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Ahhhh; it’s a lovely summer day on the patio. Blue skies, bright sun… actually, really bright. Blinding might be a better word! If you have an outdoor living space you likely also have one or two areas that always get blasted by the sun, making them virtually unusable at certain times of day. Enter our innovative Shade Panel solution. It’s an outdoor curtain with a center screen that filters in light while blocking out the worst of the blinding rays – all without destroying your view. We combine outdoor fabric with pet screen for durability.

The construction steps for this project are super simple. There aren’t a lot of bells or whistles, just good looks and functionality. The beauty is in the simplicity. Outdoor fabrics are good supply doing the summer months. Below are a few other combinations we thought looked great.

We used standard metal grommets and traditional shower curtain hooks to hang the panel. Both are economical, easy to find, and quick to insert. If you’re new to grommets, take a look at our tutorial: How to Install Metal Grommets. The hook-and-ring design also allows the panel to smoothly slide open and closed as the sun moves throughout the day.

Our panel finishes at approximately 86″ long x 53″ wide, which is designed to make the best use of a 54″ width of fabric – the most common width for home décor fabrics. The hanging length will be based on your own situation. For our sample, we measured from the patio overhang down to the concrete floor. This measurement was 92″. We subtracted 6″ to account for hanging a rod and to insure the panel didn’t actually touch the ground.

Cutting wide panels of fabric can be challenging. Its best to fold the fabric in order to cut at a more manageable size. Check out our article: Rotary Cutting Large Panels in One Fell Swoop.

The basic steps of the project will work for any size, although going much wider than about 60″ will start to make the panel unwieldy to work with, and you may have to add more hanging hooks to stabilize the rod, which will make sliding the panel open and closed a bit more challenging.

There is also a line of small drapery weights along the bottom seam, which helps the panel hang straight and provides a bit of stability in a breeze, although the panel does gently move with the wind. You can always clip or tape the curtain rings in place to hold a particular position. Or, add more weights if you’d prefer less movement.

Even at its large size, the panel isn’t super heavy. We used simple eye bolts and S-hooks to hold a metal pole. You could also use a large wooden dowel or even PVC pipe. Keep your hooks as far apart as possible in order to allow the panel to easily slide across the space. This gives you the most flexibility to precisely position the Shade Panel to best block the sun.

As mentioned above, our panel finished at approximately 53″ x 86″. The center “viewing square” is about 52″ x 52″.

Sewing Tools You Need

Fabric and Other Supplies

NOTE: The supplies shown are for ONE 53″ x 86″ curtain panel and include a bit extra to accommodate fussy cutting the stripes.

  • 2¼ yards of 54″+ wide outdoor fabric for each panel of similar size to ours (53″ x 86″); we used 54″ Coach Stripe in Wasabi 
  • 1⅝  yards  of 54″+ Pet Screen or similar in a coordinating color to the outdoor fabric (darker fabrics are best as a sun block): we used 54″ Pet Screen in Black
  • EIGHT large metal grommets; we used Dritz Home 7/16″ metal grommets in Nickel 
  • EIGHT curtain rings
    NOTE: There are many options for curtain rings. We went with shower curtain rings since they are thinner and therefore easy to slip through a smaller grommet. Our choice also came with little rollers along the top of each to allow them to more easily glide across a rod. 
  • EIGHT 1″ – 2″ curtain weights; such as Dritz 1″ Drapery Weights
  • Outdoor or heavy thread to coordinate with the outdoor fabric and screen; we used Coats Extra Strong Upholstery thread in soldier blue
  • See-through ruler
  • Fabric pen or pencil
  • Iron and ironing board
  • Scissors or rotary cutter and mat
  • Tape measure
  • Seam gauge
  • Seam ripper
  • Straight pins
  • Hanging rod and hooks
    NOTE: What you choose, both the length of the rod and the number of hooks, will depend on where and how you plan to hang your panel. We used eye-hooks from which we hung traditional S-hooks. Our pole is a simple metal pipe. 

Getting Started

  1. As mentioned above, cutting wide panels of fabric can be challenging. It’s best to fold the fabric in order to cut at a more manageable size. Check out our article: Rotary Cutting Large Panels in One Fell Swoop. If using a stripe as we did, a clear ruler will help keep things straight.
  2. From the main fabric (Coach Stripe in Wasabi in our sample), cut the following:
    ONE 54″ (WOF – Width of Fabric) x 25″ rectangle for the top panel
    ONE WOF x 43″ rectangle for the bottom panel
    TWO WOF x 3″ strips for the side binding
    NOTE: To make the best use of the fabric, although our main upper and lower panels are cut with the stripes running vertically, the narrow side binding strips are cut WOF and so run horizontally.
  3. From the screen (Black Pet Screen in our sample), cut ONE 54″ (WOF) x 54″ square for the center.
    NOTE: We used our entire cut piece, just trimming top and bottom to insure our starting square was perfectly straight and true.

At Your Sewing Machine & Ironing Board

Bind the sides

  1. Find the two 3″ binding strips.
  2. Fold each strip in half, wrong sides together, and press to set a center crease.
  3. Unfold, wrong side up, so the crease line is visible.
  4. Fold in each long raw edge ½” and press.
  5. Re-fold along the original center crease line and press again.
  6. Slip one binding strip over each raw side edge of the center pet screen panel and pin in place. The horizontal stripes will look best if they are even side to side.
  7. Edgestitch each strip in place from top to bottom. Go slowly to insure you are catching both the front and back of the binding in the seam. We used our Janome Walking foot.
  8. Take a minute at this point to confirm the width measurement of your finished center panel. You want to make sure the width will be a snug fit into the top and bottom panel “caps.” If for any reason, your panel measures a bit larger or smaller than you thought, you can plan now to make your top and bottom panel seams a little smaller or larger to create the perfect fit.

Prepare the top grommeted panel

  1. Find the top 25″ panel. Fold back each WOF raw edge ½” and press.
  2. Fold the panel in half, right sides together, keeping the ½” hems in place. Pin along both sides.
  3. Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch both side seams.
  4. Clip the corners.
  5. Turn right side out, press flat, and pin the layers together along the bottom hemmed edges to prevent any shifting during the grommet placement.
  6. From the top folded edge, measure and mark to equally space EIGHT grommets. We used the wide green stripe in our fabric as our guide, centering each grommet within a green stripe…
  7. … and 1½” down from the top fold.
  8. Mark for each of the eight grommets, re-measuring as needed to insure your spacing is even.
  9. Cut and insert a grommet at each marked point. If you are new to this technique, we have a great tutorial to check out: How To Install Metal Grommets.

Prepare the bottom weighted panel

  1. Find the bottom 43″ panel. Fold back each WOF raw edge ½” and press.
  2. Along one hem, evenly space EIGHT drapery weights. Since the numbers are the same as for the grommets, you can use this same spacing. For example, we once again centered within each wide green stripe. Tuck the top flat tab of each weight behind the hem (the folded back edge) and pin in place.
  3. Unfold the hem and zig zag each weight in place to keep them secure during the rest of the construction. Be careful setting the swing of the zig zag. The top flat tab is quite narrow and you don’t want your needle to hit the enclosed weight. We used a Zipper foot to get in close enough.
  4. Fold the panel in half, right sides together, keeping the ½” hems in place. Pin along both sides.
  5. Using a ½” seam allowance, stitch both side seams.
  6. Clip the corners. Turn right side out, press flat, pressing open the side seam allowances.

Assemble panels to finish

  1. Find the center panel. Insert the top and bottom raw edges of the center panel between the folded hems of the top and bottom panels. The screen should insert about ½” into each panel so the cut edge of the screen is flush with the folded hems.
  2. Pin in place along the top and bottom horizontal hems. You may also want to place a few additional pins across each panel to keep the layers completely secure.
  3. Edgestich the top and bottom panels in place. As above with the binding, go slowly to insure you catch both the front and back of the panels in one seam. Your top and bottom edgestitching distance should match the side binding edgestitching. We switched back to our standard presser foot, but you could also continue to use a Walking foot or similar.


Project Concept: Alicia Thommas
Sample Creation and Instructional Outline: Leah Wand

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2 years ago

You don’t mention how sturdy the needle needs to be for “outdoor” grade fabric. Suggestions?
One more idea…do this work outdoors on a large picnic table? Managing those heavy panels of outdoor fabric is easier this way! Bring outdoors a best-height chair for this, and sit at the end of the table, if it has built-in seats.

Liz Johnson
Liz Johnson
2 years ago
Reply to  LBryan

Hi again, LBryan – we traditionally have used a universal needle without issue. Of course, we went to the high end of the scale with our universal needle — depending on your fabric choice, a 16 or larger would likely work best. As with most projects, but especially something like this, starting with a brand new needle is important.

2 years ago

You’ve just given me a good idea for a similar project–no “window” in this one. Have been trying to figure how to use strong outdoor fabric to keep wind, rain, and leaves out of woodshed and to discourage critters. Am tired of buying a new ugly plastic tarp for this every few years, and the tarp is not strong enough to withstand strong wind. Your rod and grommet idea is great. Our shed has a center post as well as wood posts on both sides of opening. I had been trying to figure out how to make a shade that… Read more »

Liz Johnson
Liz Johnson
2 years ago
Reply to  LBryan

Hi LBryan – what an innovative idea – love it!

Jane H
Jane H
7 years ago

I am very interesed in making

I am very interesed in making these!  One question, is the pet screen the same as vinyl bag mesh?  Also, I was hoping to use my serger, will that work? 

Thanks for  a great idea!

susie wurl
susie wurl
7 years ago

WOW!! This is so clever and

WOW!! This is so clever and charming, and exactly what our front porch needs! THANKS!!!

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