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Posted by Lisa Lewis Koster - - 4 comments

Tips for Tuesday

Last week I unveiled the new lampshade I just finished.  As promised, here are step-by-step instructions for those of you who are interested in making one yourself. Before you say you can't do this, let me tell you that looks can be deceiving! It actually takes minimal skill to make these shades, it's just time consuming.

Before starting this project, you'll need*:

Lampshade frame or old lampshade
Tape measure or yardstick
Approximately 25 yards of twill tape, 5/8-inch wide
5/8 yard of natural muslin or white cotton fabric for the lining
Matching thread
Hand sewing needle
Large quantity of strait pins
Fabri-Tac or similar fabric adhesive
5/8 yard of fabric for the exterior
Matching thread
3 1/2 yards of gimp to match exterior fabric
1 1/2 yards of trim for the bottom of the shade

*Measurements given are what I used for this particular shade.  The amount you need will vary by shade.  In the instructions I will tell you how to calculate exactly what you will need.

Read through all the instructions before starting your project.  I also recommend purchasing all exterior materials (fabric, gimp and trim) at the same time to be sure what you need is available.  

This is the sorry looking before picture of this shade.  It was very old and the fabric was beginning to shred with age.  I thought I'd show you what it looked like as I started removing all the old fabric.  This step can be skipped if you purchase a new frame like the ones you'll find here, but they're much cheaper if you can find one at a thrift store or garage sale.  Because the fabric often looks bad, they're usually quite inexpensive, but looks don't matter since you'll be stripping all the fabric off anyway. If you look at the underside of the shade and see a straight and sturdy frame, you're good to go.  This particular shade looked so bad it was actually given to me.

Once all the fabric has been removed from the frame, the next step is to wrap the entire frame with twill tape.  I prefer the 5/8 inch since it gives good coverage but doesn't bunch up too much when going around corners like the wider tapes tend to do.  Personally, I avoid the packages because they tend to be quite expensive.  Ask your fabric shop if they sell it by the yard.  I found this twill tape in bulk at Fields Fabrics for about .25 cents per yard.  It's difficult to calculate exactly how much you will need, but in most cases 25 yards is sufficient.

This particular frame already had tape wrapped around the base, but since it was hard and stiff it still needed to be wrapped with twill tape like everything else.  I began by putting a dab of glue on the end and then folding the tape around the edge at an angle above one of the spokes. 

Begin wrapping the tape down the spoke, slightly overlapping the edges of the tape so that everything is covered.  

When you reach the narrower top of the frame, wrap around that until you reach the next spoke, then work your way back to the base.  I like to use pieces about a yard long.  Anything much longer than that gets quite tangled as you wrap.  You may need to test this a bit and see what works best for you.  

At the end of each piece of twill tape, secure it with a dab of glue and then repeat the process until all the wires have been wrapped.

Then, do it all again.  It may seem like a lot of senseless work to wrap the entire frame twice, but you really need two layers of twill in order to stitch the fabric on. (TRUST ME!)  With only one layer it's very difficult to sew since your needle keeps hitting the metal frame.  With two layers, you're sewing into the top layer while the bottom layer cushions the needle by remaining between it and the frame.  

Lining fabric is used to protect the outer fabric from the heat of the light bulb and to lessen the amount of light coming through the sides of the shade.   To determine how much lining fabric is needed measure the circumference of the base and add 1 inch for each section of frame.  (For example, this particular frame was divided into 8 sections, so I added 8 inches to the circumference of the base.)  This number will give you the width of fabric you will need.  

Next measure the height of a spoke, being sure to follow the curve, if any. Add (at least) 2 inches to this number to give you plenty of fabric to work with.  This will give you the amount of yardage you need to purchase of each the lining and the exterior fabric, assuming that the width calculated above is less than the width of the fabrics you choose.  Keep a record of all the measurements you take because you will need them again later in the project.  

To cut the lining fabric, first measure the length - spoke to spoke - of TWO sections of the frame at both the top and the bottom.  Add 2 inches to each of these numbers so you'll have an extra inch of fabric on each side of the  panel.  

Using a tape measure or yardstick, mark the longer length (which includes the extra 2 inches) at the bottom edge of your fabric.  (Don't worry about writing on your fabric because the markings will not be seen.) Next, measure up the side of the fabric and mark it at the height of the spoke plus 2 inches that you calculated previously.  

Across from that marking, center the shorter length (which includes the extra 2 inches) over the longer length and mark it on the fabric.  (Look down at the next few photos if I've lost you.)  You will need one piece for every two sections of the frame, but I recommend cutting just one first to see if you need to make any adjustments.  

Take the fabric and pin it over two sections of the frame, being sure to have at least 1" of excess fabric on each side.  It probably won't lay flat at this point, but don't give up on it yet!

Work your way around the edges of this section, pulling on the fabric to tighten it, adding pins as you go.  After a couple times around it should become nice and taught.  If you're having trouble getting it tight and smooth, you may need to work with one section at a time rather than two.  

Once it's as tight and smooth as you can get it, using matching thread, begin to whip stitch the fabric to the frame, pulling the fabric tight and removing pins as you go.  Doubling the thread, use as long of a piece as you are comfortable with to minimize the number of knots you'll need. Also, try to knot the thread off to the side of a spoke or rim so it won't show through the fabric later.  

I don't recommend doing this with a cat around since the dangling thread is too much of a temptation for them to pass up!

If that sized piece worked well for you, cut out three more the same size using one as a pattern for the others.  If not, now is the time to make adjustments.  I like to reverse the top and bottom to conserve fabric just in case I may be cutting it close as far as fabric goes.  Before sewing all of these pieces on, you may want to use one as a pattern to cut out your exterior fabric as well since those pieces will be the same size as the lining.  Be careful to pay attention to the direction of the pattern or grain, if applicable. 

Once the piece has been stitched on all four sides, trim off the excess around the frame... 

... cutting it as close to the spoke as you can without cutting into the stitching (This photo was taken after trimming the second section.)  

Repeat the process with the next section, then those following it.  On one side you'll be sewing directly over the stitching from the previous section, and on the last piece you'll be sewing over the stitching on both sides.

Now that you've had the opportunity to practice, it's time for the real deal!  If you're working on two sections  at a time as I did, center the stitching of the lining under the exterior fabric.  This way you'll be stitching on the spokes that have no stitches on them yet, rather than having four layers of stitching on some spokes and none on the others.  

Repeat the entire process using the exterior fabric.  

Keep in mind that you want to keep your stitching narrow enough to be hidden by your gimp!

Now comes the fun part!  Once the fabric has all been sewn and the excess cut off, it's time to add the gimp.  Gimp is the flat trim you'll use to cover up your stitches.

Gimp can usually be found in two different styles as seen above and below.  Either style can be used, it all depends on your preference and what's available in the color you need.  Keep in mind that the gimp needs to hide your stitches!  Narrower gimp means narrower stitches are needed to keep them hidden.

This style of gimp is usually a bit wider than the fancier style, making it easier to cover up your stitches.  You may want to consider using this type of gimp for your first project. 

To calculate the amount of gimp needed, measure the length of a spoke and multiply it by the number of spokes you have.  Add this to the circumference of the top of the shade.  Working from top to bottom, use the fabric glue to attach the gimp and cover your stitching.  If desired, place over the other spokes as well.  (I didn't end up covering every spoke with gimp, just every other, but I like to keep my options open.  It can be hard to tell which way looks better without first seeing the finished product.)  

Once all the desired spokes are covered, glue the gimp around the top edge, covering the ends of the vertical pieces.  Because of the narrowness of the gimp, you can see it didn't cover the top of the shade very well.  It didn't look good to have two rows of gimp going around the outside of the upper edge, so I placed one row visible around the outside of the shade and another row visible only from the top. 

The final step is to glue the decorative trim onto the lower edge of the shade, covering the stitches and the ends of the gimp.  When calculating how much fringe you will need, measure the circumference of the bottom edge of the shade and then add a few inches to give you some leeway.  Most often, this trim can be the most expensive part of the shade.

Here's the finished view from the top...

...and another look at the finished product.  To view more examples of completed shades, click here.

To give you an idea of the cost, here's what I spent:
Frame - FREE!
Twill tape - $7
Muslim - $1.86
Fabric - $6.24
Gimp - $2 (This was a real steal!  I found a spool at a big chain craft store 1/2 off!)
Fringe - $14.93
Total - $32.03!!!

These shades are easily at least $50 to $100 and up to buy them ready made.  This custom shade was made at a fraction of the cost!

Good Luck!


I've been known to link up with: Funky Junk Interiors, Knick of Time, Inspire Me Monday, Titus 2sdays, Teach Me Tuesdays, Courtship Connection, Tutorials & Tips Tuesday, Thrifty Thursday, Weekend Whatever, Frugal Friday

4 Responses so far.

  1. Unknown says:

    These are lovely lampshades! I love reading your blog so much.


  2. wow these are so beautiful. i always read your blog and i also tried some of your posted things.

  3. Bird food says:

    It is very beautiful. I always used to read this blog and gained some beautiful ideas like this. Thumbs up and keep sharing!

  4. Anonymous says:

    very neat, you will do well in the future.

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