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What are Roman Blinds?

A Roman blind is, simply put, a soft-cloth based blind, where the fabric is pulled up into neat 'pleats' or panels when open, via a threaded rod.  Thought to have been popularised in Rome, Italy during the height of the Roman empire,  roman blinds are still highly popular today, as an affordable option when compared to curtains. Roman blinds are insulating and stylish.

Roman blinds are also known as 'window shades' and 'roman shades' and come in two well-known styles; the less-made 'Austrian' and the much more common 'classic' style. 
Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful
- William Morris

History of Roman Blinds

Kamal al-Din Behzad, The Caliph Harun al Rashid visits the Turkish Bath, from copy of 12th century Khamsa of Nizami, Herat, Afghanistan 1494 Working in the Timurid court of Husayun
 

- Kamal al-Din Behzad, The Caliph Harun al Rashid visits the Turkish Bath, from copy of 12th century Khamsa of Nizami, Herat, Afghanistan 1494 Working in the Timurid court of Husayun

Roman blinds very likely go back a very, very long time.  As ancient technologies evolved, so did our ways of decorating our homes.  So to properly explain romans blinds, we'll take a look at the evolution of 'soft' cloth along side it.

Most cloths originated somewhere in the Ancient middle-east, modern India and China, with specialsed woven fabrics found in many markets next to herbs and other specialised goods.  As newer technologies appeared and the human population moved around, the passing of these cloths, through trade and word of mouth, enabled newer fashions and functional home accessories to reach the general populace. 

It was very common for peasantry to live with their livestock and usually their own houses were cruely made with various ventilation holes required to let out the smells from cooking and day to day life.  Animal skins and spare bits of cheap fabric would have been used to keep the elements out during rain and winter, or opened in summer.

From lavish silks and velvets for the rich, to the use of linen and wool for the middle to poor classes, Roman Blinds have cropped up throughout history in one fashion or another as a popular window blind.

Roman Blinds - From Rome?

Colosseum GreyScale
- Photo by Mathew Schwartz on Unsplash
During a turbulent time for the Roman Empire, around 70-80 AD, there was a time of quick expanision and building in their capital, under the Flavian dynasty.  This display of power created the "Flavian Ampitheater", also known as the 7th Wonder of the World - The Colosseum - which still stands 2000 years later.  

It's theorised (though not proven) that Roman Blinds originated during the rapid build up of the area, with crude blinds being made from various materials - Animal skins and cheap bolts of cloth - to prevent dust kick-up caused by the builders and masons, entering homes.  Since then, Roman Blinds have been consistently linked to the Roman Empire, and have popped up throughout history as a popular window dressing.

Yorkshire Powerhouse

Huddersfield Mill 1900s
-  Drum Winders, Kaye and Stewarts Mill Huddersfield 1910
A recent development for Roman Blinds dates back to the Industrial Revolution from the 1780s - 1840s. 

Weavers that specialsed in well...weaving material like wool into useable fabric bolts, a previously long and detailed process, were driven out of their homes due to the introduction of mechanised labour.  Rapid production of fabrics reduced the time and effort it previously took to make fabric, and the introduction of new dyes and manufacturing methods meant that there were new fabrics, at a fraction of the cost. 

These combined to create a surge in fabric availablity and design.  It was the fashion  to decorate your house using these new colours and patterned fabrics were much loved at the time.  It was common to match your window dressing to the upholstery,  with greens, blues and reds the shades in vogue.  

During the height of the Industrial Revolution, Yorkshire and its towns heavily invested into the industry, with mills springing up along natural rivers.  Huddersfield, where Swift Direct Blinds are based, ands its 'made in Huddersfield' tag was once considered a brand of royalty, such was the quality produced from our illustrious town. [1]
‘Made in Huddersfield’ became a global brand for the time, and was even a choice for royalty. [1]

Arts & Crafts

"Trellis" Wallpaper, 1862, William Morris
- William Morris design | “Trellis” wallpaper 1862 | Wikimedia Commons

 
Though leaps and bounds were made that reduced labour and futher spread cheap material around during the 19th Century, there were a group of people that pushed back. 

The Arts and Crafts movement, finding their inspiration from folk art and medieval methods, with an emphasise on high-quality and hand-crafted products, hit back at the monotomous machines.  Arguing that much had been lost through the introduction of machine-made products, pioneers such as William Morris re-introduced hand-made, crafted products back into modern society. 

Though is was thought that machine-made items were completely rejected, this isn't true.  If there was a blend of talent and machine to create a truely beautiful, high-quality craft, this was deemed an acceptable compromise.

Because of the birth of the 19th Century craft movement, Britain was once again producing high-quality goods, with thought and care taken to create a durable product, with a conscientious method.  This can still be found today in many textile designs and creation. 

You could also argue that once again, 100 years later, the general public are pushing back against 'quick', low-quality goods that are imported from the East, and instead are opting for small companies that emphasise craft and care.  Just look at how 'craft' brewers and 'craft' sites like Etsy and Notonthehighstreet have blow up over the past decade.  This modern movement also drips into our Roman Blind and Curtain fabrics, with our North-based manufacturers creating beautiful fabrics, at an affordable cost to the public.

Roman Blinds Today

Grey Nordic Roman Blind in a Living Room
Roman blinds today are made from a range of fabrics from cotton to linen, with polyester being the favourite.  With the evolution of the cloth and dye industry, and leaps made in digital design, roman blinds now offer the widest range of colours, patterns and finishes.

Finished off with an insulating cotton/poly blended lining, our roman blinds use rods fed through the back of the blind and a chain to ensure neat, symmetrical pleats.

Using Roman Blinds as a layered 'look' creates a softer finish than more modern blinds, with textured velvets and suedes being highly popular.

Nealy all of our fabrics are still sourced today from Yorkshire-run companies, and are sewn by our seamstresses in our Huddersfield Workshop - Proving that the industrial powerhouse of the 'North' still stands strong today, even if methods change.