How to make black out blinds for your van conversion
One of the first things we looked into when converting Osprey, our Vauxhall Vivaro conversion-in-progress was how to make black out blinds for a stealth camper.
Osprey already came with tinted black windows, but we wanted to make sure that we could A: sleep without getting woken up by daylight in the morning and B: be able to have our ceiling lights on in the evening without people knowing that we were in the van (for when we are sleeping in towns).
As it turns out, blackout fabric combined with tinted windows is the perfect combination! It just makes the windows look totally dark, without suggesting that there is a curtain across it. Below is our step by step guide about how we made black out blinds for our stealth camper van conversion:
1. Make paper templates of the windows.
We did this by taking large sheets of paper (we taped six pieces of A4 size together to make big enough sheets) and holding them against the van windows, carefully drawing around the outside. We ended up only doing this three times - the two side windows are the same size so could share a template, but it turns out that one of the back windows on the barn doors is bigger than the other! Make sure that you include the metal surrounding the glass of the windows in your template (about 1 inch outside of the glass), as this is what your blinds are going to be attached to.
2. Cut out the paper templates and pin them to your blackout fabric.
We ordered our fabric from ebay. You can buy it by the metre, we ordered 3 metres. It's really good quality, nice matte black and a decent thickness. It definitely stops light coming through!
3. Cut out your black out blinds.
Carefully cut around your paper templates - we would recommend cutting an extra half inch around the paper for seam allowance, otherwise the blinds will end up too small.
4. Sew on magnets
We thought about doing traditional curtains on rails or wire, but decided that we wanted to minimise drilling into the body of the van and so went with magnets instead. On three out of four Osprey's windows the metal bodywork is exposed, and on the driver's side, the carpet is thin enough that magnets still work.
We bought these small magnets from Amazon - they are the perfect size to sew around the outside of the blinds. We tested the blinds first by taking them out to the van and using the magnets like you would stick a postcard on a fridge - dotting them around the outside to secure the fabric in place on each window. The inside of the fabric is white, so we marked the position of the magnets with a pencil so that we knew where to sew them. Each blind used between 12- 14 magnets.
We cut small pieces of black out fabric, about an inch square, to use as patches for the magnets, and using black thread (so that it didn't show through on the black out side), stitched them onto the pencil dots on the white side of the fabric, each patch/pocket containing a magnet.
5. Choose your colourful fabric for the other side of the blind - this is what you'll see inside the van.
You want this fabric to be light so as not to add too much weight to your blinds, we chose a cotton duvet cover with a jungle/lemur print.
6. Pin your black out blind to the colourful fabric and cut around it.
Make sure that you have pinned the black side to the colourful side, basically inside out - this means once you have sewed both together you can turn it the right way out again and have neat seams.
7. Sew the two sides together.
Using your sewing machine, slowly stitch around the shape of the black out blind, being careful not to hit the magnets with the needle as this will break it. Leave a gap about 6 inches long open.
8. Finish your black out blind.
Turn the blind the right side out, and hand sew together the 6 inch gap. Done!
Now we just need to wait for April 12th when we can FINALLY sleep away from home again.