Introduction: Sew Your Own Fabric Lamp Shade

Warning: YOU assume all responsibility of whatever happens when you use your newly made lamp shade. Be careful when using your custom shade to make sure it does not catch on fire. Use a fire resistant lining and low wattage bulb.

Have a lamp you need a new shade for? Have an old lamp shade that needs a refresh? Refinish your fabric lamp shade yourself instead of paying a lot of money for a custom shade! This will take quite a bit of time so be prepared.

I had found a lamp base when I was in Goodwill once and I bought it. Except that the base didn't come with a shade. Being the crafty and ambitious person that I am, I decided to make my very own lamp shade. I ultimately decided on a fabric shade since I chose a square shade vs a cylindrical one. Cylindrical shades normally use a plastic material called styrene. This Instructable is for a fabric shade.

Step 1: Materials Needed

Materials Needed:

  • Wire frame lamp shade or lamp shade to salvage (not shown)
  • Bias tape or long thin strips of fabric
  • Non-flamable fabric for lining
  • Lamp shade fabric for outside
  • Needles (not shown)
  • Thread
  • Clothes pins or binder clips
  • Scissors
  • Cardboard (not shown)

Optional:

  • Pins
  • Thimble

Step 2: Stitches Needed

Stitches Needed:

    Back stitch

    The back stitch creates a very strong seam and is a variation on the running stitch.

    In order to make a back stitch;

    1. Start with the two right sides of your fabric together.
    2. Insert your needle through the two layers of fabric.
    3. Determine the size of your stitch. A wider stitch will be weaker than shorter stitches but will also be faster to complete. Place the needle at your determined width through the fabric.
    4. Place your needle at the beginning of your original stitch or a bit off of that location (leaving a gap between the needle location and the original thread hole). Pull the needle through.
    5. Continue making overlapping stitches.
    6. Finish with a knot (or two).

      Whip stitch

      The whip stitch can be used to fix seams such as an opened pillow or toy and used when fabrics are prone to fraying.

      In order to make a whip stitch;

      1. Start with the two right sides of your fabric together.
      2. Insert your needle through the two layers of fabric.
      3. Insert the needle on the back side of your fabric sandwich on the same imaginary line as the first stitch.
      4. The thread will be looping over the edge of the fabrics. Closer stitches will be stronger but also take longer to sew than wider stitches.
      5. Continue in this manner creating the looping stitches.
      6. Finish with a knot (or two).

      Knots

      There are many different ways to make a knot to secure your sewing. I'll walk you through the way I make knots but there are many different ways to secure your sewing.

      To make a knot;

      1. Insert the needle through either one or both layers of fabric and back through the first layer to create a small stitch.
      2. Insert the needle through the newly created loop around the outside of the loop. See picture.
      3. Pull the needle through.

      Step 3: Pick Out a Lamp Shade

      Procure either a salvaged lamp shade you have or a brand new wire frame from online retailers. I got my wire frame from The Lamp Shop. If you are using a salvaged lamp shade, cut off the fabric. If you do this carefully to use the old pieces later in the process to create your template for the new pieces.

      If you are choosing a new wire frame versus reusing the existing shade, keep in mind the look of the base or the feel you want your lamp to create. Try to envision your new shade on the lamp base. For the sizing of the shade, that also depends on the look you are trying to go for. But the general guideline I found was that for a table lamp, the height of the shade should be 60-70% of the height of the base and the width no more than two times the width of the base. For a floor lamp, the height of the lamp shade should be between 30-40% of the base height, and again the width no more than two times with width of the base. See these websites for more information: Shades of Light, Sizing Your Lampshade, and How to Pick the Perfect Lamp Shade.

      NOTE: You do not want any part of the shade touching the bulb because this creates a fire hazard.

      Choose a style for the shade. Modern lamps will tend towards square, rectangle or angular shapes while antique lamps will have more elaborate, fancier shapes.

      A note about how to attach your lamp shade to your lamp:

      There are many different kinds of lamps today with different ways to connect the shade. More recent lamps use an UNO type of connector. These shades are held in place by the bulb; the shade must be put on before screwing the bulb into the lamp. A washer top type of shade uses a harp (metal piece around bulb) which fits around the bulb socket and a finial (decorative nut top for the lamp) to hold the shade in place. These can be converted with a clip adapter (shade clips onto the bulb) and finial which can be used without a harp. There are also clip top lamp and adapters (shade clips onto the bulb). See the Sizing Your Lampshade link or do a Google search for more information.

      Step 4: Choose Your Fabric

      Next, you need to pick out your fabrics which will allow light through. For the lining, you want a material which is fire resistant, or you can spray your chosen fabric with fire retardant spray. Fire resistant fabrics include synthetic fabrics such as nylon, acrylic, polyester, and natural fabrics such as treated silk and wool which will allow the light to diffuse. Do your own research into which fabric would be best for your situation, be careful about the wattage of bulb you put in your lamp, and make sure no part of your lamp shade is in contact with your light bulb before turning your lamp on!

      For the exterior fabric, you have more freedom to choose which ever fabric you like. It could coordinate with your décor, stand out, or just be fun.

      You’ll want to pick up bias tape in a white or coordinating color. This will be used to cover the wires before attaching your lining or outside fabric.

      Step 5: Begin!

      Start with the vertical wires!

      1. Take your bias tape and sew the end around a corner with a whip stitch.
      2. Begin wrapping the bias tape around the wires at an angle. Cover up the end of the tape which was just sewn.
      3. Hold the bias tape in place with a clothes pin when you need to sew around a corner or sew the end of the tape on.
      4. Continue wrapping the bias tape around the wires.
      5. Once you come to another corner, whip stitch part of the tape in place, cut the bias tape, and then sew the rest of the end in place.
      6. Do this for all wires.

      I didn’t realize until I was almost done that I should’ve done the vertical wires first and then the top and bottom rungs. This will allow the vertical wire bias tape ends to be encased in bias tape and give it a more finished look.

      This method of layering the tape will end up producing a ribbed like appearance in the final shade. I did not realize this until putting on the outside fabric. You could try matching the tape up (not overlapping) or putting a buffer between the tape and outside fabric.

      Step 6: Template

      In order to cut the lining and outside fabric, a template must be made. If you are using a salvaged shade and were able to keep the lining and outside fabric, it’ll be a bit easier. Place your shade or fabric onto the cardboard and make an outline of shade. This will be one of the panels of the lamp shade. Add a half an inch to the template all around even if you are using salvaged fabric. If you have an especially odd shaped shade, more fabric is better than less since you will be able to cut away excess fabric. Cut out your new template.

      Step 7: Lining

      Now we will be making the lamp shade lining. Cut out the required number of template pieces for your lining. My shade has four sides so I cut out four templates. Then use a back stitch to tack the pieces together with the right sides facing. Tack relatively close to the edges of the fabric because later you’ll be pulling the lining taut to see where the main seam should go.

      Place the lining on the inside of the frame and use the clothes pins/binder clips to hold it in place temporarily. Tack the lining in place at the corners of your frame with thread through the lining and tied in a knot around the corners of the shade.

      When I first began my lining, I used a whip stitch to attach the seam portions of my lining to the frame. That did not produce the look I wanted. I advise you to complete your lining seams with a back stitch and then whip stitch in the seam to connect your lining to the frame.

      As you attach your lining to the frame, you need to pull the lining tight against the frame so not only does the lining not hit the bulb but also so the light is diffused better. That is why you should wait to complete your lining seams.

      Back stitch along one edge of the lining. This will be your starting point. Then, you are going to whip stitch through the seam and the bias tape so that the seam will meet at the wire frame. The goal is to have the seam be close to the middle of the wire. Next you will pull on one of the other sides of the lining so that the fabric is taut and make a mental note or use a pin to mark the location of the next seam. Back stitch this seam and repeat the process of attaching the seam to the frame. Continue this for the other vertical wires.

      For the rings on the top and bottom of the shade, you will be doing a similar thing. To start, pull the bottom edge of the fabric down to the bottom ring. See where you will need to sew in order to make the fabric taut. Begin your whip stitch where the seam needs to be to make the fabric taut. Then attach this to the inside portion of the frame and bias tape. Do this for all sections of the rungs.

      If either of your rings are smaller like my top ring, it'll be harder to sew the fabric on. I advise you to drop the needle into the shade and then push the needle through the tape through the bottom instead more of the side.

      Step 8: Outside Fabric

      Home stretch! Use your template to either cut out individual pieces of your outside fabric or roll your template around the fabric until you have enough fabric to cover your shade. I chose to use a large piece of fabric rolled around the entire shade.

      If you are using multiple pieces, place them right sides together and use a back stitch to connect them and continue as I did with the right side of your fabric facing out of the frame. Or you can attach each panel to the frame individually. With the second method you will have seams on every vertical wire which you can either make as neat as you can, use a stitch I did not cover called the ladder stitch (whip stitch every other panel onto the frame and then use the ladder stitch on the in between panels), or cover the seams with other trim/fringe.

      Test fit and clamp your fabric into place on your frame. I also tested mine on the base to see what the fabric would look like since I was using fabric with a gradient.

      Starting with the top or bottom rung, whip stitch the fabric onto the frame either getting some of the lining or bias tape to sew into. A little piece of lining and tape will be more secure. While doing this whip stitch, you will want to fold under the raw edge of the fabric (it'll probably be fraying or has a potential to fray) and seal it between the outside fabric and the lining. Also try to get the whip stitch seams on the top and bottom rung on the inside of the shade so they will not be visible from the outside.

      For the corners, you will first press the fabric into a corner, then fold the new section of fabric under, and continue your whip stitch. Pull the fabric tight as you go. This will be especially important when you get to the second ring to ensure a tight/wrinkle free outside fabric.

      Step 9: Completion!

      Congratulations!

      You finished your lamp shade! Again a few important notes before you can enjoy your new shade.

      YOU assume all responsibility for the proper and safe use of the lamp and shade. Make sure no fabric is touching the bulb before using your shade. Use a lower wattage bulb. Do not leave the lamp on unattended.

      Enjoy your new custom shade.

      Comments

      author
      Swansong (author)2017-01-03

      That's a pretty fabric :)

      author
      samabolize (author)Swansong2017-01-03

      Thanks. I did it myself. :-)

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