

The Blinds:

Are constructed from faux leather material attached to a piece of pine moulding at the top and a piece of hard wood dowel at the bottom to weigh the leather down, make it sit flush with the wall and allow the blinds to be rolled up and stood behind the door during the day.
A hole in the middle of the pine moulding is the anchor point for the blind and hooks over a nail on the top of the window frame.

Don’t think these blackout blinds are pretty, they are not.
They are functional…and functional.
Really, you could consider this ultra-simple design as a prototype to be worked on and improved in a version 2.0 or even 3.0.

Blackout blind

One Blind Up

If you guys do take up the challenge to improve on the prototype, Andrew’s requirements are for functional elegance – he is not a fan of how my current blinds look.
But you know what?
When they are up and the lights are off…YOU…CAN…NOT…SEE…THEM…you can’t even see your hand in front of your face!

The Materials:

Materials for making blackout blinds

  • Flat fold faux leather furnishing fabric, 4.5 m @ $9.99 per metre came to $45
  • 2 x heavy wooden dowels, 1.2 m long and 25 mm dia, 2 x $9.56 came to $19.12
  • 2 x pine mouldings 1.2m long and 20 x 8 mm, 2 x $2.40 came to $4.80
  • Pack of upholstery nails, $4.72
  • Roll of cloth tape, $4.52

Had at home:

  • Hammer
  • Tape measure
  • Cordless drill
  • 2 x massive nails (used these instead of the wood screws I had bought)

The Method:

  1. Measure your window and write the measurements down (don’t think you are going to get down to the hardware store and be able to remember those numbers!).  I made lots of measurements, but the only ones I actually needed were the width of the window and the height of the window to the floor.  My windows measure 0.95 x 1.9 m, 2.2 m to the floor.
  2. Assemble materials.
  3. Cut the fabric to size.  I pretty much just cut mine in half so I would have an overflow of fabric on each side of the window frame to stop any light seepage around the edges.  I also wanted extra fabric to the floor so I could roll the excess around the dowel and make the blind sit tight to the wall and window frame.
  4. Attach the pine moulding and dowel to the top and bottom of the blind using the upholstery nails. *EDIT: I have since found that it works better to stick the dowel down with double sided tape before using as many nails as you can to hold it all down.*
  5. Cover the heads of the nails with cloth tape.  I found the exposed nail heads were punching micro holes in the fabric when the blinds were rolled up for the day. The mini starscape this created was eliminated with more cloth tape.
  6. Drill a hole halfway along the piece of pine moulding.  The hole needs to be big enough for the head of the big nails to pass through.
  7. IMG_4254Hammer the big nail into the top of your window frame.  Make sure it is on the halfway mark and be careful not to leave tell-tale hammer scuff marks on the wall.
  8. IMG_4250Pick up your blind and line up the hole in the pine moulding with the nail and hook the pine moulding onto the nail.  Slide it down so the moulding sits flat on the top of the window frame.
  9. IMG_4244There should be excess material on the floor, roll it around the dowel till the dowel sits on the floor right up against the wall.  This should pull the blind tight.
  10. IMG_4243Use the cloth tape to tape the dowel in place.
  11. Done.
  12. In the morning you can unhook the blind, fold it in half then quarters and roll up to store someplace out of the way. And when we move out, it will be a simple matter of hooking the nails out and no-one will ever notice they were there.

The Cost:

The dollar cost of making these blackout blinds (2 x just over 1.2 m wide x 2.2 m high) was $78.
If I had bought the pre-made curtains instead I would have spent $208 on just the dodgy curtains, not including the rails and fixtures.
And I would have still had to put them up myself.
Therefore, CRYSTAL WINS!!

The real win though, is to our health and wellbeing through getting an awesome, high quality, deep sleep every night and waking up refreshed and in hormonal balance.
Something you cannot put a dollar price on.

Do you need blackout blinds?

Test – lie in your bed in your darkened bedroom.
Now, can you see anything? Anything at all? Does the interior of your eyelids look any different to the interior of your bedroom? If you didn’t otherwise know, could you tell if your eyes were open or closed?
If yes, then yes indeed, you do need blackout blinds. No ifs, no buts, just do it.
Trust me it will be worth it!

If you do give this a go, please tell us in the comments below.
We would love to hear your feedback, even if you go buy some
blackout curtains, tell us what you notice about your quality of sleep before and after blackout.
If you improve on this prototype design, definitely post it up for us all…and remember functional elegance is the goal to work towards here.

In fact, Andrew is counting on you all to improve on my prototype.

Until next time: eat, sleep, move…and go create a cave-like environment for some deep, soul enriching sleep!


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7 Responses to How to Make Your Own Blackout Blinds

  1. Brian Sunday 3 February, 2013 at 4:04 AM #

    Great idea! Another thing to check is whether light seeps around your bedroom doors in case you are the first one to go to bed. If it does, cover it with black duct tape, tape cardboard panels, and place a towel along the bottom.

  2. Bchbug Sunday 3 June, 2012 at 5:16 AM #

    Hey Crystal…. how are you?  that is a marvelous idea… here is my dilemma…. my window frame is flush…. how would you hang the blind… there is nothing but the wall….with frame work around the bottom of the window, like a window seal.  How will the blind sit flush?  does that make sense?  I’m wonder if velcro would hold the material at the top and bottom????

    • Crystal Fieldhouse Sunday 3 June, 2012 at 11:31 AM #

      Hey there!
      Glad you are looking into improving the quality of your sleep with some  blackout blinds!
      You could try hanging your blinds like a picture.  If you put a picture hook above your window (maybe one of those 3M temporary ones that you can pull off later) and a length of string attached to either end of the wooden mouldings on the top of the blind.
      Then when you put the blinds up, you just loop the string over the picture hook and waahlaahh a nice blackout-blind-artwork hanging over your window.
      Hope this works for you, definitely check back in and let us know how you go!

  3. Alistar Franklin Monday 9 April, 2012 at 2:33 PM #

    I really like to know how to make my own blackout blinds. I think that it would help me a lot on regulating sufficient amount of light inside the house. I know that many people are also interested on knowing how to make it.

  4. paleoirish Thursday 24 November, 2011 at 8:05 AM #

    Good job! Glad to hear that your sleep has improved, it has such a huge impact on us, often without us knowing.

    I am lucky to live in the countryside with no lighting around us so at night we leave the blinds open. On moonlit nights there is light in our room if the sky is clear and I have to admit that is not always the case in Ireland, otherwise our room is quite dark. At this time of year the light wakes me up naturally in the morning.

    In the summer of course I tend to wake earlier and usually stay on for a little more sleep -- I wonder if this will change next summer as I become more used to my paleo diet? Perhaps I will become more of a morning lark.

    I am slowly trying to change my night-owl habits and go to bed earlier. Right now if I go before midnight I am pleased -- this is a work in progress and I hope to develop earlier bedtimes. I don’t need an alarm clock, I am self-directed and do not have a schedule imposed on me that I need to adhere to so I am very lucky in this regard.

    • Crystal Saturday 26 November, 2011 at 11:02 AM #

      Thank you
      Well done on the change to Paleo and prioritising your sleep, it is a journey that just keeps on giving!
      It must be awesome to wake up with the sun and not be shocked awake by an alarm clock every morning…I am very envious and am to work out how to make that happen with my lifestyle and schedule.
      Although, I am sure it would be easier if our bedtimes were earlier and we were able to get in a good 8 or 9 hours sleep before sunrise!


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