How to add fabric to a pergola for shade retractables on track

A pergola is a series of posts that line both sides of a garden pathway. Wood beams span the pathway and connect one post to another. The pergola provides a support structure for climbing plants. The roof is generally open with wood slats creating partial shade. Sometimes pergolas are shaped to form small rooms and it is helpful to create a shade covering so that the small patios or rooms can receive more protection from sunlight for greater summer enjoyment. Making retractable shade coverings is not difficult.

Position a large screw eye so that it has an unobstructed, straight path along the inside edge of the bottom of the pergola. This screw eye will anchor a cable stretched to a similar screw eye at the other end of the same pergola side. Usually the screw eye will hang down from a cross beam or away from the side of a post near the top. Attach four screw eyes so that you can create two parallel cables stretched along the pergola.

Drill a pilot hole into the wood where you want to mount the screw eye. Screw the eye into the hole until it is snug to the wood. Measure between the screw eyes and cut 3 mm (1/8 inch) thick cable 30 cm (12 inches) longer. Cut two cables with the same length.

Slide the end of the cable through the screw eye. Bend the cable back toward the direction it has come from. Place a cable crimp over the area where the cable touches itself. Use a crimping tool to compress the crimp and hold the cable securely. Repeat for the second cable.

Unscrew a turnbuckle to its maximum open size. Attach the hook end of the turnbuckle to an open screw eye. Slide the cable for that side through the loop end of the turnbuckle. Pull the cable taut. Bend the cable back toward the direction it has come from. Place a cable crimp over the area where the cable touches itself. Use a crimping tool to compress the crimp and hold the cable stretched and secure. Repeat for the second cable.

Measure the distance between the cables. Add 2.5 cm (1 inch). This is the width of your fabric. Measure the length of the cables from screw eye to screw eye. This is the length of your shade cover. Add 7.5 cm (3 inches) for every 60 cm (2 feet) of length plus 50 cm (20 inches).

Sew a 1.2 cm (1/2 inch) hem along both sides of the fabric. Sew a 7.5 cm (3 inch) hem or pocket at each end. Place your fabric face down. Measure the length. Divide your length into even sections at least 60 cm (24 inches) apart. Draw a pencil line horizontally across the fabric at each section.

Fold your fabric face sides together along a horizontal line. Measure away from the fold 3.7 cm (1 1/2 inches) and sew a parallel line across the fabric. This will form a pocket on the back side of the fabric. Repeat for all of your lines. Cut bamboo 5 cm (2 inches) smaller than the width of the fabric with a saw. Insert a bamboo stick into each pocket and sew the ends closed with needle and thread. Attach a bamboo stick in the end pockets the same way.

Count your bamboo sticks. Add the same number of curtain ring clamps to each stretched cable. Tighten your turnbuckles to stretch the cable as tight as possible. Attach your shade cloth with the finished side facing down (so you can enjoy the colours) and with the bamboo pockets up. Clip the alligator clamp on the end of the ring clip to the ends of each pocket. The shade cloth will travel along the cables and gather into pleats when pulled to one side for storage.


You can easily unclip the shade cloth. Open one end of each pocket and remove the bamboo if you want to launder the shade cloth. There are many attractive outdoor fabrics you can use to add colour to your shade covering.

Things You'll Need

  • Large screw eyes
  • Drill
  • Turnbuckle
  • Cable
  • Cable crimps
  • Ring clamps
  • Outdoor fabric
  • Scissors
  • Sewing machine
  • Bamboo sticks
  • Needle and thread
Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author

F.R.R. Mallory has been published since 1996, writing books, short stories, articles and essays. She has worked as an architect, restored cars, designed clothing, renovated homes and makes crafts. She is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley with bachelor's degrees in psychology and English. Her fiction short story "Black Ice" recently won a National Space Society contest.