I love our backyard pergola except one thing- there’s no shade. But I’m a DIYer, so I figured that I could make my own cover for the pergola. And then I thought- how could I put my own spin on it? So, of course, I’m going to dye the shades to make them rainbow! Here’s how I made my rainbow DIY pergola shade-
how to make a rainbow diy pergola shade
Let’s start with the video tutorial so you get an overview on what I did. Then, I’ll dive in with more details below:
If the video doesn’t work here, you can watch it on YouTube here. I’d be over the moon happy if you subscribed to my YouTube channel! Videos are actually released on YouTube first (usually the night before they’re published on the blog). Thank you!
Here’s my pergola before- super cute! But just lacking some shade. Let’s fix that!
Prep for this project by grabbing everything you need-
- Sewing Gauge Ruler
- Sewing Scissors
- Fabric Marking Pen
- 4 Drop Cloths
- Rit Dye- Fuscia, Petal Pink, Coral, Golden Yellow, Lemon Yellow, Kelly Green, Aquamarine, Teal
- Plastic Bin
- Rubber Gloves
- Scotchgard Outdoor Water Sheild
- Snaps that Screw On
I had most of the dye on hand before so I spent $90 on this project.
step 1- cut
Start by trimming the canvas drop cloths down to size. I knew I needed 8 strips that are 16″ wide. So I cut each drop cloth into two 17.5″ wide pieces. This gives me 1.5″ for seam allowance.
To cut the size the right width and in a straight line, I used a measuring stick and from the side marked 17.5″ over every few feet. Then I joined the line with my straight edge and cut down the line.
Note, using a rotary cutter and a mat would have been quicker.
For the length, I figured I’d do 1.5x the size of the pergola so there’s extra fabric for draping. My pergola is 10′ long. I bought the 15′ long drop cloths since they’re the perfect length for what I’m thinking. No extra work needed to cut the drop cloth to the right length!
step 2- iron & sew
Next, after the canvas is cut to size, it’s time to hem the one cut side. To do this, I began by ironing the hem. First, I used a sewing gauge ruler to make sure I was folding over the fabric 3/4″ over. Then I ironed the whole length with a 3/4″ hem.
When I got to the end, I folded the fabric over and ironed it again. This made it so that I had a nice folded edge (no fraying ends) and I still didn’t have to use pins when sewing. I’m not a fan of pins- maybe I’m too lazy, but I don’t find them necessary when ironing.
Once all eight pieces are cut and ironed, it’s time to sew! I set up my sewing machine on my dining table and stitched all 120 feet of strips. It was just a straight line- easy peasy! It took probably an hour and a half because of the length, but it was simple.
step 3- dye prep
And now, it’s time to dye the shades! To prep for this I grabbed rubber gloves (so I didn’t dye my hands), plastic bins or buckets (I had four on hand, one will do though), the 8 colors of dye, and something to stir with.
Each of my shades weighed 1 pound (I measured it by stepping on a weight with and without the shade). For these steps, I followed Rit Dye’s directions. I used 1/2 bottle of dye and 1 gallon of water (I just re-read the instructions and was supposed to use 3 gallons, but 1 worked).
The canvas drop cloths are make mostly of cotton, but do have some polyester in them. Because they have some synthetic materials in them, they won’t take dye as easily so I wanted to make sure to use really hot water to ensure the shades accepted the dye. To do this, I heated up water until boiling on the stove top.
step 3- dye
While the water was heating up, I got one shade at a time wet. When the water came to boiling, I measured out 1 gallon into the plastic bin. The plastic bin held up to the boiling water! Next, I added the 1/2 bottle of dye. Last, I put the wet shade into the water. By having the shade wet first, it helps ensure even dyeing and that the dye is accepted.
The first 10 minutes of dyeing are the most important- stir well for the whole 10 minutes especially when dying a long piece of fabric like this. As time went on, I got a little lazy with stirring and my last shades are a little more splotchy than the first ones.
I left the fabric in the dye bath for 30 minutes (which is recommended for a polyester blend). Note, fabric will look darker when wet. Repeat the dyeing for each shade. Having a few bins was helpful so I could start one color, stir it for 10 minutes, and then start another color while the first one sat.
After 30 minutes, I rinsed the shade in cool water until the water ran clear. This helps set the color. Before putting the dye in my sink, I rinsed the sink with water to help prevent the dye from staining my sink (it is a white sink so I’m extra cautious). The pink dye did leave some color behind so I just cleaned that up with Bar Keeper’s Friend.
Last, I washed the shades in my washing machine with detergent on a quick wash. At first I washed different colors of shades separately, but then threw a bunch of colors in together. They didn’t bleed on each other and that worked totally great. After washing, they were dried and folded up.
step 4- install
Finally it’s time to put the shades up on the pergola! First though, I wanted to add some Scotchgard to my shades to help waterproof them. I bought two bottles.
I sprayed one side, misted it with water (which the directions said to do in low humidity areas), let it dry, and then repeated on the other side. For this project, I used 1.5 bottles of the Scotchgard on all 8 shades.
To attach the fabric to the pergola, I bought snaps that have a screw on the back end.
To install the snaps, first we drilled a pilot hole through the fabric AND the wood. This made it so they lined up. Then we drilled in the back of the snaps into the pergola.
The snap kit comes with a rod so you can hammer the two pieces of the top snap together on either side of the fabric.
Now, all you have to do is snap the fabric onto the hardware on the pergola! This way, at the end of the season, I can un-snap the fabric and fold it up for winter.
For our pergola, I draped the fabric over one beam and then under the next one. For each shade I alternated the order so the shades varied where they dipped down.
Here’s how the rainbow DIY pergola shade turned out- so cute right?!
It kind of feels like a festival out here now. And I mean, that’s kind of fun for an outdoor patio! It’s very festive and definitely more shady than before!
I’m a big fan. The colors are so fun and go with my rainbow loving vibe. What do you think? Would you try adding color to your pergola?
This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience. Click here to read my full disclosure policy.
If you love it, pin it!